George Gilbert Fleming

Name

George Gilbert Fleming

Conflict

First World War

Date of Death / Age

24/05/1915
21

Rank, Service Number & Service Details

Private
9983
Royal Fusiliers
3rd Bn.

Awards

1914 /15 Star, British War and Victory medals

Cemetery/Memorial

YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL
Panel 6 and 8
Belgium

UK Memorials

Knebworth Village Memorial, Knebworth (old)
St. Martin’s Church Memorial, Knebworth (New)
St. Martin’s Church Roll of Honour, Knebworth (New)
St. Martin’s Church Scroll, Knebworth (New)

Pre War

George was the son of William & Caroline Fleming, of 9, Gun Lane, Knebworth, Hertfordshire. After leaving school George worked as a Caddy at Knebworth Golf Club.

Wartime Service

George arrived in France on the 13th May 1915 as part of a draft of 300 men and 2 officers who joined the Battalion at Watou, Poperinge, Belgium on the 16th May. The Battalion moved into trenches at Bellewaarde Lake on the 21st May and, unbeknown to them, were about to become involved in the Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge. At 2.45am on 24th May 1915 (Whit Monday), a ferocious German artillery bombardment slammed down on the British V Corps front. The clamour of shells, machine-guns and rifle fire was accompanied by a simultaneous discharge of chlorine gas on almost the entire length of the British line. German infantry assaulted in its wake. Although the favourable wind had alerted the British trench garrison to the likelihood of a gas attack the proximity of the opposing trenches and speed of the enemy assault meant many defenders failed to don their respirators quickly enough and large numbers were overcome. The British defence rallied and the attackers were repelled by small arms fire – except in the north, where Mouse Trap Farm was immediately overrun, and in the south where (by 10am) German infantry broke into the British line north and south of Bellewaarde Lake, where the men of the 3rd Royal Fusiliers were situated. The German break-in around Bellewaarde Lake prompted the commitment of Corps reserve troops – but their arrival took time and the depleted front line battalions had to wait until the early evening before the weakened 84th Brigade was able to attack and turn the enemy out of Witte Poort Farm. Following the belated arrival of 80th Brigade a joint night counter-attack was made after 11pm; this assault, in bright moonlight, was a disaster and both 84th and 80th Brigades suffered heavy casualties. In the early hours of the morning the battle quietened. The following day saw a reduction in shelling and no attempts by the Germans to renew the offensive. The Battalion had suffered horrendous casualties with 552 Officers & Men being Killed, Wounded or Missing. George, who was action for the first time, was never seen again and has no known grave. His name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.

Acknowledgments

Paul Johnson