George Moulding

Serjeant George Moulding, d. 25 March 1918

George Moulding was born in Wootton Bassett. His mother Elizabeth Harriet, nee Morse, was from Lydiard Millicent. George’s father, Thomas, was from Wanborough. He was an agricultural labourer and carter, and the family’s frequent moves were probably due to his work. George’s elder brother John was born in Lydiard Millicent in 1881. George’s sister Fanny Roberta was born in Ogbourne St Andrew in 1883 and died there age one year. Some time between 1883 and 1886 the family moved to Wootton Bassett, where George was born in about January 1886. By 1891 they were living in Ogbourne St George. George’s younger brother William Charles was born at Heswick Farm near Ogbourne in 1897.

George’s mother died in 1899, probably in Ogbourne, when George was 13 years old. George’s elder brother John joined the Royal Navy in 1899. He remained in the Navy until 14 Jun 1901.

In 1901 George and his father were living in Stratton St Margaret, and George, still only 15 years old, was working as a carter. George’s little brother William was living with his grandparents at Southleaze Farm Cottage near Wroughton.

In the first three months of 1904 George’s father remarried to a widow Harriet New, nee Fisher. Perhaps this was the incentive for George to join the Army, as he attested in the Wiltshire Regiment (6841) on 5th April 1904.

In 1909 George married Harriet’s daughter, Alice Elizabeth New. Alice already had an illegitimate daughter, Lilian May New. Lillian may have been George’s daughter, but it seems unlikely as she was born in Kilburn, where her mother had been working as a servant. In the 1911 census, however, Lilian was given George’s surname, and the year of her mother’s marriage is false, probably in an attempt to legitimise her.

In about April 1910 George and Alice had a daughter, Rosa Madeline Moulding, who was born at Chilvester Hill, Calne, Wiltshire. Sadly Rosa died within three months. By 1911 George and Alice were living at Down Barn, Chitterne, with Lilian, and George was working as a carter on a farm. Their second daughter Winifred Alice was born soon after the April census on 11th Jun 1911. Meanwhile, by 1911 George’s brother John had returned to live with his father. His little brother William joined the Royal Navy in 1912, but unlike his brother John, he remained in the Navy until he was discharged 1927.

As an experienced soldier, George would have been recalled to the 1st Wiltshires in 1914. He reenlisted in Devizes and disembarked in Rouen, France on the 14th August 1914. The battalion were in the trenches at Vailly where, as the diary reports, “the hardships were considerable” until September 22nd when they moved into billets in Braine. On 26th September 1914 George was sent back to England via 9 Field Ambulance, either ill or wounded. The exact nature of his condition is unclear. He arrived in England on 28th September and was sent to the 2nd Northern General Hospital, Beckett’s Park, Leeds. He travelled from Southampton to Leeds by hospital train in a group of 106 men, including 26 stretcher cases, most of whom were suffering from rheumatism due to the conditions in the trenches. There was one other 1st Wilts man with him, Private Herbert Fleet (9038). There is an excellent description of the arrival of the train in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of Wednesday 30 September 1914.

George arrived back in France on 27th Jan 1015 with a draft of 197 men, and rejoined his battalion on 1st Feb 1915. He continued to fight with the Wiltshires until he was wounded in action on 22nd May 1916. The war diary reports:

France, Pylones, The Trenches. A quiet day during which the Stokes guns did effective work. Snipers claimed two hits. Work consisted of repairing the damage from shell fire and wire was put out in front of the outpost line. The casualties were:- Died of wounds, Pte Francis, H. Wounded Ptes Foyle, C, Wright, E A, Mundy, H C, Mounding, G.

This time George did not return to England, but was able to rejoin his battalion on 30th May 1916. On 1st September 1916 the battalion were at Bouzincourt undergoing training and playing football. On that day George was appointed Acting Paid Lance Serjeant. The next day the battalion moved up to the trenches at Leipzig Salient. On the 3rd, George was promoted to Serjeant.

George’s brother John married Rose Onion in 1917, but it seems that George didn’t make it back to England for the wedding. Rose had an illegitimate son, Sidney John Onion, named after Rose’s brother Sidney, and probably known as John. He may well have been John Moulding’s son, given his middle name. He joined the Machine Gun Corps (107406), and on 5 Nov 1917, in the same quarter as his mother’s wedding, he was killed, age 21.

In January 1918 George’s Battalion were in Brigade Support at Favreuil. George was finally granted leave on the 10th January 1918, but it is not clear whether he managed to return to England. If he did, this would have been his last opportunity to see Alice, Lilian and Winifred. He returned to the battalion at Achiet Le Grand on the 13th February 1918.

I have found no surviving record to show exactly when and where George was wounded. On 24th March the Battalion were in the trenches east of Fremicourt. The war diary records:

In the morning the enemy shelled the whole of the Battalion Trench System fire being directed by hostile aeroplanes; the absence of our planes was noticeable. Our guns retaliated but unfortunately there was a considerable amount of short shooting causing several casualties. In the afternoon there was an intensive bombardment by the enemy and about 4 p.m. the enemy assaulted. Fighting was in progress but the attack had for all practical purposes failed on the Battalion front when the CO received a verbal message over the telephone to retire at once. This was passed on to the Companies but at the same time the two Battalions on the right flank broke and came back leaving the Companies in the front system in the air. They attempted to come back as ordered but were practically exterminated by machine gun fire. That night the Battalion reassembled at ACHIET – LE – PETIT mustering about 3 officers and 54 other ranks. The casualties suffered in the fighting up to that date amounted to 413.

On the 25th the war diary records:

In the morning the Battn was ordered with the rest of the Bde to dig in and occupy a line N and W of ACHIET – Le – GRAND. In the afternoon the enemy shelled the position somewhat heavily but caused no casualties. In the evening the Bde on either flank withdrew but no orders were received from 7th Inf Bde. Lieut Col S S Ogilvie DSO who was in command of the forward Bde sector withdrew on his own initiative to PUISIEUX. The whole Bde spent the night marching, arriving at GOMMECOURT at 6a.m.

George died of his wounds at 49 Casualty Clearing Station, on the 25th March 1918, age 32. He is buried at Puchevillers British Cemetery, grave reference 7 E 15. On his grave Alice requested the words, “Gone but not forgotten by his loving wife and two daughters, Lilian and Winnie”.

George was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 1914-1915 Star. He is remembered on the St Lawrence Church War Memorial plaque, Lechlade with his nephew Sidney John Onion.

The Register of Effects shows gratuities paid to Alice as his widow, and for the child Winifred, but not for Lilian. On the CWGC database the address for his father was given as Hatherup Downs, Quenington, Fairford, Gloucestershire, and the address given for his wife, Alice Elizabeth Moulding, was Downingtown, Lechlade, Gloucestershire. In 1919 Winifred came second in the Lechlade peace celebrations fancy dress parade as a Tricolor.

By 1939 George’s widow Alice and daughter Winifred had moved to Hove in Sussex. Winifred married Jack Davies (or Davis) there in 1940. George’s step daughter Lilian married in 1953, in both her surnames, New and Moulding.

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