Served with Southend Borough Constabulary from Mar 10, 1915 and died on Jul 3, 1916.
George Calver Shipgood, the son of Thomas Shipgood a labourer, was born in February 1891, in Stratford, East London. In November 1914, when twenty-three years of age and living with his widowed mother at 23 Dalmatia Road, Southend on Sea he applied to join the Borough Constabulary. He was a well built young man six feet tall and fourteen stones in weight. For eight years he had led an outdoor life as a groundsman at Thorpe Hall Golf Club. Following the usual enquiries, which confirmed him as 'a man of excellent character', he was duly attested as Constable 97 of the Southend-on-Sea County Borough Constabulary on March 10, 1915. This had been the collar number of Constable Ernest Weavers who had resigned from the force in September 1914, to enlist with the Middlesex Regiment and who died on the Western Front during the Battle of Loos.
Discipline in the Borough force was quite strict and, like many others, Constable Shipgood soon found himself in trouble with authority. On the July 15, 1915, he was cautioned for leaving his beat without reasonable excuse. His beat had been the hundred yards along the High Street from York Road to the railway bridge but he was found by Sergeant Henry Drage coming from Holmes and Smiths yard at the back of the Royal Stores - a Public House. This was about a hundred yards from his beat. His excuse was that he went for a drink of water but the shrewd Sergeant pointed out that he 'could have obtained water at two places on his beat without leaving it. viz. Public Lavatory and Railway station.' He was cautioned by the Chief Constable the following day.
To be late on parade was bad enough but George managed to be late on the day Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, Leonard Dunning, inspected the force on September 20, 1915. For this he was ordered by the Chief Constable to forfeit three days leave. Somewhat severe given the limited leave to which officers were entitled each year.
On September 25 George married Lydia Naish the twenty-four year old daughter of bookmaker Daniel Naish at All Saints Church, Southend. They started their married life in a flat at 35 Dalmatia Road just along from where his mother lived. They paid seven shillings and six pence a week for rent and rates. George also continued to provide financial help to his widowed mother.
George Shipgood was a close friend of Constable 83 Alfred Wilson, who also died on The Western Front in the third battle of Ypres, they had joined Southend Police on the same day. In December 1915, like Alfred Wilson he enlisted to join the Rifle Brigade but later transferred to 9th battalion Essex Regiment as Private 24160.
The 9th Battalion Essex Regiment formed part of the 35th brigade of the 12th Eastern Division. The division had been formed during the winter of 1914 and had moved to France at the end of May 1915. In September 1915, the 35th Division were in action during the Battle of Loos when the 9th Battalion suffered a high level of casualties including six friends recruited together from Rayne who were killed together by a shell exploding in the assembly trenches. The division was taken out of the line at the end of October 1915, and for the next three months the men were in billets at Bethune, La Bourse, Quesnoy and Vermelles. Some of the time was spent in the front line trenches at Festubert and Givenchy. The 9th Battalion was reformed with new recruits and it is probable that George Shipgood joined them at this time.
In February 1916, the 12th Division returned to the Loos Battlefield taking over the position holding the Quarries and Hohenzollern Redoubt. Subsequently, between March 2 and19, the division was involved in incessant fighting around the craters in the area - The Battle of the Craters - when the 9th Essex lost 16 killed and 54 wounded.
On April 3, 1916, the battalion were allotted billets at Annequin but remained in the sector and were in and out of the line till April 22 when they went into reserve at Bethune, prior to the divisions move south in preparation for the Somme offensive.
On July 1, 1916, the division was in reserve at Henencourt and Millencourt. By 5.40 am on July 2, the division relieved the 8th Division in the line opposite Ovillers where heavy fighting had taken place the previous day. There was no attack on Ovillers that day but it was bombarded in order to confuse the enemy when the 58th Brigade attacked at La Boisselle.
On July 3 the bombardment was renewed at 2.15am by the 12th Division against the same targets as those of July 1. The advance began in the dark at 3.15am and the enemy was very soon to become aware of the attack. The leading waves made progress but on reaching the second line they were met by the enemy who had swarmed out of his dugouts and trenches, with bomb and bayonet. At 9am the division had to report that the attack had failed except for a small footing in the line that was soon lost. Subsequent attacks were made over the following days and the 12th Division attempted to bomb forward but were held up by deep and clinging mud. Ovillers was finally taken on July 17 by which time the 12th division had suffered over 2,300 casualties. There were accounts of soldiers wounded in the earlier attacks, who could not return to their lines having crawled into shell holes, wrapped their waterproof sheets around them, taken out their bibles, and died like that.
Extracts from War Diary 9th Bn. Essex Regiment.
1st July 1916. Tranviller 6.30pm. The Bn. Moved forward into the village of Henincourt where a long halt occurred owing to the blocking of the roads to Albert by the other Brigades of the 12th Division which were also moving up to relieve the 8th Division which had been severely handled during the attack in the morning and failed to take Ovillers. Boisselle further south also still remained in the hands of the enemy.
2nd July. Albert 3am. The Brigade completed the relief of 23rd Bde. In our lines opposite Ovillers. The Bn. Was in support to the 5th R. Berks and 7th Suffolk who held the front line in Ribble Street relieving the 2nd Scottish Rifles. 9am.
3rd July. Albert - Ovillers - La Boisselle. 12.30am All Coys. And HQ moved forward into their positions of assembly - B Coy. on the right, C,A & D Coys on the left in the following C Ts (Communication Trenches) -B Coy St Vincent. C Coy Furness St. D Coy Mitchell St.. Each company had it's head in touch with the last platoons of the leading Bns (Berks. and Suffolks). Bn. HQ in Rycroft St. 2.15am. All was reported ready. Zero(time of assault) was altered to 3.07am about midnight. A heavy bombardment of Ovillers by our artillery was carried out during the afternoon and night preceding the attack. The enemy's retaliation was insignificant up till midnight when his bombardment increased and became heavy fire about 3am especially on the communication trenches to the front and support lines. 3.07am. The leading waves of the Berks. And Suffolks left our lines. 3.20am. The first lines of the Bn. Followed in pursuit. The Berks. And Suffolks went right over the enemy's front & support lines and some troops entered the village together with the leading lines of the Bn. Which had come up in support. The Bn. Suffered severely during the advance across the open from machine gun fire from either flank and from the village. The Troops were unable to hold their ground and were driven out by bombing and machine gun fire, suffering very heavily in getting back. The last line of the Bn. was checked in front of the strong point on a terrace and overlooking the German front line across the road leading into the village from a S.W. direction in Aveluy-Ovillers Road. 4.30pm. The attack on Ovillers came to a standstill about 4.30pm.
Our casualties were 12 officers 386 other ranks wounded, missing and killed. Shipgood died on July 3, 1916, he was twenty-five years old; although the precise location of his death is not known it is probable that he died when advancing over open land towards Ovillers from La Boiselle in an exposed position. His body, if recovered, was never identified.
The 12th Division won honourable distinction in the war. On vacating his command at the end of hostilities Major General H W Higginson said in his farewell order:
'The achievements at Loos, The Somme, Arras and Cambrai were worthy of its (the Army) best traditions. Between May 1915, when the Division first landed in France, and 11th November 1918, the Division lost 2,105 officers and 46,038 other ranks in action. This testifies that your laurels have not been lightly earned and to the gallantry and devotion to duty shown by you who have survived the great ordeal, and by those brave comrades who have given their lives for King and Country, and who, by their sacrifice, have won immortal fame.' George Shipgood is commemorated together with 73,366 other soldiers who died on the Somme during The Great War on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme. Another Southend Police Officer, Charles William Gillings, is similarly commemorated.
After George had left for France his wife Lydia moved to 35 Belle View Road, Southend. It appears she was not getting on very well with her mother in law who, being on hard times, had moved into their home. George continued to give financial support to his mother who was then in her sixties.
The Watch Committee minutes of September 13, 1916, record the death of Constable Shipgood. The Town Clerk was directed to convey the sympathy of the Corporation to his family. Following George's death, the Chief Constable wrote to Lydia expressing his condolences, she wrote this sad reply:-
I must thank you very much for your kind letter and sympathy with me in my recent trouble. It is indeed hard to lose a thorough good husband after so short a married life, but I must be brave for my baby's sake, a little daughter was born on the 31st July. His little one, that he was always asking for and wishing to see. I must be thankful I have at least his baby to comfort me. Thanking you again Sir for your kind consideration. I am yours sincerely Mrs Shipgood. Whilst it appears that George was aware that his wife was pregnant he never saw his daughter who was born four weeks after he died.
Lydia fell on hard times and, in July 1928, was living at Fifth Avenue, Shotgate Estate, Wickford looking after her crippled sister and her daughter. She received �1. 16. 8d. a week for her Army widow's pension and was paying �1.0.0. a week for rent and rates. On September 22 she again wrote to the Chief Constable asking for financial assistance.
I am threatened by Landlord and I am going without food to make money go further, surely Sir you will do your best for me, if you have any pity at all for a helpless woman and orphan, my health wont let me work, or I would never worry you, I am in desperate need of assistance and I don't mind who you care to send to see that I am speaking the truth. For the sake of one who tried faithfully to do his duty, both in Southend Police and for his Country's sake, will you do your best for me. On September 25, 1928, Lydia received a cheque in the sum of �2.9.2d that had been approved by the Watch Committee as reimbursement of the payments made by George into the Superannuation Fund whilst serving with Southend Police.
Lydia Shipgood never remarried and continued to have a life of hardship. In 1957, following the change in Police Pensions, she finally received a small Police Widows pension that was back-dated to August 1956. At that time she was living in Love Lane, Rayleigh. Writing to William Alexander McConnach then the Chief Constable of Southend, on behalf of Lydia, Mr Cyril Clancy of the Southend-on-Sea Civic Guild sought financial aid for her. He explained that she had an invalid daughter and faced exceptional difficulties and needs. There is now no trace of the response to this request.
The circumstances outlined are typical of what happened to many widows and their families following The Great War. With their loved one and provider lost they faced a life of hardship with little support and comfort.
George Calver Shipgood is also commemorated, together with Constable George Brenchley, on a memorial to those who gave their lives in The Great War located inside Trinity Church, Southchurch Boulevard Southend.
Father and Lord of friend and foe All-seeing and all-wise, Thy balm to dying hearts bestow, Thy sight to sightless eyes; To the dear dead give life, where pain And death no more dismay, Where, amid Love's long terrorless Reign, All tears are wiped away. Lieutenant Donald F G Johnson (Killed in the action to take Ovillers July 1916)