He was days from the end of the war when he died in battle

The war was nearly over when Private George Septimus Stanbridge joined the charge against the German ranks.

Thursday, 30th August 2018, 11:00 am
The whole family - around 1908. George ‘Sep’ Stanbridge is front, row, second left, next to his mother.

In fact, if he had lived for another 18 days, he would have reached the end of it. But Private Stanbridge was not to have that sort of luck.

He and hundreds of other men were involved in the Final Advance in Picardy, as it would later become famously known.

British infantrymen in a trench in the First World War. PA Photo.

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The South Hetton man – a soldier of the 13th Battalion Durham Light Infantry – was there as his battalion launched a determined attack on land east of La Faux. By 5.30pm, they had reached it and held the position.

But Private Stanbridge, Sep to his friends, would not get to enjoy the victory. He died in the battle, like many others who fell beside him.

Tragically, he had only been on the Front Line for less than three weeks when he paid for his loyalty with his life.

His story comes to us courtesy of researcher and historian Kevin Dance who has looked at the fate of 46 South Hetton men who died during the First World War.

Sep is another of those men and here is his story in more detail.

Sep was born in September 1898 at Low Walker, Tyneside.

But he already had East Durham links. His dad was Seaham-born James Stanbridge and his mam was Elizabeth, who hailed originally from South Hetton.

By 1901, mam and dad were living in Low Walker with a clan of eight children and Sep was the second youngest.

But ten years later, they had all moved to Prospect Place in South Hetton and there were two more children in the family.

That’s a line-up of mum, dad, William H, James, John, Frederick, Moses, William, Sep, Cathrine, Maryand Samuel.

Kevin explained more about the family set-up at the time.

“George is 12 and attends school whilst his father and older brothers are all miners. They are all living in just four rooms.”

But for Sep, it all changed on May 29, 1918.

“He was called for active service and enlisted at Newcastle Upon Tyne,” said Kevin. “He is described as being 5ft 5.5in tall and weighing just under 9 stone. His complexion is dark with dark brown hair and eyes. His physical development is described as good.”

George trained at Sutton on Hull in Yorkshire until October 5, 1918 when he was posted to France. Just four days later, he joined the DLI near Cambrai in Northern France.

Exactly a fortnight after that, he was on the move again – for the last time.

The actions of his regiment were recorded in the diary entries for the Commanding Officer of the 13th Battalion DLI.

They described how, having moved up past another brigade, they reached the road “due west of Rue du Pont where they were held up by very heavy machine gun fire and belts of wire.

“At 15.30 hours they received orders to withdraw to the Greenline and dig in for the night.”

But the next day, they launched an attack at 4am and took their objective of Rue du Pont within three hours.

By midday, the men who had been attacking since 4am that day, got fresh orders ... continue the attack at ‘Zero Hour’ and Zero Hour was set for 2pm that same day.

The Battalion consolidated this position. Lt Col Hove was wounded here. About Midday orders were received to

By 5.30pm, the battalion had taken and consolidated the position but Kevin said: “It is during these attacks that George is killed in action. He has only been in France for 19 days. Official date for his death is 24/10/1918.”

In one week, the 13th Battalion DLI had suffered five officers and 41 soldiers killed, 15 officers and 34 soldiers wounded, and one officer and 74 soldiers missing.

In a handwritten will, Sep bequeathed all his possessions to his father James.

He is remembered with honour at Pommereuil British Cemetery close to Cambrai and was awarded the Victory and British medals.