This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
George was a West Kirby lad born and bred for many generations, who enlisted early in the War, but was discharged as unfit for service within weeks. He was, however, classified A when conscripted in 1917.
Private George Hindley from Birkenhead News of 28 September 1918
George Hindley was born in the autumn of 1891, the second child of John Hindley (1865-1940) and Mary Ellen Barlow (1866-1936). He had an older brother William (1890-???) and 3 younger brothers and 3 younger sisters, so belonged to a large family.
John Hindley was the son of William Hindley (1821-1900) and Margaret Alcock (1835-1921) and worked variously as a general labourer, a carter and a delver in a stone quarry, so the family will not have been well off.
George’s grandfather William was 40 when he was married on 4 January 1861 at St Nicholas church, Liverpool.
William Hindley in old age – family photograph
3 months later at the census he described himself as an Army Pensioner. Heather Chapman has unearthed the following cutting from the West Kirby News of 3 May 1940, which gives some details of William’s service.
He soon moved his new family back to West Kirby where he had been born and baptised, and where he worked as a labourer. Both he and Margaret were illiterate when they married, so he probably had few options.
George would have been 8 when his grandfather died and no doubt heard tales of his soldiering. Two earlier generations of George’s direct Hindley ancestors are buried in St Bridget’s churchyard, West Kirby, so George was at least the 5th generation in his family to be born and bred in West Kirby.
Margaret Alcock’s grandfather John Alcock (1751-1815) was a small farmer in Greasby, where her father George Alcock (1793-1866) was born. George was illiterate and an agricultural labourer. Margaret was born in Caldy, but they are all buried at St Bridget. No direct ancestor has been found who did not come from West Kirby or the immediate surrounding parishes. George had innumerable relatives in north west Wirral.
George’s mother Mary Ellen Barlow was also of several generations of West Kirby stock, though her mother Sarah Roper (1830-???) came from Thirsk, North Yorkshire. Her father Joseph Barlow (1845-???) worked as a gardener, at one time working at Hill Bark, Frankby, and eventually moving to Liverpool.
On 8 September 1914 George enlisted as Private 16451 in the Cheshire Regiment. He gave his occupation as caretaker. However 7 weeks later he was discharged as medically unfit, though the reason is unknown. In January 1916 a policeman delivered his armband to show the world he had served in the army and was not a shirker. He must at this stage have assumed he would not be conscripted.
However on 19 June 1917, whilst working for E Beddard & Co., coal merchants, George was conscripted as Private 65360, 3rd Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.
Cheshire Regiment cap badge
Either George had had a major improvement in his health, or the army’s standards had fallen, because George was classified A, that is fit for service in the Front Line overseas.
Up to this point he had been living with his parents in West Kirby. on 10 October 1917, 3 weeks before he was to go overseas, he married Mary Ellen Gregson (1878-???) in the local Register Office.
Not only was Mary Ellen 14 years older than George, she also had 5 children and had married Hugh Bell (1872-???) in 1898. Hugh came from a family of laundry proprietors and was one himself. There is evidence to suggest that Hugh was alive when George married Mary Ellen, and no evidence of a divorce – which would probably have been very difficult or too expensive to obtain at that time anyway. In 1911 Mary Ellen and her younger children where living at 1 Lake Place, Hoylake where she ran a laundry in her own name.
Hoylake & West Kirby Directory for 1911 aka ‘The Green Book’
In 1913 she had her 5th child. By the time she married George she was living at 17 School Lane, Hoylake.
George landed in France on 31 October 1917 as a member of the 11th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, but was posted to the 16th Battalion the following week. This was a Bantam Battalion, for men under the usual height requirement. However George was nearly 5ft 7 in so must have felt like a giant in that Battalion. The 16th Battalion was disbanded on 6 February 1918 and George’s service for the next few weeks is very unclear as his service record gives conflicting and sometimes clearly incorrect information. He appears to have been attached to the 12th Cheshires, but they were in Salonika.
On 4 April 1918 he went missing. This was reported on 14 April by the 7th Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment, so presumably he was actually serving with them. On 4 April 1918 General Ludendorff had launched the First Villers-Brettoneux Offensive towards Amiens, and the 7th Battalion, Royal West Kents were involved in the Battle of the Avre.
He had received a shot wound near his left eye and by 24th April was in hospital, presumably having been there for the intervening period. By 17th May he had recovered sufficiently to be in a Depot, but it was 28th June before he was posted to the 5th Battalion. This only lasted a fortnight as on 11 July 1918 at Rouen he received his final posting to the 1st Battalion.
They were in GHQ Reserve until the end of August, and George believed that he was due for home leave soon. However from the beginning of September they were part of the Final Advance in Picardy forcing the German Army into retreat through the area devastated by the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
George was killed in action on 2 September 1918 aged 27. He was buried nearby immediately, but after the war his body was reburied in Vaulx Hill Cemetery.
Vaulx Hill Cemetery
He is also commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby, but not in any of the local churches.
After he died, Mary Ellen applied for a widow’s pension and support for her children. The army was suspicious so sent a policeman round to check whether George had actually supported the children, but it was confirmed that he had, despite only being married for 3 weeks before going over seas.
It is not known if any of George’s brothers served in the war.
Birth: Dec 1891 at West Kirby
Death: 2 Sep 1918 near Vaulx-Vraucourt, Pas de Calais, France; killed in action
Addresses: 42 Birkett Road, West Kirby (91); 18 Birkett Road, West Kirby (11); 5 Brook Terrace, West Kirby (14); 4 South Road, West Kirby (16); 14 Milton Road, West Kirby (17); 17 School Lane, Hoylake (18)
Occupations: shop assistant (greengrocer); caretaker; worked for coal merchant
Units: 9th, 3rd, 11th, 16th, 12th, 5th, 1st Battalions, Cheshire Regiment; 7th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment (probably)
Numbers and Rank: 16451 and 65360; Private
Medals: Victory & British War
Buried & Commemorated: Vaulx Hill Cemetery, Vaulx-Vraucourt, Pas de Calais, France; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby;
Sources: CWGC, SR, MC, DA, BN, WKN, GB, Census: 01, 11, BR, PR, RSE, family