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Monday 25th January 2021  

Quorn WW1 Roll of Honour - George Wood

Died 9th October 1917, aged 19
Mendinghem, Belgium

Born into poverty in Quorn

George Wood was born on Meeting Street in 1898 and registered as George Mee Wood. His mother, Elizabeth Wood had come to Quorn from Arnold in Nottingham, and the 1901 census finds the 32 year old Elizabeth living in a tiny cottage in ‘Clarke’s Yard’ on Meeting Street as a servant to 56 year old Thomas Mee, a widower working at home as a framework knitter. She was single and had had four children by Thomas, including two year old George and his baby brother William.

George’s mother
Elizabeth had also had a wretchedly hard start in life. She was the third of six children born to Mark and Maria Wood, and her family life was harsh. Her father Mark Wood was a drunken and violent man, and Maria and the children lived in both poverty and fear. In 1879 Maria died from a miscarriage, when Elizabeth was eleven years old and her youngest sibling was only two. This was after Maria telling the courts that she was in fear of her life. Maria’s death took away the last vestiges of security from her children. Their father Mark immediately abandoned the youngsters, and they were left to finish their childhood in Basford Union Workhouse.

A childhood largely in the Workhouse
Whilst living on Meeting Street both Elizabeth Wood and Thomas Mee had several periods living in Barrow Union Workhouse, although not necessarily at the same time. The workhouse for Quorn villagers was on the Mountsorrel/Rothley border and was run by Barrow upon Soar Poor Law Union, which covered 30 local parishes, including Quorn.

After being admitted in 1904, Elizabeth and her children lived in the workhouse for 12 ½ long years. On occasions she would discharge herself (and the children), presumably hoping to find either work, or support from Thomas Mee, but each time she returned later the same day.

The 1911 census records Elizabeth in the workhouse with George (12), William (10) and two more young ones she had had (or conceived) between 1901 and 1904. These were also fathered by Thomas Mee. Elizabeth had her eighth and last baby, James, in June 1913. This was not Thomas’s child, so his parentage is questionable, but it is known that workhouse porters were dismissed from time to time for having inappropriate ‘relations’ with inmates. In September of that same year.

After nearly eight of his most formative years living in the workhouse, George left on 27th September 1912 aged 14, to go to work for W J Wright in Loughborough to learn tile making. Eventually he moved to Sileby and found work as a builder’s labourer.

Joining up
Just nineteen days after his eighteenth birthday in September 1916, George enlisted at Glen Parva barracks and joined the Cheshire Regiment, although he was fairly quickly transferred to the Middlesex Regiment. On his attestation form, he is recorded as a builder’s labourer living at 66 Cemetery Road, Sileby. His two elder sisters were in service in Quorn, two of his brothers were in the army and his mother, father and youngest brother were all living on Meeting Street in Quorn, although whether this was in the same house is unknown.

It is easy to forget how young these boys were, not just in terms of age, but physically as well. George was sent out to the Western Front in 1916, but in many respects he was more like a boy than a man. The ‘adequate’ but nevertheless restricted diet of the workhouse, was not conducive to building tough young men. George was only 5 feet 3½ inches tall and had a 31½ inch chest when he enlisted.

Killed in action
George sustained a horrific head injury in the Battle of Broodseinde, towards the end of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, on 4th October 1917. He was admitted to a casualty clearing station at Mendinghem, where he died on 9th October 1917. He was buried in the adjacent cemetery, aged just 19 years old.

His death is recorded in the Book of Remembrance in Quorn Parish Church, Quorn war memorial and he is also commemorated on the war memorial in Sileby.

What became of George’s parents, Elizabeth and Thomas?
Thomas Mee had left the workhouse in 1911. He continued to live on Meeting Street, supporting himself with gardening work until he was over eighty years old. In 1927 he had an accident and hurt his leg. There was no alternative but to return to the workhouse to be looked after. According to his death certificate, Thomas died of ‘old age’ eight weeks after being admitted. He was buried in the pauper’s area of Rothley Cemetery.

Elizabeth, George’s mother left the workhouse in in March 1917 and returned to Meeting Street. Work had been plentiful during the war at Wright’s factory, but four years later in 1921, she found herself and her youngest child James on the steps of Barrow Union Workhouse once more. Elizabeth never managed to discharge herself again and died in Loughborough Public Assistance Institute (which was formerly Loughborough Workhouse and still called that by most people), on 26th January 1937. Her age was given as seventy-one, although she was actually sixty-eight.
She had spent over thirty-eight years, more than half her life, in one workhouse or another. Her eldest son Thomas was at her side when she passed away. He was living in Duke Street in Loughborough, and it is pleasing to know that she had contact with at least one of her children.

1) A newspaper photograph of George Wood.
2) An extract from a 1919 OS map of Quorn. The area marked in yellow was owned by Charles and Fanny Clarke. The two houses coloured yellow are (today) 85 and 87 Meeting Street. The area marked red contained several (probably 5 or 6) very small cottages, each with only 2, 3 or 4 rooms. This is where the Wood/Mee family lived when they were not in the workhouse.
3) An extract from the workhouse records for 3rd January 1912, recording Elizabeth and four of her children, when she discharged and readmitted herself and her children on the same day.
4) George’s Army form W. 5080, which shows his family relationships. Click 'Enlarge' (below the image) to increase legibility.

 Submitted on: 2020-01-11
 Submitted by: Sue Templeman with thanks to Eric Wheeler, Sileby Local History Society
 Artefact ID: 2271

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