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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 18443
XI Corps Cyclist Battalion - Army Cyclists Corps
Who was Killed in Action on Saturday, 17th August 1918
Age 21

Plot II Row AA Grave 3
Godewaersvelde British Cemetery, Nord, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour

Godewaersvelde British Cemetery, Nord, France1

George William Searson was born in Beeston, Notts in June 18972, the youngest of two surviving children, both sons, of George Searson b. 1846, Sutton-in-Ashfield Notts), a framework knitter, and Hannah Elizabeth, his wife (née Maltby, b. 1854, Chilwell, Notts). His parents had married in 1879 and had lived for a while in Sutton-in-Ashfield amongst the wider Searson family in that area, and it was there that James, their elder son, was born. By 1891, the family had moved to Beeston where they were living at 3 Church Lane, Nottingham 3 with Hannah helping with what were likely to be meagre family finances by working as a lace winder. Some time after George William was born in 1897, George senior died leaving his widow with a young family to support. In 1901, they were still at the Church Lane address with Hannah earning what she could by mending lace at home. James, then 16, had found work as a fitter's labourer in an iron foundry 4. For a time, this would have helped with the family finances, at least up to his marriage in 1905 following which he moved to Bedworth, Warwickshire, where he worked as a coal miner. By 1911, Hannah and George William were still living at 3 Church Lane with Hannah working as a charwoman and George William, aged 13, having started work as a paper bailer5. Life could not have been easy

By the outbreak of war in August 1915, George William had found work in the lace trade and he and his mother had moved to live at 6 Willoughby Street, Beeston6. Although he was not yet old enough for service abroad, in November 1915 he enlisted for a term of four years with the Territorial Force with an obligation, when old enough, to serve abroad if required to do so7. He joined the Army Cyclist Corps, which had been formed in November 1914 to encompass the various units that had been formed as components of each Army Division8. They were equipped with folding bicycles and were armed with standard rifles. At the beginning of November 1916, having completed his initial training with 3/1st North Midlands Division Cyclist Corps, he became a regular soldier, part of a reorganised Cyclist Corps, now with the units were withdrawn from the divisions and attached to each corps headquarters, he was posted to 59th Corps. Now over 18, and eligible for overseas duty, he embarked for France, reaching Rouen on 20 July 1917. Although the Army Cyclist Corps' primary role was reconnaissance and message taking, they were engaged for much of the time in miscellaneous tasks in support of the front line forces - including trench digging and repairing, carrying stores, laying wire, constructing dugouts and escorting prisoners. Their mobility was utilised wherever possible but mud, as ever, was often a problem.

After a few days at the Base Depot, Private Searson was posted to 10th Cyclist Battalion Army Cyclist Corps to carry out this range of activities in support of the front line units of X Corps, rather than being committed to front line action. Although we do not have any detail of these activities, it seems likely that the Corps played its usual part in the Third Battle of Ypres (known as the Battle of Passchendaele). In appears that it was in March or April 1918 that Private Searson was transferred to 11th Cyclist Battalion Army Cyclist Corps. The front line was then being threatened severely by the German spring offensive. XI Corps was active in the Battle of Lys from 7 to 29th April which effectively marked the end of an offensive that had been of desperate concern to the Allied forces. It seems likely that during this time the threat was so grave that the cyclist units had been called on to take a more active part9.

But, in early August 1918 the Allies had achieved a major breakthrough at the Battle of Amiens and now planned to use this significant change in the momentum of the war across the wider front. XI Corps, as part of the Fifth Army, was to be part of an offensive towards the city of Leige in Belgium. As part of the build-up for this, it appears that Private Searson's unit was near the line, west of Ypres when he was killed on August 17th 1918. He was buried in the nearby Godewaersvelde British Cemetery.

Godewaersvelde is a village near the Belgian border, about 16 kilometres south-west of Ypres (in Belgium), and is half-way between Poperinge (in Belgium) and Hazebrouck (in France). The British Cemetery is a little east of the village. The cemetery was begun in July 1917 when three casualty clearing stations were moved to Godewaersvelde. The 37th and the 41st buried in it until November 1917, the 11th until April 1918, and from April to August 1918, during the German offensive in Flanders, field ambulance and fighting units carried on the burials. After the Armistice, the graves of five soldiers of the 110th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery were brought in from a point nearer the Mont des Cats and in May 1953, four graves in Godewaersvelde Churchyard were moved into the cemetery. Godewaersvelde British Cemetery now contains 972 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, and 19 German war graves. The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.10.

Private Searson was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal11. His financial effects, amounting to 11 1 5d were paid to his mother as sole legatee on 4 November 1918 and she was also paid his War Gratuity of 13 on 31 December 191912. His mother died towards the end of 1928, probably in Beeston, aged 74.

1The photograph of Godewaersvelde British Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q3/1897 (Ref 7b 202). He was baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 4 August 1897, at which time his birth date was recorded as 14 June 1897.
3Beeston, Notts: 1891 Census, Piece 2671 Folio 103.
4Beeston, Notts: 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 97.
5Beeston, Notts: 1911 Census, Piece 20431 RD429 SD3 ED6 Sched 8.
6This address and occupation is recorded in George William's Army Service Record which survives and is available at ancestry.com. This address is likely to be one of a small group of dwellings believed to have been owned by the nearby Gospel Mission.
7He attested at Nottingham on 13 November 1915 (Army Service Record). This is also the source of the dates of his subsequent deployment.
8This description of the Army Cyclists Corps is based on its entry on The Long Long Trail website (www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/army-cyclist-corps ).
9His final deployments with XI Corps and earlier deployment with X Corps were recorded in his Medal Roll entry. As no War Diaries appear to survive for these units, their involvement is based solely on the deployment of the respective Corps to which they were attached.
10The description of Godewaersvelde British Cemetery is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
11Details from Jack's Medal Card and Medal Roll - available on ancestry.com.
12Details from "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.

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