George Edward Spencer Shirley Catt was born on 20th October 1892 in Ore, which is now part of Hastings East Sussex. George is first found in the 1901 Census as a seven year old schoolboy living with his parents and his younger brother. The family appears to be living in a cottage which is part of the Grange School in Ore.
George was the first child of his father George and mother Ellen. His father was a jobbing gardener. Leonard, his younger brother was born in 1900 in Whitstable, Kent although apart from the birth record no reason can be found to explain the location of the birth.
The 1911 census found that George, who is now 17 and is working as a market gardener. His father is still a gardener. Leonard is still at school and George has a new brother Freddie who was born in 1908 in Ore.
On 1st April 1914 George became a Police Constable with the Brighton Borough Police Force. It is not known where he was living at the time. It is interesting to note that he joined Brighton Borough Police on the same day as Jack Cheesman.
George appears on both WW1 Plaques within The Old Police Museum Cells at Brighton. He is shown to be with The Royal Sussex Regiment.
George applied to the Chief Constable William Gentle for permission to leave the Brighton Borough Police Force which was granted. His leaving date was 10th May 1915. George attested on 11th May 1915 at Brighton, Sussex, along with William Clinch, Jack Cheesman, Richard Lintott and Sid Millen.
George declared his age to be 21 years 9 months. On 21st May along with PC Arthur Avis, PC Jack Cheesman and PC William Clinch he was posted to 10th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment for training at Colchester until 13th September 1915.
George was allocated service number 6819. His record does not show the number prefixed with the letters “GS”, which was used to signify that the soldier was conscripted for “General Service”.
After initial training George was posted to Shoreham Depot between 13th September 1915 to 25th November 1915. He was promoted to being a paid Lance Corporal.
On 25th November 1915 he was posted to France to join the 9th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. The 9th “Service” Battalion was raised at Chichester in 1914.
January 1916 found George still with the 9th Battalion in France. The Battalion first entered the trenches at Zouave Wood on the 18th where significant enemy shell and sniper fire was experienced for four days until relief arrived. The Battalion was so close to the enemy line that gas masks had to be worn day and night.
Heavy shelling continued into February near Hooge where the 9th were still occupying trenches. On 13th February the Germans put down a tremendous bombardment over the British front line causing a great deal of damage. 30 casualties along with several fatalities were recorded. It was as a result of this action that George received a gunshot wound to his right shoulder.
George was sent the same day to 72nd Field Ambulance This was a mobile medical unit, not a vehicle. Each British division had three such units, as well as a specialist medical sanitary unit. The Field Ambulances provided bearer posts but also established main and advanced (that is, forward) dressing stations, where a casualty could receive further treatment and be put in such a condition where he could be evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station. Men who were ill or injured would also be sent to the Dressing Stations and in many cases returned to their unit after first aid or some primary care.
On the following day he was taken to number 10 Casualty Clearing Station at Poperinghe and then onwards to number 15 Casualty Clearing Station. He was discharged from the clearing station after 7 days and returned to duty.
April and May and June were relatively quiet until the 17th June when the Germans gas bombed the Battalions position. The Battalion was moved away after a tirade of shelling and enemy fire, only to return to the trenches on 20th June.
The 6th July brought the Battalion out of the trenches for a period of rest, only for them to return on 11th where on 20th they were relieved and moved by buses and trains away from the Ypres area and travelled to Montagne.
August continued to see the 9th Battalion in the thick of it, and was involved in hand to hand fighting in the village of Guillemont where over the course of two days casualties amounted to 7 officers and 183 other ranks. After 7 days rest they were again in the trenches where they were attacked by the Germans after heavy bombardment on 31st August. The 9th managed to hold on and repulsed the attacking party. 30 men were killed and 80 injured. The problem was exasperated by the complete lack of food and water during continued attack.
September saw the Battalion moved by trains and lorries to Camblain-l’Abbe and finally on 24th to Villers-au-Bois. George is wounded after a Howitzer was fired in his close proximity on 25th September 1916. There is no detail in the war diary to explain the injury; however he was suffering from Otitis which is an inflammation of the ear. He was sent to 73rd Field Ambulance and onward to number 23 Casualty Clearing Station where he remained until 26th September 1916. His condition did not improve. On 27th September he was transferred to the 18th General Hospital at Camiers which is situated south of Boulogne. On 30th September 1916 George was transferred to one of the Auxiliary Hospitals in Exeter. He is suffering from nervous debility (Neurasthenia or in modern days “Shell Shock”)
Whilst in hospital George is posted to 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment Depot. He is discharged to duty on 25th October 1916. It is uncertain where he went at this time, but he is shown at the Command depot on 8th December 1916.
On 11th December it would appear that George was still suffering from shell shock and was sent from the depot in Newhaven to Hospital. The sequence of events are unclear at this point however because on 15th January 1917 George was once again in hospital with phimosis. He is at the Eastern Hospital until 14th February 1917 when he was transferred to Summerdown Camp, Eastbourne until 21st April 1917 having undergone a circumcision. He was discharged to duty back to 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. Reserve Battalion.
On 18th July 1917 George is transferred to The Kings Own Scots Borders. His new service number is 32130. George is posted to Farm work to assist his recovery between 7th August 1917 to 6th September 1971 when he returned to Depot
On 19th January 1918 George was once again in hospital. He was still complaining of Neurasthenia (a medical condition characterised by lassitude, fatigue, headache and irritability, associated chiefly with emotional disturbance). He was sent to King George Fifth hospital in Dublin until 8th February 1918 which was a Red Cross Hospital. On 8th February he was discharged from the hospital. The recommendation was for him to find work within the Army or to be discharged permanently as unfit to serve.
On 22nd February 1918 George is transferred to 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers. His new service number is 51966. On 20th March 1918 George had a septic heel and was with the 330th Field Ambulance in London. He received treatment and was returned to duty on 2nd April 1918.
George returned to the Fusiliers and had some leave between 10th July and 14th July 1918. On 27th July he was promoted back to a paid Acting Lance Corporal and on 22nd August he was promoted to a paid Lance Corporal.
On 30th November he was posted to the 13th Royal Scottish Fusiliers School of Musketry at Hythe, Kent and on 17th November was posted to the Royal Scottish Fusiliers depot as an instructor at Gailes barracks.
On 11th December 1918, George was posted to the dispersal centre at Wimbledon where due to his previous Police experience he became a “Dispersal Demobiliser” (Police).There is no information that he became an MFP or MMP. On 10th January 1919 George was posted to Class Z reserves and was demobolised from the Army. His home address is still shown as “Over Bennet Works, St Helens, Hastings.
George received The 1914-1915 Star along with the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
On 27th December 1918 George Edward Spencer Shirley Catt returned to Brighton Borough Police. The 1939 Register is our next insight to George and finds him living at 2 Colbourne Avenue, Brighton.
George is shown as being born on 20th October 1894 a 45 old. He is employed as an Engineering Works Watchman and Timekeeper. George is living with wife 47 year old Irene Millicent Allen who he had married in the third quarter of 1917 at Hastings.
Also living at 2 Colboune Avenue was his daughter Eileen M Catt born 10th September 1920 along with a son George Peter Catt born 21st August 1924
George died in 1967 at 62 years of age. His death is registered in Brighton.
Irene Catt died in 1981 aged 89 years.