Lieutenant Athelstan Key Durance George, Dorsetshire Regiment

Lieutenant A. K. D. George was born at Beverstone House, Brixton, London on the 25th March 1887.   The youngest son of Arthur Durance and Charlotte Ada George of Aldersholt, Clarendon Road, Bournemouth, Athelstan was a direct descendant, through the female line, of Sir William Bloet, who came over with William the Conqueror in 1066.

George grew up in Bournemouth and was educated at Hailey, Bournemouth then afterwards at Tonbridge School which he joined in 1900 at the age of 12 Years 6 Months.  In 1905, George represented the school at Aldershot in fencing with the sabre.  He also won the Headmasters Drawing Prize.

On leaving school he went to Caius College, Cambridge, where he rowed in the college eight and was prominent in other branches of college life.  He had gone to Cambridge with the intention of studying medicine, but, finding the work involved “uncongenial ” as time went on, he decided to enter the Army and with that left university without finishing his degree to join up as an officer cadet.

He was gazetted on 1st February 1907 to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Extra Reserve Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment - a reserve infantry battalion.  His Colonel later described him as the best subaltern he had ever had.

In June 1909, he was gazetted  to the 2nd Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment, quartered at Madras, India, and he was promoted to Full Lieutenant a year later.  Whilst in India he served as Aide de Camps ( ADC), a personal secretary, to Sir Maurice Hammick, Governor of Madras, and afterwards as (ADC) to Lord Sydenham, Governor of Bombay.  On his return to England in 1913 he was transferred to 1st Battalion the Dorsetshire Regiment, quartered at Belfast.  During his home service he gained a certificate in aviation, learning to fly in a Bristol Biplane at Bristol School, Salisbury Plain.  He also passed through a course of signalling with distinction.

On 14th August 1914, he left for the front with his regiment which became known as the 'Old Contemptibles' having fought against the German Kaiser’s larger armies in the early engagements of the war.

As part of Haig's II Corps, 1st Battalion fought in the early engagements of the war which means Lt George would have seen bitter fighting at the Battle of Mons in August, at Le Cateau (where five Victoria Crosses were won by their division) and then onto the battle of Marne where Lt George’s story comes to a tragic end.

On 9th September, whilst in the trenches, he was shot through the head and fatally wounded at Bez-Le-Query during the Battle of Marne.  He was carried to the Hospice at Coulommiers where he died on 14th September.  He was 27 years old.   A fellow Officer, writing of Lt George’s “splendid coolness in the firing line ”, tells how Lt George was found wounded and unconscious after an attack and died 5 days later without recovering consciousness. “His loss is deeply deplored, as he was immensely popular.”

 Lt George was buried, with military honours, in the cemetery at Coulommiers. The Adjutant wrote: “I knew Lt. George well and am only too conscious of what a loss he is to the battalion. He was an exceptionally good officer, one of those whose influence did much towards bringing the Dorsets to the standard they have reached during the war.”

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