Lance Corporal George Henry Lewin Gingell, killed in action in France on the 7th July 1916, age 31.
(Please note Able Seaman George Gingell is on another page)
George Gingell was born in Hawkesbury Upton, Gloucestershire between April and June 1885. Although his parents, John Gingell and Mary, nee Fry, remained in Hawkesbury and went on to have more children, George was raised in Tockenham by his grandfather, George Lewin Fry, a carter, and his grandmother Rebecca Fry.
George joined the 1st Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment (6793) some time between January 1903 and July 1904, when he was about 18 years old. George’s grandfather died in 1906 and his grandmother later moved to Dauntsey to live with her daughter Elizabeth.
George married Bessie Sheppard in 1908 and by 1911 they were living in Lyneham with their two young children, Ernest and Edward. A daughter, Emma, arrived later in 1911. In 1911 George was a Great Western Railway slip labourer, based in Dauntsey. I have not been able to determine what a slip labourer did, but a slip coach is a passenger coach that is uncoupled from an express train while the train is in motion, then slowed by a guard in the coach using the brakes, bringing it to a stop at the next station. The coach was thus said to be slipped from its train. Another daughter, Winifred, was born in 1912.
George would have been on the reserve when war broke out. He re-enlisted in Swindon and rejoined the 1st Wiltshires. He went out to France on August 14th 1914. On that same day his third daughter, Fanny, was born.
He must have come home on leave in the summer of 1915, then returned to the front. By 1916 Bessie had moved to 7 Council Cottages, Poulshot, near Devizes.
George was killed in action in France on the 7th July 1916, age 31. His fifth child, Ellen, was just a few months old. The War Diary for that day reveals the heavy losses of the 1st Wiltshire Regiment on that day:
Regiment: 1st Wiltshire
Location: France, Leipzig Salient
12.15 a.m. On the early morning of the 7th orders were received that another attack would be made on the same objective as that attacked by D Coy on night of 5th. This was known to be the very strongest part of the Leipzig Redoubt. While the conference about this attack was being held, a very violent hostile counter attack was made on the trench captured by C Coy. This commenced about 1.15 a.m.
The enemy attempted to rush the trench from the front and both flanks, also working down the C T trenches with the first sudden rush they managed to reach the very edges of the trench into which they dropped bombs and opened fire. Lieut R J A Palmer the only officer in the trench and the men under him with great coolness beat off this attack and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy.
Very heavy bombing followed in the next 2 hours and intermittently until 5.30a.m. D Coy in this attack were pushed up to the support of C Coy from Battn HQ. The attack on the left was timed to begin at 9.30a.m. and orders for the operation were as follows:- A & B Coys under Lieut Gosden OC A Coy, were selected to make the assault. The attack was made in 2 waves each consisting of 3 platoons, the remaining 2 platoon held in reserve.
At 9.30 a.m. After 30secs intense bombardment by guns and Stokes mortars, the assault was made and the trench successfully captured. The was not accomplished without difficulty as the enemy did not seem to be taken by surprise, manning their parapet very heavily as our troops arrived. Previous to the assault our snipers had been placed in the shell holes in front of their line and fired 30 rounds of steel nosed bullets at the machine guns which had caused so many casualties in the previous attack by D Coy. Whether silenced by our snipers or by the bombardment, at any rate the enemy machine gun did not fire during our advance. During this advance Lieut Gosden was killed, 2nd Lieut Ross wounded and 2nd Lieut Sharpe wounded and missing believe killed. This left 2nd Lieut Clegg Commanding the trench. 2nd Lieut Snelgar being in charge of carrying parties in Quarries.
1 p.m. In this attack a large number of Germans were killed and 23 were taken prisoner, 5 of them being wounded. The captured trench was consolidated but being very wide afforded very little cover. But for incessant bombing from the left flank, no great difficulties were experienced until about 1.30p.m. when the enemy opened a terrific bombardment with high explosive. There was practically no protection in any part of our position particularly in the newly captured trench and in the Quarries.
The bombardment lasted for about 5 hours and our casualties were enormous about 160. Two Coys of the 3rd Worcs Regt who had been utilised as carrying parties were now put in to reinforce the line and suffered equally heavily. 2nd Lieut Clegg and 2nd Lieut Snelgar were both wounded and Capt Knubley was sent up to direct operations. 2nd Lieut Hayward C Coy was also wounded slightly in the hand but remained at his post and was afterwards killed. Other casualties were Lieut L A H B Morris, killed, 2nd Lieut Petter wounded, 2nd Lieut S J Terry (Adj) wounded. Capt R L Knubley wounded, died of wounds later. Casualties among NCOs and men about 219.
At about 6.30p.m. 2 Coys of the 3rd Worcs Regt and 2 Coys of the 8th Loyal North Lancs Regt under the Command of Lieut Col Davidge 3rd Worcs. The Battn went into dugouts at Crucifix Corner.
George’s body was never identified. He was awarded the Victory Medal, the British Medal, and the 1914 Star and Clasp. He is remembered on the Thiepval memorial to the missing, Pier and Face 13 A. His legatee was his widow, Bessie. She never remarried, and remained in Poulshot for the rest of her life.