Shell Shock, gas and imprisonment, but life goes on.

George Frederick Hallgate was born on the 17th December 1892 and grew up at 89 St Johns Road Balby. He was the eldest of a family of five and his father worked as a brick layers labourer. By the age of 18 in 1911 George was working as a steel wire tester possibly at British Ropes. It seems likely the George joined up around October 1915 by which time he was working at the Plant railway works and would have been about 23.

Initially posted to the 10th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment he was given the army No 3823. From family stories it seems that he did some of his basic training at Rugely Camp in Staffordshire. This was one of two huge hutted camps on Cannock Chase built early in the war primarily as training establishments. Together they were capable of holding 40,000 troops.

From his medical record it seems likely that George was transferred to France around September 1916 and it may have been at this time that he was allocated to the 1/6th Battalion of the West. Yorkshire. Regiment. This battalion was present at the battle of Flers-Courcelette which was the first battle where tanks were used and formed part of the battle of the Somme. Unfortunately George was reported as wounded, shell shock in the Doncaster Gazette on the 22nd of September 1916. So he may not have been at the front for very long before becoming injured. It seems likely that he returned to England to recover as a later newspaper report says that he went to France three times.. It could have been at this time that his Army number was changed to 263008. Back with the 1/6th Battalion George was injured again around July 1917, this was just before the start of the battle of Passchendaele. Conditions were already appalling and his family recall that George told them that he was buried by shell and gassed. He then had to spend two days in a shell hole with several corpses before being rescued. It is difficult to know what gas George was exposed to or what his injuries were, but he arrived in hospital in England on the 4th August 1917 and was discharged home on the 14th September 42 days later. During this time he was in the County of Middlesex War Hospital at Napsbury near St Albans. Though the effects of gas were terrifying the actual number of fatalities was relatively low. From the local newspaper we know that George was back in France for the third time in November 1917 but this time he was probably with the 1/7th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. George returned to Ypres, where the battle of Passchendaele was now mainly over. Unfortunately for George in April 1918 Germany launched its great offensive and broke through the allied lines. On the 25th of April George was reported missing, probably during the battle of Kemmal. His imprisonment was recorded by the International Committee of the Red Cross

This must have been a very worrying time for his parents Kirk and Hannah, who eventually received a post card from George in June to say that he was a prison of war at Limberg. Limburg an der Lahn is a German town in the Hesse region, the pow camp there during the first world war could hold 12,000 men. It had been used by the Germans as a location for Irish prisoners, these were encouraged to join the Irish Legion and fight against the British in Ireland.

With the end of the war in November 1918 George would have been released, however many men found it difficult to find their way home and we know that George was not discharged until the 4th March 1919. For his services to the nation George was awarded the British War and Victory medals.

George returned to Doncaster and his job at the Plant where he joined The National Union of Railwaymen in 1925 giving his occupation as fitters mate. In 1923 he married Elsie Broomhead and their daughter Alice was born soon afterwards. In 1939 George was working as a fitter labourer for the L.N.E.R. and was living at 22 Byron avenue Balby with Elsie and one other probably Alice. George died in 1960 aged 67.

Thank you to David Marson for submitting information for this story.

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