George Marchant

Service number: 50179 | Rank: Private | Regiment: Suffolk Regiment

Killed in action, September 25, 1917, in Flanders.  Aged 33.

Remembered at THIEPVAL MEMORIAL, Somme, France.


George was born in Brandon in the winter of 1884 and was the eldest boy in his family and as tradition would dictate he was named after his father, who was employed as a fur dyer in Brandon. This may not have been the best paid job his father could have taken but it was a million miles away from the Union Workhouse in Sussex where his father had been an ‘inmate’ throughout his childhood years. When George jnr left school he also went to work in the fur trade, at Mr Rought-Rought’s huge fur factory along George Street, and found employment as a furrier’s labourer. In the spring of 1906 he married Elizabeth Wharfe and during the 1911 Census they lived in Thetford Road, Brandon, and had two children.

In April 1908 George went to Norwich and enlisted for an eight year term as a Volunteer for the 4th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment and for the next eight years he went off once a year for annual military training. At the outbreak of war he was put into ‘embodied’ service, which meant he was held as a potential recruit for active service and could be called up at any moment. He reached the end of his eight year term in April 1916 and he was duly discharged from the Army without ever seeing any action. George then enlisted into the regular army and joined the Suffolk Regiment (service number 35140) and it appears he was wounded in the fighting and spent time away from the front to recover. When he returned to active service he was placed back in the Suffolk Regiment but in a different battalion of that regiment.

During dusk of September 25th 1917 his battalion climbed out of their trenches as they prepared to mount a raid on the German trenches at Gonnelieu. The Germans observed what was happening and quickly laid down an artillery barrage, but the men moved quickly and the enemy artillery could not target the men with any real success and they reached the German trenches. The battalion War Diary recorded that the raid was a success. The raid lasted about an hour and the survivors returned to the British lines, bringing back five enemy prisoners and a captured machine gun, as well as apparently killing many enemy in the process. They even lobbed grenades in dugouts where the enemy refused to come out. The downside was that out of eight officers and more than two hundred men who took part in the raid there were almost one hundred casualties. It appears that George was one of those casualties and although initially reported as missing, he was later presumed killed although his body was never found. He was aged 33.

Elizabeth was notified of her husband’s death and records show she had moved to 22 Bury Road, Brandon, by then. She then went on to live a long life, dying in Brandon in 1973 and aged 93 years old. This meant she was destined to spend 56 years of her life as a widow, but fate still had one tragic irony for her. Just over thirty years later one of her and George’s sons, Ernest, died on European soil as a result of another World War. His name appears on Brandon’s war memorial … the same memorial that his father’s name was inscribed into decades earlier.