Eastleach War Memorial – George Pratley

George Pratley was born in early 1893 in Sherborne, Gloucestershire, the son of George and Fanny Pratley, both of whom were born in Great Rissington. In the 1901 Census, the family were living at Broadmoor Farm Cottages, Sherborne, where George senior was described as an agricultural labourer. The seven children living at home ranged from Arthur, aged sixteen, a cattleman on a farm, down to Lizzy, aged four. George was eight and his father was forty. It is likely that the younger children were all at school in Sherborne. By 1911, the family had moved to Broadfield at Eastington near Northleach and older sons are recorded as being farm labourers and one daughter was a domestic servant. There was also a five year old grand-daughter, Gladys, in the household. George was now eighteen and working as a “horseman on farm”. In 1911 there was only one Pratley living in Eastleach, a sixty-three year old widower called William. However, there had been quite a few Pratleys in the mid-1800s so it is possible that this was an Eastleach connection. It is also possible that George was employed on an Eastleach farm.

George enlisted in Cirencester with 8th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment around 31st August 1914, the day before Frederick Blackwell. He gave his place of birth as Eastleach. However, it was common at the time, with large, mobile, families, for people not to necessarily know exactly where they were born so he may have given the name of the village where he was working at the time. We do know that he was with the Battalion when they left for France on 18th July 1915.

The Battle of the Somme began on 1st July 1916. On 10th August, the 8th were moved into position on the front line between Wytschaete and Messines. In the September, the commanding officer, Col.de Wiart, was awarded the VC for his actions while leading the 8th Battalion at La Boiselle. Life in the trenches continued unabated. By 1st November, the 8th were being held in reserve in dugouts in an old German line north of Ovillers, before relieving the 8th Staffs. in Stuff and Regina trenches which were in an appalling condition.  On 8th November they relieved 7th Lancashire Regiment near Schwaben Redoubt and the following day enemy artillery became very active. On 10th November it is recorded in the battalion diaries that gas shells from the direction of Beauregarde Douvecote burst well behind Bainbridge trench. George Pratley’s last days would have been far from pleasant.

Puchevillers British Cemetery

George died of his wounds on 10th November 1916 at Puchevillers, nineteen kilometres north east of Amiens, in a field hospital behind the lines. It is likely that he was wounded in the preceeding few days. In June 1916, just before the opening of the Battle of the Somme, the 3rd and 44th Casualty Clearing Stations came to Puchevillers. George is buried in Puchevillers British Cemetery, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. It contains 1763 Great War burials, only seven of whom are unidentified.  Plots I to V and almost all of Plot VI were made by the two hospitals before the end of March 1917. George lies in Plot VI Row A Grave 9. The beautiful walled cemetery sits in an open landscape of wheat fields and is beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the style of an English garden. Skylarks fly over the open fields, very much as in the fields around Eastleach.