Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 12, 1883
Place of BirthGreat Yarmouth, Norfolk
CountryEngland
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinJ. Peacock of 4 Churchill Rd., Great Yarmouth
Trade / CallingCarpenter
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number89
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion8th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentValcartier, Quebec
Age at Enlistment30
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 02 1985
Age at Death101

Peacock, George James

George James Peacock was born on 12 December 1883 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. He was the youngest child of John and Elizabeth Peacock. Siblings included sisters Alice, Harriett, Maria and Elizabeth; and brother John William. The 1901 England census records that George was working as a grocer’s apprentice. His father and brother were both carpenters involved with boat building.

George left England in 1907 for Singapore where he managed a furniture factory. After three years he contracted malaria so he returned to England. His brother had moved to Canada and settled in Kenora, Ontario so George followed him there. He arrived in Halifax aboard the Empress of Britain on 11 November 1910 stating his occupation as boat builder. George joined the 98th Battalion, Kenora Militia unit.

Britain declared war on 4 August 1914 and three days later mobilization orders were issued in Canada. Officers and volunteers were told to enroll with their local militia then proceed to Valcartier, an area about 20 miles northwest of Quebec City that would become the site of a large military camp. George was one of the first to sign up in Kenora and he left by train on 23 August, heading to Quebec along with about 40 other volunteers. The local newspaper said that thousands of people turned out to cheer and support the men as they left. At Valcartier they underwent training, medical tests and inoculations. George’s medical exam on 27 August tells us he was 5’4 1/2″ tall with brown eyes and brown hair. He was found fit for overseas service and on 23 September 1914 he enlisted with the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion, a new unit made up of recruits from Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. He was listed as single and next of kin was his father, J.W. Peacock of Yarmouth, England. In October the 8th Battalion embarked for England, leaving from Quebec City on the  SS Franconia. They were part of a convoy of 32 transport ships protected by a Royal Navy escort because of the danger from German submarines. The convoy arrived safely in Plymouth, England on 14 October.

The 8th Battalion was sent to Salisbury Plain in southern England where they trained for several months. The men were billeted in tents and huts and due to the cold, wet winter weather many of them became sick with severe colds and pneumonia. They were given a period of leave for the holiday season and after another month of training the men were sent to France in February 1915 as part of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Canadian Division. The battalion spent a few weeks in the area between Hazebrouck and Armentières. In early April they were moved north to the Ypres Salient in Belgium and on 19 April they went into the front trenches near Gravenstafel. Chlorine gas was first used by the Germans on a large scale on 22 April 1915 at Gravenstafel Ridge and the 8th Battalion was hit by it during a second gas attack two days later. They suffered heavy casualties from the poison and in the fighting that followed – the Battle of St. Julien – when German infantry advanced behind the cloud of gas. From the War Diary of the 8th Battalion, 24-25 April 1915, Gravenstafel: ‘The trenches were all attacked at night, and all the men in the trenches except the reserves were weak from fumes –   in fact some men had already died from fumes.’

The Canadians held the line for three crucial days, at times engaging in hand to hand combat, until they were relieved by British units on 25 April. George  suffered gas poisoning but he managed to make it back to the battalion headquarters along with the remnants of his platoon. He recalled wetting his balaclava in the mud and using it to cover his face to combat the effects of the gas. He was admitted  to#3 Stationary Hospital on 05 May. By 20 June he was well enough to rejoin his unit.

Over the next 3-1/2 years the 8th Battalion took part in all the major battles that involved the Canadian Corps, including the Somme Offensive, Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, Passchendaele and the great victories in the Hundred Days Offensive.  George was attached to the 1st Canadian Division Engineers for four months in 1916. He had a ten day leave of absence in December 1916. On 25 June 1917 George was awarded the Good Conduct Badge and had a second leave to England in December 1917.

On 18 February 1918 George was transferred to England and posted to the Manitoba Regimental Depot. He was granted a three month leave to Canada on 27 February 1918. During this time he returned to Kenora and married Violet Eva Lake on 25 March. George was late in returning to duty not arriving in England until 03 June and was in a ‘spot of trouble’ for it. On the 26th of July 1918 he was struck off strength to the 18th Reserve Battalion and in December of 1918 he sailed for Canada. His official discharge due to demobilization came on 15 January 1919 in Winnipeg.

The 1921 Canadian census shows George and Violet living on 6th Ave. S. in Kenora and George working as a ‘fitter helper’. He was employed building bridges for the CPR. His brother, John, had moved to British Columbia and George and Violet followed him there. Unfortunately, Violet died on 27 February 1927. A year later, George married Annie Bredery at the Oliver Baptist Church in New Westminster. He became a mailman in Burnaby, BC, until his retirement in 1953.

At the age of 101, George passed away on 02 March 1985 in Burnaby. He was cremated at Victory Memorial Park Crematorium in Surrey, BC.

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Other than Miner & News articles, items courtesy of Royal Winnipeg Rifles Archives.

 


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