PTE. G. FURNISS
17859 - 8th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment
George Furniss, born in Sheffield, was a Carter by trade. He married his wife, Mabel Kempton, on 8th September 1913 at St. Matthews, Sheffield. Together they had three children, Gertrude Maud (31st August 1912), Alice (22nd November 1914) and Caroline (15th April 1916) - Two of his daughters sadly died; Alice in 28th April 1915, and Gertrude Maud to Broncho-pneumonia 15th November 1916.
He enlisted on 10th April 1915 for the duration of the war into the 8th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment. In early 1916 his records show he was injured due to suffering from orchitis - his documents state he was not to blame as he was on duty and in the field. He was disciplined on at least two occasions during his service. He was admonished from his first offense of overstaying his pass from Tattoo on 24th April 1915 in Pontefract, but was later apprehended by Civil Police in Sheffield for overstaying his pass on 8th July 1915 and breaking out of his barracks on 24th July 1915. The latter two offences had George awarded Field Punishment No. 2 (FP No.2) for 14 and 21 days; George's second infraction overlapped his first and thus reset his punishment. Punishment No. 2 involved the soldier being:
- Kept in irons to prevent his escape; although not being tied to a fixed object
- Hard labour, forced marches with full kit twice daily
- Kit inspection and further punishment if below standard
- Withdrawal of smoking and drinking permissions
- Forfeit of pay for duration of punishment
- Bedding restricted to just a blanket
- 12 hour supervision from 6pm to 6am
On the 27th August 1915 George Furniss disembarked in France at Boulogne as part of the British Expeditionary Force.
George was attached to the 8th Division, from the 23rd Division originally, as a part of the 70th Brigade alongside the 9th York and Lancaster, 8th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 11th Sherwood Foresters (Notts. and Derby), 70th Machine Gun Company and the 70th Trench Mortar Battery. The 8th Division was posted in the middle of the offensive line opposite Ovillers.
The 8th York and Lancaster Regiment advanced on the morning of 1st July 1916 alongside the 8th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry towards Ovillers. The attack was launched at 7:30am, once the initially artillery barrage had lifted. The leading waves successfully cleared the German front lines under heavy machine gun fire but with mounting casualties the attacking force was pushed into a withdrawal. Some fractions of the 8th managed to get as far as the third line of German trenches, but only one man returned after attacking in depth. The 8th York and Lancaster suffered terrible losses. From the 680 men and 23 officers that left the British front line, not a single officer would return unscathed and only 68 men returned. The 8th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry did not fair any better, taking significant casualties in the bloody fighting. The 8th Division suffered 5,121 casualties on the first day of the Somme Offensive.
George Furniss lost his life on the 1st July 1916 in the offensive on Ovillers. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, less than 2 miles away from where he fell. His service records persist online and contain a large volume of information that helped build this story.
George's medals were sent to his widow who had remarried to Alfred John Bragger and changed her name to Mabel Bragger. George's medals were sent to her address of 31 Canning Street, Sheffield - a second document lists Mabel's address as 3rd Court, 5th House, Bower Street, Sheffield. Mabel received his medals on 8th February 1921. Mabel lived in Rotherham until her death in 1932.
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