George Brown Bird was a career soldier. Originally with the 17th Lancers (the "Death and Glory Boys"), he joined up at 14 and was a Drummer Boy, going to the Boer War at a very young age. He was a very talented musician, and, as a Band Sergeant, had been given a place at the Royal Military School of Music. He had left India, where he had been soldiering, to take the Entrance Examination but unfortunately then was seconded to the Front, where he joined the 10th Warwicks.
By this day in 1916, my husband's great uncle, his grandmother's brother, Captain George Brown Bird, had been killed On this day in 1916, his Commanding Officer H W Deakeyne wrote the following letter to his widow Maggie:
"Dear Mrs Harrison
It is with very deep regret that I have to write to you to tell you of the death in action of your brother, Captain George Bird, who was killed very gallantly leading his Coy. to the attack of some German trenches on July 31st at about 6.16 p.m. The Regt. was told off to capture a line of trenches about 200 yards distant, and I gave command of the first attacking line to your brother. Although he personally never reached the trenches it was due to his splendid example and courage that the line never wavered and carried their objective. He was shot through the heart some ten yards from the trench , but had the satisfaction of knowing, before he died, that his objective was achieved. Knowing your brother as I did, and appreciating his character, I fancy he died perfectly content knowing his object had been achieved. Your brother was in many ways a remarkable and gifted man. He was a born soldier and leader. He was worshsipped by his men, who would do anything for him and follow him anywhere. Their perfect trust in him was a tribute to his character, and Tommy is no mean judge of character. A few days before his death, I had obtained permission for him to be my 2nd. in command, and his death to me and the whole Battalion is a loss that we can ill spare.
I beg to assure you that you have the very real sympathy of all the officers and men of the Battalion, as everyone realized that in the death of your brother they have lost a friend and a leader that it will be very hard to replace."
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Daily Chronicle, 11.9.16. Mention of George Bird's posthumus award:
BAR TO M.C.
The undermentioned officers have been awarded a Bar to their Military Cross for subsequent acts of conspicuous gallantry:
2nd Lt. George B. Bird, R. War.
For conspicuous gallantry during operations. When his C.O. had become a casualty, he took command and organized the defence of the line. It was mainly due to his good work that three enemy counter attacks were repulsed.
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For others, the ones who had been left behind, life went on in ignorance of the fate of their loved ones until that fateful telegraph arrived. George was a Scarborough lad. I am sure life seemed to go on normally, although Scarborough Castle was bombed and there were warships out in the North Sea beyond it. These were remembered by George's niece Alice (my husband's mother) when she was only 6 years old or so, and being walked near the coast to see family friends, the old Miss Boddy(s).
Sadly, the girl who would probably have become George's wife had he not died, heard the sad news from George's sister. Her letter (and other communications and newspaper pieces following George's death) is still in the Book of Memories compiled by Maggie:
"Dear Mrs Harrison
Many thanks for your kind letter, also copy of Col. Dakeyne's letter. You have my deepest sympathy. I am pleased to know the details. It is satisfactory to you to know how the end came. I miss writing to him very much, as I nearly always wrote a letter to him once or twice a week, and sent a newspaper. I am going to ask a favour of you, that is if you have a photo of him to spare, or likely to have any copied, I should be very grateful for one. It was great his being awarded the D.S.O. When he won the Military Cross I told him if he was a brother of mine I should be very proud of him. He always seemed of a retiring nature, his letters were not of a boasting character. His heart and soul seemed to be in his work. It is finished now. May he rest in peace. I trust you will bear up in your great sorrow, tho' his place can never be filled.
Fanny G Moles."
I don't know if Fanny ever married. She lived at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, so I am going to see if I can trace her.
There are other letters, replies from his superior officers, written in response to Maggie's heartfelt pleas for more information as to George's demise. The truth of the matter was that he was left in a shell hole, and once the trench was taken, his men went back to check on him. On the third occasion he had passed away. Sadly, they never got a chance to recover his body as the shell hole was bombed, and so George's name is on the Roll of Honour for the fallen who were never recovered, on the Menin Gate.
His medals for bravery and gallantry are still in the family, and much treasured.