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George Funnell

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Died
: 21 August 1918


George, the son of Thomas, a navigation labourer, and Emily Funnell of Rushey Green, Ringmer was born in the parish on 9th February 1890 and baptised on 20th July that year. They lived then at Ashton Green but moved to Rushey Green soon after. George attended Ringmer School from 25th September 1893 until 31st March 1902 when he became a cowman.

George Funnell married Jemima Parks on Christmas Day 1912 and they set up home in Rushey Green, Ringmer.
He enlisted at Chichester sometime after 31st December 1915 with the number 14727 into the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) but later transferred into the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. As a Private he was given the new number G/61054 and his battalion formed part of the old Regular Army 3rd Division. During 1916 and 1917 he will have seen much action before his fateful year of 1918.

The hostilities came to an end on the Eastern Front during November and December 1917 following the Russian Revolution and Germany was able to redeploy most of her forces to France and Belgium. With the American entry into the War on 6th April 1917 Germany became anxious to settle the matter before the U.S.A. built up their forces and destroyed her. Britain and France were low on manpower following the blood letting at Passchendaele and Verdun and were waiting on the United States to send sufficient men to resume the offensive. 21st March was the day chosen by Germany to launch what became known as the ‘Kaiserschlacht’ (the Kaiser’s Battle). The onslaught came first on the Somme and then it was the turn of Flanders on 9th April. The stubborn resistance of our Armies blocked the advance and dulled the cutting edge of the war machine so that by 29th April the worst was over. Germany progressed no further on our front. That is not to say she was defeated, far from it, the enemy continued to shell our lines and attempt intermittent raids. The Bösche also continued to advance into areas of French control, pushing their weakened Armies back towards Paris. Defeat was inevitable however as German munitions and supplies became exhausted. They could not be replaced in sufficient quantity by a hinterland starved of basic raw materials and food, brought about by a very effective allied naval blockade.

This was the situation facing Private Funnell on 21st August 1918, a time when the British 3rd and 4th Armies attacked on a ten mile front between the Rivers Somme and Ancre. They were determined to recapture ground lost in March. At Courcelles-le-Comte zero hour was fixed for 4.55am and the 4th Royal Fusiliers advanced a total of 4,500 yards towards the Achiet le Grand - Arras railway line in very heavy mist.

During the course of the advance on 21st August 1918 Private George Funnell was killed. He earned the British War & Victory Medals and is buried in Railway Cutting Cemetery, Courcelles-le-Comte near where he fell. This serene and rarely visited burial site has all 108 graves in one straight line alongside the railway track. Jemima returned to her old home town of Ore and lived in Percy Road after the War with their daughter Emily.

 

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A view of the isolated and rarely visited Railway Cutting Cemetery

 

Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993