Rifleman George Charles Howson

Thank you to John Callcutt for letting us reproduce the following information, taken from his book: A Village at War. Newdigate in World War One.

George Howson was born in Shepperton, Middlesex in 1897. He lived with his parents, Charles and Dorcas, and younger brother Alfred Joseph. Charles was a railway plate-layer and then became a farm labourer at Shepperton before moving to New House Farm Cottages in Newdigate. George was working as a cowman at Crossways, Upper Gatton when he travelled to Guildford to enlist on the 30th November 1915. The medical officer noted he was of slight build, being only 5’4 ½’’ tall and weighing 108 lbs, and that he had a curvature of the spine that would improve with drilling.

His regiment embarked from Folkestone on the 14th April 1916 and assembled at Etaples before moving to the Front. Life was very tough for the infantry throughout this period. They were in constant action and conditions in the trenches were uncomfortable in the extreme. On the 27th October, George Howson was wounded in the back and shoulder and nearly a year later on the 20th September 1917 he was buried by a shell but returned to duty five days later.

The wet conditions in the trenches affected him badly and he suffered from sore throats and bronchitis and was hospitalized in Boulogne. On the 11th October the 16th Battalion was amongst the Brigades holding the line of the River Selle, whilst the enemy’s front line was the Le Cateau-Solesmes railway, which was strongly wired and about five hundred yards from the river. There was high ground about 1,500 yards east of the railway and the Brigade was ordered to make an attack across the river to gain the high ground. Next day at 05.00 hours the Battalion attacked with ‘the greatest of dash’ against very heavy machine gun fire, and it was here that Rifleman Howson was hit. This time, this brave man succumbed to his wounds and died. He had just passed his 21st birthday.

His name is recorded on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial as his body was never recovered or identified.

Born                            Shepperton, Middlesex
Lived                           Newdigate, Dorking, Surrey

Son of                         Charles E. and Dorcas Howson of Charlwood, Surrey

Enlisted                        Guildford, Surrey

Regiment                     King’s Royal Rifle Corps
Number                       R/17362

Date of Death              12th October 1918
Place of Death             France
Cause of Death            Killed in Action.

Age                              21

Memorial                     Vis-en-Artois Memorial, France

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