The following biography was written by Carol Hunter (who was interested in George due to being distantly related to him) and by Stephen Roberts who added some military details. George Ouldred/Aldred was a working class young man who had joined Wirral’s territorial battalion before 1914 and served with it almost to the end of the war. His family lived on a Hoylake street which gave lots of its sons and fathers to the war effort, including Stephen Roberts’s great grandfather, George Cookson.
George William Ouldred
The only documents pertaining to George’s adult life are his medal card, medal roll and this newspaper cutting:
George was baptized on 11th July 1897 at St Bridget’s in West Kirby and the oldest of seven children born to Thomas Ouldred and Elizabeth Jane Parr who married in the same church on 14th September 1896. Thomas was born into a Neston fishing family in 1868 and was the youngest of five children. In 1871, 81 and 91 their name was spelt as Ollerhead and before that as Olderhead/Holderhead, but had reverted back to Ouldred by the late 1890s when Thomas’s parents were buried. Elizabeth Jane was the eldest of 7 children born into a Little Meols farming family in 1867 and was actually first cousin to her husband Thomas. There were obviously close family ties as Thomas’ niece Ellen Jane married his wife’s brother William Joseph Parr.
In 1901 we find young George living in Grange, West Kirby. His father is working as a bricklayer’s apprentice and the family, which now includes Thomas Williamson b1899 and Mary Hannah b1900, is living with Elizabeth’s brother William Parr and his family. By 1911 the family has moved to a 5 room house at 109 Market Street, Hoylake; Thomas is employed as a general labourer by the District Council and as well as attending school George is acting as a caddy boy. The other younger children are John Richard b1902, Agnes Annie b1904, Alfred b1906 and Lily b1908.
As stated in George’s obituary in the Deeside Advertiser, he joined the 1st/4th Cheshires at some point before the outbreak of the war in Birkenhead and served with it for over four years.
His medal card (which calls him Aldred) tells us that he arrived in the Dardanelles on 24th October 1915, where, along with his local comrades (such as Arthur Luston Owen of West Kirby, whose name comes after George’s on the Grange Hill War Memorial and who died in the Dardanelles on 15th August 1915, aged 17 and Charles Roberts of Hoylake, who was wounded in the hand, was Stephen Roberts’s first cousin twice removed and was also an underage soldier), he must have endured appalling conditions, but fought with courage and stoicism in a campaign which was ultimately proved to be utterly futile.
George’s battalion left the Dardanelles in December 1915 and proceeded to Egypt. His obituary tells us that he then served in Palestine, where he was wounded. On 31st May 1918, George’s battalion sailed to France; they arrived on 1st July and became part of 102nd Brigade 34th Division.
It is not clear, even though he served with the same battalion throughout the war, why George had two army numbers. However, his medal roll tells us that he spent an unspecified period of time at the Infantry Base Park. This might have been as a result of his wounds or of ill health which would have made him unfit for frontline duties and ultimately led to his renumeration.
Given the date of George’s death, it is clear that he died during the spectacular advances to ultimate victory made by the British Army during the last couple of months of the war. His brigade was involved in the Battles of the Soissonais and of the Ourcq, Baigneux Ridge, Ypres, Courtrai, Ooteghem and Tieghem – a heroic period of British military success which is often forgotten in the popular memory and a time when Britain’s citizen soldiers, of whom George was a typical example, proved themselves to be the finest fighting men in the world.
Unfortunately, the 1st/4th Cheshires’ Battalion War Diaries for October 1918 have not yet been digitised, so, until one of the team gets a chance to look them up in the National Archives in Kew, we will have to rely on Arthur Crookenden’s account of events which can be found on page 164 of his History of the Cheshire Regiment in the Great War. The battalion was under the command of Lieutenant Godfrey Drage D.S.O., who placed it in open trenches and German pillboxes near Gheluwe (Gheluvelt) in Belgium for two days before the attack which was planned for the night of 13th/14th October. ‘A’ Company was commanded by Captain Angas and ‘C’ Company by Lieutenant Oakes:
“Oakes started well under the barrage with some loss of direction owing to gas, smoke and wire, but, as the light improved, this was corrected. Assisted by Captain Angas’ companies press on across the Gheluwe-Menin Road close to Menin. 2nd/Liuet. Stafford here shot down two German machine gunners who were getting their guns into action. About 110 prisoners were rounded up and several guns captured in Cou Cou, Job and Query Farms. 2nd/Lieut. Stafford continued to do excellent work during the night and following day, pushing forward posts and making strong points as opportunity offered.”
The names Gheluvelt and Menin are poignant, as it was there, just under four years prior to this attack, that the B.E.F. fought for its life against the advancing Germans during their “Race to the Sea”.
Crookenden reports that 2nd Lieut. E.W. Herbert was killed along with two other officers and that 163 other ranks were either killed, wounded or reported missing. George was clearly one of these casualties. He must have been taken to the hospital just behind the lines at Lijssenhoek, where he died of his wounds and was buried. His is one of over 10,000 burials in the cemetery, which is the second largest in Belgium after Tyne Cot.
Birth: June 1897
Death: 15th October 1918, Died from wounds
Address(es): Grange (01), 109 Market Street, Hoylake (11), 49 Lee Road, Hoylake (18)
Occupation: Employed by Hoylake District Council
Unit: 1st/4th Battalion The Cheshire Regiment
Number(s) and Rank: 3473 and 201156, Corporal
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, Belgium: Lijssenhoek Military Cemetery XXX. D. 3.
Sources: BR, SDGW, MC. MR, Census: 01, 11