Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
Place of birth:
Date of death:
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Name of father:
Name of siblings:
Joseph Gordon Frederick (Freddie); Lily; Elizabeth; Rosa; Henry
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Name of mother:
Louisa (nee Saunders)
Name of spouse:
Edith May (nee Hendy)
68 Campbell Road, Finsbury Park (1901 Census)
George Vincent Pocock, was the eldest son of George Pocock and his wife Louisa, nee Saunders, who had eight children altogether, though two had died by 1911. George was born on 2 March 1895, and baptised at St Anne’s Church in Poole’s Park, on 7 April. His brother Joseph Gordon Frederick – known as Frederick or Freddie – was born a year later, followed by three girls and another boy.
George’s father was a painter when George was born; in 1901 he was grocer; and in 1911 he worked at a General Stores. The family home was at 68 Campbell Road, a notorious slum with many houses of multiple occupancy, known locally as ‘Campbell Bunk’ and described as ‘the worst street in north London’. No 68 contained three households with a total of 21 people.
Neither George nor Freddie was with the family at No 68 on the night of the 1911 census. Freddie, aged 14, was a boarder in the household of a widow in Shoreditch, but there seems to be no census record for George. Freddie was an errand boy, but we don’t know George’s occupation before the war.
There are also very few records of George’s military service, but we do know that he had enlisted by 1917 (he first appears in the New Court Chapel Roll of Honour that year) was a Private in 2nd Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). This battalion was a Regular British Army unit, which fought at Gallipoli in 1915 and sustained heavy losses. In early 1916 they were sent to the Western Front in France and fought in various actions, including the Battle of the Somme, where they were in the worst part of the line on the opening day, 1 July, again with heavy losses.
On 21 August 1916 George was listed as Missing on the Casualty List issued by the War Office based on a report of the day before. This meant that his next of kin would have been informed. They would then have had to wait while official enquiries were made to establish whether he had died or had been captured by the enemy. Often this took many months. However, in George’s case, the records show that on 8 September he was reported as now Not Missing. It’s not recorded what actually happened to him.
In 1917 the battalion took part in many battles, and by spring 1918 they were still in France, where they saw action at the Battle of Estaires. George was captured by the Germans on 12 April when they took the town as part of their Spring Offensive, which had begun on 21 March. George was again listed as Missing, though not in the War Office Daily List until 12 June, when his family would have been informed again.
The initial enquiries into the fate of a soldier listed as Missing included a check of all British medical units in the area to see if he was receiving treatment or had died from wounds. After that there were formal enquiries and an exchange of information between Britain and Germany via a neutral power eg Sweden. Eventually, information might be received that the soldier was in enemy hands. Sometimes the family heard news from letters from the man himself or his comrades well before this was confirmed officially and conveyed to them.
It became clear, though not until 16 October, that George had been captured as he was reported a Prisoner of War on a German Government list. His family would have been informed of this and his whereabouts.
After his capture, George had been taken to a holding camp at the infamous Lille Fort, known as ‘the Black Hole of Lille’, where conditions were atrocious with as many as 250 men kept in a room with a single window, sleeping on the floor or three to five men sharing an iron bed with boards, and a single barrel for a toilet emptied once a day. Prisoners were allowed out twice a day to an adjoining room for an issue of barley or bean coffee, bread and watery cabbage soup.
George was then transferred on 14 June to Dülmen Prisoner of War camp in North-Rhine Westphalia in Germany, where conditions were better, and a month later on 10 July he was moved to a larger camp at Hameln, near Hannover, a place known to the British from the poem ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ by Robert Browning.
The prison camp was a vast site on low ground with wooded hills behind it, a mile from the town. It had 100 barracks radiating out from a central point. Prisoners of War were sent out in work teams known as kommando to working camps in the area and forced to undertake heavy labour in quarries, mines, factories and farms. Hameln camp had a theatre and a YMCA recreational hut to provide some entertainment and comfort, and prisoners were sent parcels containing food and things like socks, shaving equipment and chocolate by the British Red Cross. The prisoners were poorly fed and incarcerated in cramped and unhealthy conditions, but most, like George, did survive.
George was a prisoner for a relatively short period of time, being released from Germany after the Armistice and arriving back in England on 28 January 1919. Many prisoners came back on trains across Germany and then ships from Holland; others just set off walking. George was demobilised from the Army on his return.
George returned to live with his parents at 68 Campbell Road. On Easter Sunday 1922 he married Edith May Hendy at St Mary’s Church in Hornsey Rise; George’s occupation at the time was paper-hanger. They lived at 23 Ellenborough Road in Islington, a street that had disappeared by the 1960s. In the 1939 Register George and Edith were living at 5 Hatchard Road in Islington, and they were still living in that street, though now at No 9, when George died in April 1961.
George’s younger brother Joseph, known as Freddie, also served in the war. He too survived and is also commemorated at St Mellitus. Freddie died just four months after George in 1961.