George Wilby


George Wilby was born at Stoke Ash on the 11th November 1895 but by the time of the recording of the 1901 census the family were living at Battlesea Green, a hamlet about half way between Hoxne and Stradbroke. His father Henry was born in Syleham and is listed as Shepherd in the 1901 census, his mother, Sarah Ann was a Stoke Ash girl, also listed is George's brother, Henry, aged one, and a sister, Flossie, who was nine months. Henry's brother, John Wilby, was also resident at Battlesea Green.

In 1901 George attended Stradbroke Primary School, he then moved to Wingfield Primary School. By the time of the 1911 census the Wilby's had moved on to Hole Farm, Hoxne where Henry was employed as a yardman. Also the composition of the family had changed dramatically. At some time in the intervening ten years George's mother, Sarah Ann, had died and Henry had remarried Emma Jane Baldwin (nee Pipe). The census lists eleven children living at Hole Farm, George and his sister Flossie, four stepchildren and five who appear to be Henry and Emma's children.

George enlisted into the 1/4th Battalion Suffolk Regiment which had had its recruiting depot in Portman Road, Ipswich since August 1914 when the Battalion formed part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade, The East Anglian Division. As a Territorial Battalion the initial drafts into the 1/4th would have been reservists, this enabled the Battalion to go onto a war footing quite quickly, so by November the Battalion had landed at Le Havre and in December had been transferred to the Jullundur Brigade of the 3rd (Lahore) Division. The Battalion fought with the 3rd (Lahore) Division at Neuve Chapelle, Aubers Ridge, Festubert and finally at Loos in September 1915 before being transferred to the 46th Brigade 15th (Scottish) Division.

No enlistment papers have survived for George, but, given his service number, 201113, and comparing it to other recruits whose enlistment papers/information has survived, it is probable that he joined the Battalion in the spring of 1916. During the course of the Somme Offensive the 1/4th saw continuous action and suffered severe causalities as a result. On October 28th the Battalion took over part of the front line near the village of Lesboeufs and over the next three days made a number of unsuccessful attacks on the German trench known as Dew Drop. George was killed during the course of these attacks, his body was never recovered and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, he was 20 years old. At the end of November 1916 the Somme Offensive was closed down.