George William Coy MM

sherwood foresters badgePrivate 53405, 3rd (Reserve) Battalion (formerly 16th (Service) Battalion (Chatsworth Rifles)), Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment), died of illness, 2nd May 1918, aged 33.

Born at Crowle in 1885, George was the second son of George and Martha Coy (nee Fretwell). His father was a builder’s labourer from Luddington, his mother was from Hull. In 1891 they lived in Brewery Road but later moved to the Market Place.

In 1901 George Jnr was a farm labourer working on a farm at Moss near Doncaster. He had returned to Crowle by 1906 when he married a local girl, Mary Elizabeth Bartle and in 1911 lived in Gas Road. They had moved to Bowling Green Lane by 1918 and had a least two children, Clarence born in 1907 and Edith Annie in 1910. George was also a keen member of the Crowle R.A.O.B. Lodge.

George enlisted in the army at Crowle in January 1916 and was posted to the Sherwood Foresters. He served with the 16th Battalion (Chatsworth Rifles) so may have gone out to France when they did in March 1916. He was certainly in France by July 1916 as the local newspaper reports him receiving a shrapnel wound in the thigh. He had recovered by May 1917 as a letter of thanks, in response to aid parcels recently dispatched to local men at the front by the Crowle Women’s Unionist Association, appeared in the Crowle Advertiser:

‘Private G W Coy states: Just a few lines to express my sincere thanks for the parcel I have received. The contents were most useful, and it is a real pleasure to have someone at home thinking of the boys out here, as we really enjoy every little thing that comes from dear Old Blighty. We had a rather good time lately, but we may have it very hot after a bit. I am hoping that the war will end this year and we shall then be taken off our storm-tossed path and walk together again on the path of freedom.’

On 20th September 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres, the Chatsworth Rifles attacked the German positions on Passchandaele Ridge between Shrewsbury Forest and Bulgar Wood, during which they sustained heavy casulaties. George was acting as a stretcher bearer, helping to recover his wounded colleagues and most likely under-fire himself at the same time, an action for which he was awarded the Military Medal. The medal was presented to him in November, ‘pinned on his breast at the front by his General whilst at the same time the adjutant read a statement congratulating him on the achievement’.

Shortly after receiving his medal George fell ill, suffering from trench fever and the effects of gas poisoning. Sent home to England to recover, he spent time in various hospitals and rest camps recuperating and on recovery was transferred to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion,  stationed in Sunderland as part of the Tyne Garrison.

Visiting Crowle on furlough in April, George had only just returned to his unit when he ‘caught a chill’, which developed into pneumonia. Taken to Sunderland Royal Infirmary, George Coy died there on 2nd May 1918.

George’s body was brought back to Crowle for burial in Crowle on Sunday 5th May 1918. Following a service at St Oswald’s Church his coffin was draped in a large Union Jack, and with a large crowd following, the cortege made its way solemnly to Mill Road Cemetery where George was laid to rest. Among the mourners were many former and current Crowle soldiers, members of the local VTC and the Crowle RAOB Lodge, who also performed their service at the graveside. A memorial service was held at St Oswald’s later that evening.

george coy grave crowle cemetery

Grave of George Coy in Crowle Cemetery, courtesy Angus Townley/Crowle & Ealand Heritage Society. The grave was the first one in the cemetery to have an ‘official’ military marker when in September 1918 a wooden cross, ‘4ft high, painted white with black letters and spiked ready to be entered into the ground’, was posted to the local Registrar