GEORGE PHILIP GREGG
This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
George Philip Gregg was a young 2nd Lieutenant in the Cheshire Regiment whose family had only moved to West Kirby a few months before the outbreak of War.
The Gregg family home at 10 Hoscote Park, West Kirby as it is in 2016
George Philip Gregg was born in the spring of 1896 in the Broughton area of Manchester. He was the second son of Oliver Gregg (1865-1922) and Ellen Machin (1866-???), and had one younger sister.
At the time Oliver Gregg was a slipper manufacturer, with a business address of 25 Gravel Lane, Manchester.
Kelly’s 1895 Directory of Manchester
The Gregg family had been involved in boot and shoe making and the leather trade for several generations. James Gregg (1808-???) was born in Somerby, Leicestershire but is first found in 1841 living in Nottingham as a journeyman shoemaker. By 1851 he is described as a master cordwainer, but evidently was unsuccessful as by 1861 he was just a journeyman leather cutter.
The Gregg family fortune was founded by James’ son George Gregg (1839-1918) who started, like his father, as a journeyman leather cutter. He married Sarah Wright (1838-1925) in 1862 and by 1871 he was in business as a leather seller, employing 1 man and 1 boy. His son Oliver was just 5 years old. Sarah did not bring any money into the marriage as she came from a family of lace workers from Basford, Nottinghamshire.
From 1881 onwards George describes himself as a leather merchant. The family was now living in the village of Lowdham between Nottingham and Southwell. George moves his family frequently around the East Midlands. In 1891 they are back in Nottingham. In 1901 the family home is in Matlock, Derbyshire and by 1911 George and Sarah are in Loughborough, Leicestershire. When he died in 1918 he was living in Nottingham again. He left over £9,000. Unusually George and his namesake grandson George Philip have adjacent entries in the Probate Register.
George’s father, Oliver, followed in his father’s steps. In the spring of 1893 he married Ellen Machin in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. This was the union of 2 middle class families. In 1901 Oliver, Ellen and their 2 young sons, Bernard Henry (1894-???) and George Philip were living at Silver Dale, Green Leech Lane, Worsley, Manchester and Oliver was a leather merchant and employer.
In 1911 the family home seems to have been at St Annes on Sea, Lancashire where George, his mother Ellen and his sister Dorothy Edna (1905-???) were living. Oliver Gregg and his son Bernard were at Southwell in the household of Ellen Machin’s mother Frances (1827-1914), a widow of independent means.
Frances was born Frances Casswell in Butterwick, Lincolnshire, not far from Boston, where her father John was an agricultural labourer. Frances married John Thorlby in 1853 and they had a daughter Elizabeth Parthenia Thorlby. Nothing is known about John Thorlby, but he probably died near Peterborough at about the time Elizabeth was born in 1854, and in 1861 Frances was visiting her parents with her small daughter. In 1863 she married again, this time to Henry Machin (1813-1897). This was Henry’s first marriage despite being aged 50 at the time. He came from a family of curriers of King Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Curriers dressed leather after it was tanned. His mother Mary (1775-1857) ran the business until her death, with the aid of 2 sons. By the time he married Henry had already retired, probably selling out of the family business when his mother died. He was clearly of independent means. When he died in 1897 he left well over £8,000 despite apparently having no occupation for at least 36 years.
Ellen Machin was the younger of their 2 surviving daughters, and her half-sister Elizabeth Thorlby was also a member of the family.
Elizabeth married William Thomas Northorp (1860-1934), a teacher, in 1886 in Scarborough, Yorkshire. Their son Frederic Northrop (1887-1969) became a Church of England priest and served as an Army Chaplain during the war. He was a half cousin of George Philip Gregg, and it is known that the family kept in close contact.
At some time in 1914 Oliver Gregg moved his family to West Kirby, to the then brand new large semi-detached house at 10 Hoscote Park. The eldest son, Bernard joined the 12th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment as a Private very early on as he was already serving by November 1914. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 4 December 1914 and immediately posted to the 5th Battalion of the regiment. Arriving at the Western Front on 3 April 1915, he served throughout in that sphere, ending the war as a full Lieutenant.
It is not known when George Philip Gregg enlisted, but, unlike his brother, he immediately went to officer training. It is not known where Bernard or George were educated, but it seems likely that they went to public school and had some experience in an Officer Cadet Corps. Bernard hardly had time to be trained from scratch, and few were admitted to officer training on enlistment without some relevant training.
George was gazetted on 1 September 1915,with his seniority dating from 30 July.
George had joined the Cheshire Regiment like his brother.
Cheshire Regiment cap badge
George was in the 7th Battalion of the regiment and served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. He did not serve overseas until 1916 as he was not awarded the 14-15 Star medal.
On 26 March 1917 the First Battle of Gaza was fought. This was an attempt to capture Gaza from the Ottoman forces in order to clear the way to Jerusalem. The following map is from Australian records of the battle.
To the southwest of Gaza can be seen Ali Muntar. At 91m (300 ft) this was the dominating height of a long ridge overlooking Gaza.
The 7th Cheshires were part of the 159th (Cheshire) Brigade, whose role for the day was to be in reserve to 2 Welsh Brigades. Due to dense fog in the early morning the start of the battle was delayed. The Ottoman resistance was much more resolute than expected by the Generals. Communications between the Generals left quite a lot to be desired. The net result was that the Allied forces captured Ali Muntar late in the afternoon, but by the time they did so, orders to withdraw had been issued. So the battle was effectively lost.
Background and a detailed account of the battle can be found here.
During the fighting, George Philip Gregg was killed, leading his men in the attack. He was one of over 4000 Allied casualties. He was not quite 21 years old.
His body was not recovered. He is commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial, the Rolls of Honour in St Bridget and St Andrew churches in West Kirby and on the Jerusalem Memorial.
After his father died in 1922, Bernard Henry Gregg moved to Hantsport, Nova Scotia, Canada and became a farmer. George’s mother and sister Dorothy also moved to Canada in the early 1930s.
Birth: Apr 1896 at Broughton, Manchester
Death: 26 Mar 1917 at Ali Muntar, Gaza, Palestine; killed in action
Addresses: Silverdale, Green Leech Lane, Worsley, Lancashire (01); 7 St David’s Road, St Annes on Sea, Lancashire (11); 10 Hoscote Park, West Kirby (14)
Occupation: not known
Unit: 7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Jerusalem Memorial, Jerusalem, Israel; Grange Hill War Memorial, St Bridget & St Andrew churches,West Kirby
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, Census: 01, 11, BR, Probate, DA, Kelly’s Directory of Manchester, White’s Directory of Nottingham, passenger lists