George Dale

york and lancaster regiment badgeCorporal, 17337, 8th (Service) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment, killed in action, 1st July 1916, aged 29.

Born at Crowle in 1887, George was the second son of Thomas and Evelena Dale (nee Lindley) and brother of Thomas jnr and Robert Dale. His mother was from Crowle but his father was a flax dresser from Egremont in Cumbria. In 1901 the family lived in Gas House Road but had moved to North Street by at least 1908.

George was a farm labourer and in 1905 he married Alice Trimingham, at St Oswald’s Church in Luddington. They had one daughter, Cathleen, born in 1908 and in 1911 the family lived in Eastoft Road, Luddington where George was working as a cowherd.

George had first joined the army as a part-time soldier in the local militia, aged 19 in 1906. Serving two years he was discharged for some reason and re-enlisted, as Private, 1245, in the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment at Doncaster in August 1908. When his period of service came to an end in February 1913 George was placed on the Army Reserve List. This involved him reporting once a year for an annual camp and he was with the York & Lancaster’s at Swinley Camp, Otley in July 1914 when he was re-engaged by the army once again. In September he was allocated to C Company in the newly formed, 11th (Reserve) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment. This Battalion never went overseas so at some shortly after his arrival in France on 23rd September 1915 he must have transferred to the 8th (Service) Battalion, just in time for the Battle of Loos.

On the 4th April 1916 the Division moved to the Le Boisselle – Thiepval sector, where the 8th York & Lancaster’s occupied the trenches in front of Authulie Wood they were detailed to attack from in the Battle of the Somme. This area was said to be the most difficult of the whole front as no-man’s land was exceptionally wide and the whole area was covered by heavily fortified German positions.

At 7.30am, on 1st July 1916, George and his colleagues in the 8th York & Lancaster’s went into action at the Battle of Albert, the first day on the Battle of the Somme. Immediately after leaving their trenches they came under heavy machine gun fire causing heavy casualties among the first lines. The remaining men carried on and reached and then captured the German front line trenches. About seventy men eventually reached as far as the third line of trenches, but only one man returned from there! What was left of the battalion remained fighting in the first line of trenches until overwhelmed.

Such was the ferocity of the fighting of the 70th Brigade that the Germans were forced to move extra troops in to face them and this enabled other British units to make significant advances. But this came at a huge cost. The 8th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment suffered casualties as high as any unit engaged in the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Out of the 680 men and 23 officer’s of who went over the parapet that morning only 68 returned. All the officers were either killed or wounded and the battalion had effectively ceased to exist as a fighting unit.

The name given by the soldiers to the lower part of the valley running through Authuille Wood to join the River Somme, between Authuile and Aveluy, was Blighty Valley. It is here in Blighty Valley Cemetery, where George Dale and his colleagues who fell that day are buried.

George is also remembered in the memorial inscription in the Bible of St Oswald’s Church, Luddington.