Private George Ernest Roe flees brutal battle at Ypres

George Ernest Roe was born in 1894 in Sheffield. His father John was born in Derbyshire and his mother Mary in Doncaster, but the family settled in Sheffield. By 1901, although John was working as an engineering machinist, the family was living in poor circumstances crammed into a two room flat. Ten years later, John had died and George was bringing in much needed income to help the family, working as a labourer in the steel works. His sister Eveline also began working as a servant.

We do not have information as to when George enlisted in the Army but it must have been as a volunteer as he was awarded the 1914 Star after his death.  Despite this, he was shot for desertion in June 1915. His battalion had been heavily engaged in the spring in the Second Battle of Ypres. They were involved in the storming of Hill 60 which resulted in heavy fighting and high casualty rates. We don’t have any details of when or why George deserted but it well may have been during this horrific event. George was undefended at his trial. His Commanding Officer said that George appeared to have lost his nerve.  Despite him having been called “a good soldier with a character to match” he was not reprieved.

The entry in the War Diary of 2/KOYLI 10th June 1915 is very terse:

“Quiet Day … Pvt Roe 2/KOYLI was shot for desertion by firing squad of Royal West Kents at 5am”

His mother at this time was living at 24 Borough St in Sheffield. We don’t know whether she was told the full story of his death but she would have received his 1914 Star, and though not named on the city’s Role of Honour his name is listed on the one for the nearest parish church St Bartholomew’s, off Langsett Road.

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