SERVICE NO: 2248
YEAR OF BIRTH: c1893
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hamilton
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 28 May 1915
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Brisbane, Queensland,
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 21
UNIT: 8th Light Horse Regiment (late 9th Battalion)
EMBARKED: 12 June 1915
TROOPSHIP: HMAT A63 Karoola
FATE: Died of Wounds – 22 April 1917 – Deir el-Belah, Palestine
George Edward Tilley was born around 1893 in Hamilton to Emily Catherine Tilley and William Dolman. As he was born out of wedlock, George’s maternal grandparents, Frederick and Catherine Tilley of Gray Street, took over his care from the time of his birth and raised him as their own son. George’s father did not acknowledge his birth or contribute to his care. While George was still at school at St Mary’s Convent School, his grandfather Frederick Tilley died in 1902. Later, George attended Hamilton Elementary School.
In 1912, George’s mother Emily Tilley married Frank Holmes in South Australia. The following year, when George was twenty, he joined the Naval Forces on 8 August 1913. He was first at HMAS Cerberus and then sailed on HMAS Australia, below, as a stoker.
The war started and the HMAS Australia sailed to capture the German colonies in the Pacific. George sailed to locations such as New Guinea, Samoa, and Rabaul. In 1915, George returned to HMAS Cerberus and his service record gives some clue that maybe his time in the navy was not good. It described his character as bad and his service only satisfactory. George left the navy on 24 March 1915.
Two months later, George joined the AIF, enlisting in Brisbane on 28 May 1915. He left Australia for Egypt two weeks later with the 9th Battalion. He arrived at Gallipoli on 4 August. On 25 October 1915, George transferred to the 8th Light Horse Regiment (LHR). His uncle Phillip Tilley was already with the 8th LHR. The regiment returned to Alexandria on 20 December 1915. For the 8th LHR, much of 1916 was spent around the Sinai Desert, but during June and July 1916, George was sick in hospital.
George had tried the navy, the army, and next, he was off to the Australian Flying Corps. During December 1916, he was attached to the 67th and 68th Squadrons but returned to the 8th LHR on 21 December just two days before the Battle of Maghdaba where the 8th LHR played a role.
On 19 April 1917, the 8th LHR was at Aseiferiyeh, Palestine for a second attempt to take Gaza. An attempt had failed a month earlier when the attack was called off. The attack on 19 April was also unsuccessful and called off. With the failure came the largest number of casualties suffered by the 8th LHR since Gallipoli.
George Tilley received gunshot wounds to the right thigh and arm, fracturing his arm. He was transferred to the 53rd Casualty Clearing Station at Deir el-Belah. He died from his wounds on 22 April.
By the time George’s grandmother Bridget Tilley received a visit from Archdeacon Harris of Hamilton’s Christ Church Anglican Church on 27 April 1917, she was living in Mount Napier Road. Archdeacon Harris delivered the sad news of George’s death. It’s unlikely Bridget had seen her grandson since he joined the navy four years earlier. The war years were hard for Bridget. As well as George and son Phillip, Bridget had two other sons enlist, Maurice and Frederick. Her three sons all returned to Australia. Bridget died in 1932 at Kew, aged seventy-nine.
George Tilley’s name is on the Hamilton War Memorial, the Borough of Hamilton WW1 Honour Roll, the Hamilton Christ Church Anglican Church Roll of Honour and a cousin, Fred Short, planted a tree for him along Hamilton’s Anzac Avenue.