This page follows Susan Davies’ post in the Guest Book introducing her Great Uncle George William Rodger.
George was born in Manchester in the second quarter of 1896. His parents were Robert and Elizabeth Emily Rodger. Robert was a plumber at Manchester Corporation and the couple had eleven children, of which eight survived until 1911. The 1911 census shows George was employed as an Apprentice Electrician and lived with his parents, five sisters, an elder brother and a niece at 11 Union Street, Hulme.
The 2nd City (later 17th) Battalion was formed on 2nd September 1914. Four Companies were promptly formed, principally being clerks and warehouseman from the City. It was known as the 2nd Pals Battalion. By January 1915, a number of the volunteers had proven unfit, or too old, for service and it was decided that further recruitment was needed for overseas service.
The original men had formed four Companies A – D and the Battalion comprised approximately 1,000 men. The new recruits formed E Company and were bolstered by some officers and Non Commissioned Officers from the established Companies.
George Rodger enlisted in the Battalion on 15th March 1915 and by April 1915; he had been posted to XVIII Platoon of E Company. George claimed an age of 19 years and 2 months, when he was still 18. He was 5’ 4 1/2” tall and weighed 114 lbs. He had left employment as a turner with Parmiter, Hope & Sugden, electrical equipment manufacturers of Ellesmere Street, Hulme.
The exclusive nature of the middle class recruitment of white collar men had stopped for E Company. Members of XVIII Platoon included a group of miners from Tyldesley and Albert Hurst, who had been to public school, but worked for a marine engineer. Second in Command of E Company was Reginald Ford, who had been a school master at St Bees School and Commanding Officer of their Officer Training Corps. The Platoon Commander was Alastair Gregory Cameron, who had attended a boarding school in Edinburgh and was employed in a shipping warehouse in Liverpool.
After initial training at Heaton Park, Manchester, the Battalion left for Belton Park, Lincolnshire in April 1915. The main Battalion then moved to Larkhill Camp on Salisbury Plain in September 1915 and embarked for France on 8th November.
Most of E Company was merged into A – D Companies at the end of August 1915, with younger and less experienced men being held back to form part of the 25th (Reserve) Battalion. As a relatively new member of the Battalion, George was transferred to 25th Battalion on 30th August. They trained at Manchester, Altcar and Press Heath. George was not an exemplary soldier, being confined to barracks on three occasions, totalling six days. His offences were neglect of duty, creating a disturbance and insubordination.
By December 1915 George and a group of other members of 25th Battalion had been suitably trained and prepared for overseas service. A draft of men embarked at Folkestone on 24th December 1915 and arrived at the 30th Infantry Brigade Depot on Christmas Day. The draft was initially posted to undertake fatigues with 2nd Entrenching Battalion, most likely near Ypres in Belgium.
George was posted back to 17th Battalion in France on 20th February 1916 and joined D Company.The Battalion had arrived at the southern end of the British sector in January and manned the infamous trenches near Maricourt and Vaux, near to the river Somme.
The British and French Army launched a huge offensive near the Somme on 1st July 1916. 17th Battalion was part of 30th Division and advanced from their familiar trenches near Maricourt to the fortress village of Montauban. The Division included four Battalions of the Manchester Regiment.
The Battalion succeeded in their assault on Montauban and held their new positions against two German counter-attacks and significant bombardment from the German artillery. They were withdrawn after dawn on 3rd July.
Records show George died of wounds at Montauban on either 1st or 2nd July 1916. He has no known grave and George is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
The record as Died of Wounds indicates George had been recorded as receiving some treatment, probably at a Regimental Aid Post. Soldiers Effects record his death on 2nd July and it is likely that George died at the Aid Post near the Montauban cross-roads (Pals Memorial), or down in the valley near Talus Bois.
As George had received treatment it is most likely he was buried by his comrades near the Aid Post. Many graves were lost in the continuing and repeated fighting and there is strong speculation that wooden grave markers were used as fire wood by the German Infantry that swept back through the area in the 1918 Spring Offensive. As such, one may hypothesise that George may remain buried in the village, or the quiet valley to the south.
Family and friends published many obituaries in the Manchester Evening News and further entries were made on the 1917 Anniversary of George’s death. Reference is made to his friend Pte 8198 Arthur Johnson. Arthur had worked for William Delaney Limited before enlisting on 2nd September 1914. He was a few months older than George and Arthur lived at 5 Union Street, Hulme; a few doors from George.
The obituaries also mention George’s sweetheart Dena. Dena hasn’t been identified.
Numerous Manchester Pals are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Many remain buried in the village of Montauban and surrounding fields. George William Rodger is not forgotten.
All Press Reports courtesy British Library. Crown Copyright.
These supplementary photos may show George.