2nd Lieutenant, 10th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
Killed in action 7th July 1916, age 22.
Remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
Student of arts.
Born in Mirfield, Yorkshire, George was the third child of six born to Abraham and Harriot Hebblethwaite. Abraham was a farmer, his farm having been in the family for over 200 years. George attended Mirfield Grammar School where he excelled academically, completing his studies in 1911. In October 1912, George moved to Hulme Hall whilst studying for an Arts Degree at Victoria Manchester University. During his time at Hulme Hall, George was a member of the University Officer Training Corps (O.T.C.) and he would have been at the annual O.T.C. summer camp at the outbreak of War in August 1914.
In early September 1914, George and his younger brother Benjamin, travelled from Mirfield to Halifax to volunteer to serve with the Duke of Wellington (West Riding) Regiment. Such was the number of men wanting to enlist, the brothers were told to come back several days later to start training. With the new Battalion being formed from scratch there was a need to identify men suitable to hold positions as Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs). Responding well to the demands of basic training, George was promoted to the rank of Lance-Corporal in October 1914, Corporal two months later and Sergeant by March 1915.
In mid-August 1915 the Battalion received orders to embark for the Western Front, arriving in France five days later. Within a month, George and the Battalion were thrown into action for the first time near Bois Grenier, part of the Battle of Loos. Two months later, George returned to England to begin an officer training course. After a gruelling eight months, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant with the 13th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, returning to France on 13th June 1916. Upon arrival he was drafted into the 10th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers who were preparing to take part in the offensive planned in the Somme region.
Held in reserve during the notorious attacks of 1st July, the 10th Battalion were ordered in the early hours of 5th July to capture Quadrangle Trench, near Contalmaison. George and his colleagues successfully completed the task despite meeting stiff resistance. Two days later, the Battalion were ordered to take Quadrangle Support Trench. Shortly after midnight on 7th July, George led his men forward. Met immediately with heavy rifle and machine gun fire, they were forced back. George was severely wounded and did not make it back to the British trenches being reported as ‘missing in action’. With no one certain as to his fate, his family were informed by telegram that: “G Hebblethwaite Lancashire Fusiliers reported missing July 7th. This does not necessarily mean that he has been killed.” With conflicting reports of his fate provided by men of his Company, George’s details were passed to the German Army via the USA Embassy in the hope that he had been taken prisoner. His family had to wait six weeks before being informed that George had been formally reported as killed in action on 7th July 1916. His body was never recovered.
A fellow officer reported: “Lt Hebblethwaite was in B Company. He was badly wounded in the abdomen on July 6th to the left of Contalmaison. I saw two stretcher bearers of the Duke of Wellington’s Regt in a shell hole bandaging his wound. I was with the M/G Section. We were driven back at this point at dawn on the 8th by a German counter attack. I saw Mr. Hebblethwaite as we came back. I was almost the last man to come in. There would not have been more than a dozen men behind me. The Germans came across the ground where Mr. Hebblethwaite lay. He could have been taken prisoner and if did not die he probably was. He could not have got into our lines at this point.”