George R Townsley

Born: 1893
Died: 26.8.1917
Service Number: 36877
Rank: Private
Regiment / Service: South Lancashire Regiment
Family information:  Son of Mrs Frances Townsley of The Flatts, Henry Street, Brotherton

War Service

When George enlisted he was apparently posted to the 6th (Service) Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment. The CWGC records show his service number as 36877 in this regiment. However, his Medal Roll Index card clearly shows that prior to this he was in the K.O.Y.L.I. with another service number – 26306.

It is unclear as to which regiment of the K.O.Y.L.I. he was enlisted into, however, it is most likely he was in one of the reserves - 3rd, 3/4th or 3/5th as most of the others were in France at some time. George was certainly not in France or other 'theatre of war' before the end of 1915 as he did not qualify for the 1915 Star. He almost certainly left K.O.Y.L.I. prior to renumbering in early 1917 (from 5 to 6 figures) and most probably in early 1915 as the following detail will show.

The 6th South Lancs. was initially formed at Warrington in August 1914 as part of K1 (Kitchener's 1st Army) and moved to Tidworth on Salisbury Plain, and attached to 38th Brigade in 13th (Western) Division. They moved to billets in Winchester in January 1915 before going next month to Blackdown in Hampshire.

On 7 June 1915, orders were received to prepare to move to the Mediterranean. All mechanical transport was withdrawn and the first reinforcement drafts were ordered not to sail (other than those for the artillery, end RE Companies).

13 June 1915: first transports left port, and sailed to Alexandria. By 4 July, all units had moved to Mudros, preparatory for landing at Gallipoli. Between 6-16 July 1915 the Divisional infantry landed on Cape Helles and relieved 29th Division. They left and returned to Mudros at the end of the month, and the entire Division landed at ANZAC Cove between 3-5 August 1915.

Gallipoli

The Division took part in the following actions on Gallipoli:

The Battle of Sari Bair, 6-10 August 1915

Also known as the August Offensive, was the final attempt made by the British in August 1915 to seize control of the Gallipoli peninsula from the Ottoman Empire during First World War.

The Battle of Gallipoli had raged on two fronts, Anzac and Helles, for three months since the invasion of 25 April 1915. With the Anzac landing a tense stalemate, the Allies had attempted to carry the offensive on the Helles battlefield at enormous cost for little gain. In August, the British command proposed a new operation to reinvigorate the campaign by capturing the Sari Bair ridge, the high ground that dominated the middle of the peninsula above the Anzac landing.

The Battle of Russell's Top 7 August

-The Battle of the Nek was a small World War I battle fought as part of the Gallipoli campaign. "The Nek" was a narrow stretch of ridge in the Anzac battlefield on the Gallipoli peninsula. The name derives from the Afrikaans word for a "mountain pass" but the terrain itself was a perfect bottleneck and easy to defend as had been proven during a Turkish attack in May. It connected the Anzac trenches on the ridge known as "Russell's Top" to the knoll called "Baby 700" on which the Turkish defenders were entrenched. In total area, the Nek is about the size of three tennis courts.

The Battle of Hill 60 ANZAC 27-28 August

The Battle of Hill 60 was the last major assault of the Battle of Gallipoli. It was launched on 21 August 1915 to coincide with the attack on Scimitar Hill made from the Suvla front by General Stopford's British IX Corps. Hill 60 was a low knoll at the northern end of the Sari Bair range which dominated the Suvla landing. Capturing this hill along with Scimitar Hill would have allowed the Anzac and Suvla landings to be securely linked. Soon afterwards the Division was transferred from ANZAC to Suvla Bay. It was evacuated from Suvla 19-20 December 1915, whereupon the infantry moved after a weeks rest to the Helles bridgehead.

1916

The last Turkish attacks at Helles 7 January 1916

On 8-9 January 1916, the Division was evacuated from Helles and by 31 January was concentrated at Port Said. The Division held forward posts in the Suez Canal defences.

Mesopotamia

12 February 1916: began to move to Mesopotamia, to strengthen the force being assembled for the relief of the besieged garrison at Kut al Amara. By 27 March, the Division had assembled near Sheikh Sa'ad and came under orders of the Tigris Corps. It then took part in the attempts to relieve Kut. After these efforts failed and Kut fell, the British force in the theatre was built up and reorganised. The Division took part in the following, more successful, operations:

1917

  • The Battle of Kut al Amara, December 1916-February 1917
  • The capture of the Hai Salient, 25 January - 5 February 1917
  • The capture of Dahra Bend, 9-16 February 1917
  • The passage of the Diyala, in the pursuit of the enemy towards Baghdad, 7-10 March 1917

At 10.30am on 11 March 1917, D Squadron, 1/1st Hertfordshire Yeomanry and the 6th (Service) Bat, the King's Own were the first British troops to enter Baghdad, which fell on this day.

During the rest of March and April 1917, operations were undertaken to consolidate the position won at Baghdad, by pushing north across Iraq. As part of "Marshall's Column", the Division fought at Delli 'Abbas (27-28 March), Duqma (29 March), Nahr Kalis (9-15 April), crossed the 'Adhaim (18 April) and at Shatt al 'Adhaim (30 April).

George Townsley died on 26 August 1917 and was buried in the Baghdad (North Gate) Cemetery. The exact cause of death is not known at this point.

George was unmarried and left no descendants but Townsley's continued to live in Brotherton and detailed family history can be found on the Brotherton website.

Family Life

The Townsley connection with Brotherton dates from the mid 18th century with the birth of Robert Townsley about September 1752.

The parents of George were William and Frances (nee Hodgson), who was more widely known as Fanny and they were married in 1876. By 1881 they were living in the High Street, Brotherton next door to the Three Horse Shoes Public House.

William is described as being a 'Sand Miner' and had 2 children - Richard(4) and Henry (1). In 1891 the household had grown with the addition of 5 more children - William (9), Francis (7), Beatrice (5), Albert (3) and Mary L. (1). They still lived in the High Street close to the Three Horse Shoes and the Blacksmiths but not necessarily in the same house. William died about 1896 leaving Frances with a large family including George R (3) and Maria (1). By then the two oldest sons Richard and Henry would be working and by 1901 along with William were working underground as 'pit-pony drivers'. They lived in Blackburn's Yard off the High Street.

In 1911 several of the children had flown the nest leaving five with Frances - Henry and Albert who were ''Hewers', and George R who was a 'Bricklayer's Labourer'.

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