Two men with a local connection died in Flanders on 1st August 1917, the second day of the Third Battle of Ypres – former schoolteacher Second Lieutenant George Williams Hastings, 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment (attached to the 10th Battalion Cheshire Regiment), and labourer, Private David Thorneycroft, 38th Field Ambulance, Army Medical Corps.
George Williams Hastings was born on 2nd June 1882 at 2 Clifton Villas, Camden Square, London and was the second of the two children of parents Charles Williams Hastings (a journalist) and his wife and Amelia (née Gardner) who had married in 1876 in South Shields.
By 1891 the family had moved to Kent. By 1901, 18-year-old George was living with his parents and older sister, Edith Mary, and was working as an elementary school teacher. Between 1901-1905, he attended the University College of North Wales, Bangor, where he obtained a M.A. before becoming a tutor with the English Service College, Aldwych, London. On 28th December 1912, George married a former fellow-student, Annie Jones, in her home parish of St Matthew’s, Buckley, Flintshire. George gave his address as Trinity Road, South Wimbledon.
From 1912-1915, George Hastings was a Master at Solihull Grammar School, teaching English. He enlisted as a Private before being commissioned was killed in action on 1st August and is buried Brandhoek New Military Cemetery. He is commemorated on the war memorial at Solihull School, and St Alphege Parish Magazine, October 1917, refers to him as “recently a Master in our Grammar School.” He is also commemorated at Newport High School and at St Matthew’s Church, Buckley.
His widow, Annie, married Lieutenant (later Lieut.-Colonel) Felix Geoffrey Dufton (1897-1971) in 1925 and they had three sons – John Felix Geoffrey (1927-2002), Francis Trevor (1929-2004) and Guy Julian (b. 1931).
David Thorneycroft was born in Barston, Warwickshire in 1882 and was the youngest of the nine children (four sons, five daughters) of parents, George (a labourer) and Mary Ellen (née Gibbons) who had married in 1866. They set up home in Kings Norton, moving to Budbrooke by 1872, Shustoke by 1874, Arley by 1876, Foleshill by 1878 and Barston by 1880. The family remained in Barston until at least 1891, moving to Bedworth by 1901, and Exhall by 1911.
David married Ethel May Faulks at Ash Green, Exhall on 24th May 1908, and they had four sons – Thomas William (born 1908), Ernest (born 1910, died 1911), Frederick (born 1913) and David (born 1915). It seems that David (senior) had a brush with the law – in January 1914 he was convicted of stealing nine fowls from a barn in a field in Exhall, and was sentenced to three months’ hard labour.
On 15th October 1915, David volunteered for the Army, aged 35 years 194 days, giving his occupation as night watchman. He embarked for France on 2nd May 1916, aboard the SS Viper from Southampton, arriving at Le Havre the following day. He had several spells as a patient in 138 Field Ambulance, suffering from influenza (September 1916), eczema (November 1916), myalgia (January 1917) and scabies (January 1917).
He was killed in action on 1st August 1917, and is buried at Voormizeele Enclosures, Belgium. Having left Barston with his family before 1901, his name is not included on Barston war memorial.
If you have any further information on either of these casualties, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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