NAME: George Cruickshank
SERVICE NO: 709
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1887
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hamilton
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 27 August 1914
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Sydney, NSW
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 28
UNIT: 1st Australian Signals Company (late 3rd Battalion, D Company)
EMBARKED: 19 October 1914
TROOP SHIP: HMAT A14 Euripides
FATE: Killed in Action – 6 November 1917 – Passchendaele, Belgium
AWARD: Military Medal
George Cruickshank was born in Hamilton in 1887, a son of Thomas Brown Cruickshank and Susan Kilby. Thomas was a cordial maker, and the family lived in Shakespeare and Thompson Streets. George attended Hamilton State School before starting work at the Hamilton Post Office. Around 1910, Thomas Cruickshank took up a farming property north of Cavendish.
In 1914, George passed his final examination as a telegraphist in the Commonwealth Postal Service and received an appointment as a postal assistant at Tumut, New South Wales.
War broke and George was one of the early volunteers. He left Australia from Sydney in October 1914 with the 3rd Battalion and headed to Egypt for training.
On 25 April 1915 around 8.30 am the first of the 3rd Battalion reached the shore at Gallipoli. George made it safely onshore and remained at Gallipoli until 15 August, when he was shot in the arm and transported to the Australian General Hospital in Heliopolis Cairo. George wrote home to say he had not been out of his clothes in five weeks due to time in the trenches.
George could return to his battalion at Gallipoli on 2 October 1915. He transferred to the 1st Australian Division Signals Company later that month. George’s company arrived at Lemnos on 15 December, after the evacuation of Gallipoli. They spent time in Egypt and then were off to France, arriving at Marseilles on 28 March 1916. The following day, George was reported as Absent Without Leave (AWOL) for 90 minutes and subsequently given Field Punishment No 2.
At home, George’s younger brother Thomas “William” Cruickshank, by then living in Western Australia, enlisted in March 1916. William left Australia with the 28th Battalion,15th Reinforcement in September and eventually landed in France.
On 12 December 1916, George went to hospital and didn’t rejoin his company until 3 March 1917 at Abbeville, France. Two months later on 3 May, his brother William went missing. George gave evidence to an inquiry, mentioning he was anxious for news as he was sure they were at home. He had more time in hospital in the middle of 1917. The company were off to Belgium for the 3rd Battle of Ypres.
By the start of October 1917, the company were near Ypres, Belgium for the battle of Broodseinde Ridge on the morning of 4 October. The 1st Australian Division Signals Company was located at Remus Wood and George was acting as a telegraphist. Shells damaged the lines three times during important moments of the battle. Each time George faced heavy shelling crossing swamps to repair the lines. He also remained on duty for 48 hours and his efforts ensured telegraphic communication was maintained between the Cable Head and the Brigade Forward Station.
The photo below shows all that remained of Remus Wood at the end of the 4 October.
George’s action on 4 October saw him recommended for a Military Medal, and he received a promotion to Lance Corporal on 20 October 1917.
The 2nd Battle of Passchendaele began on 26 October and for three days, the company faced heavy shelling of gas as they went about their duties and there were several casualties. The battle continued into November and on 6 November, George and his company were near Garter Point, about one kilometre from Zonnebeke when George was killed during shelling.
George’s parents heard of his death in November 1917. The Hamilton Spectator remembered George as a “quiet, unassuming and popular type of young man.” William Cruickshank was still missing.
In January 1918, the Cruickshanks received a letter from Lieutenant P.H.Neal written in early November 1917. He told them George was to receive a Military Medal. He would never have known:
Your son George was killed by a shell a couple of days ago (4/11/17). Fortunately, death was instantaneous. We buried him where he fell, and I am getting a suitable cross made. All the boys feel his loss very keenly, and I have lost one of my best men. I was a corporal when George first came to our company. I had recently marked him for rapid promotion, but unfortunately, fate willed otherwise. Today news came through that your son has been awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field during the stunt on October 4. The medal will be forwarded to you by the military authorities in due course. Poor old George did not live to enjoy this honour, which he richly deserved. Sapper Bucknall is arranging to send all his personal effects. My sympathy goes out to you. Your loss is my loss, and it will be hard to find a man so brave and good as your son was.
The Cruickshanks also heard from Henry Bucknall of Hamilton who started out as a telegraph boy at the Hamilton Post Office but who was also a member of the 1st Division Signals Company:
We were together for two and a half years. Our one regret was that through circumstance over which we had no control it was impossible to bring poor old “Crooky” far behind the line for burial. He was buried near where he fell, and a cross erected. I, feel his death very keenly, as he and I had been intimate friends for over ten years. One thing that pleases us is the fact that his services were appreciated by all, and he was liked by everyone. As a cool man under fire, I don’t think it possible to find his equal As a friend I know he can never be replaced.
George didn’t leave a will but letters he wrote to his mother during his time overseas, were evidence of a holograph will. They are lovely letters, dealing with a difficult task. He left money for his mother and he left his ponies to his father and his brother William. He was sorry he couldn’t leave some money for his younger sister Jean, so he left her his pictures and asked his mother to buy her something.
George didn’t explain who Vic, the benefactor of £50 from his estate was. However Vic had not maintained contact with George, and he had second thoughts about his bequest.
Thomas and Susan Cruickshank received notification in December 1917, of the confirmation their other son William died of his wounds, over eighteen months earlier.
George’s parents received his Military Medal in May 1918 and in 1920, informed that George’s body was exhumed from Garter Point and buried at the Perth Cemetery (China Wall), east of Ypres, Belgium.
George Cruickshank is remembered on the Hamilton State School Roll of Honour, the Hamilton Elementary School Memorial Tablet, the Cavendish War Memorial, and the Tumut and District Roll of Honour.