680566 GNR. G. W. STEWARD.  R.F.A.

 

George William Steward was born in the second quarter of 1896 in Norwich, Norfolk.  His father was George William Steward (b. 1868 in Brooke, Norfolk), a house painter.  His mother was Minnie Laura Hague (b. 1871 in Norwich), an attendant in a lunatic asylum.  George and Minnie were married in 1894 and they had two children: Cecil (b. 1894) and George jnr.  But then George snr died in 1896 just after George jnr was born.  In 1899, Minnie remarried; her second husband was William Johnson (b. 1868 in Ulnes Walton, near Leyland).  I don’t know how they came to meet; they married in Norwich but in 1901, William and Minnie and her two children were living with William’s mother in Leyland.  William died in 1907.  So in 1911, the twice-widowed Minnie Laura was living at 13 Swallow Avenue, Middleforth, Penwortham.  Young George, then 14, was working for a grocer.

 

George was 18 when the War broke out and in May 1915 he enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery, 286 Brigade.  He was assigned service number 680566 and was almost certainly posted to “A” Battery. 

 

After training, the Brigades left for France in early 1917 and were involved in the heavy fighting to defend the town of Armentières, on the French-Belgian border.  In July 1917 they suffered their first attack by the new mustard gas.  In late September the Brigade was relieved from the front line and withdrew for a period of training, and returned to the line at Langemark about 35km north of Armentières, not far from the small village of Passchendaele, which would be the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the War.  On 9 October 286 Brigade returned to action engaging in harassing and destructive fire on enemy strongpoints, but also suffering their heaviest losses of the war so far, with many soldiers being gassed.  George was wounded in action on this day.  He died at 61 Casualty Clearing Station the following day, 10 October 1917.  He was 21 years old. 

 

286 Brigade was to lose over 300 men before the end of the month, killed and wounded – almost half their full complement. 

 

Rank:  Gunner

Service No:  680566

Date of Death:  10/10/1917

Age:  21

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, "A" Bty. 286th Bde.

Grave Reference:  VIII. G. 5.

Cemetery:  DOZINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY

Additional Information:  Son of Mrs. Johnson (formerly Steward), of 13 Swallow Avenue, Penwortham, Preston, Lancs.

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