George Henry Bland
Name: George Henry Bland
18/12/1897 - 4th October 1917
Place of Birth: Arlesey
Division: 1st Battalion
Regiment: Bedfordshire Regiment
Commemorated: Grave XVIII. A. 7, Hodge Crater Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Person(s) placing the cross on behalf of the Arlesey Remembers You Project: Bob Humphries
George was the oldest son of George & Eliza Bland. He was born in Leicester in 1897. The family consisted of George, Eliza (born in Leicester, 1898), Leonard (born Leicester, 1899), Edith (born 1902, Meppershall), Herbert (born 1904, Meppershall), David (born in Stotfold, 1907) Percy (born 1909, Stotfold) and Edward (born 1912, Stotfold).
At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at the Barley Mow pub in Meppershall, where George was the publican, before they moved to the White Swan Public House in Stotfold (1911 census). At the time of George’s death in 1917, George and Eliza were the publicans at the Steam Engine Public House in Arlesey, which is now known as the Vicar’s Inn.
At the outbreak of the war George joined the Special Reservist 3rd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment in October 1914. His action during the war has been documented in the local newspapers. On 9th November 1916, George was involved in the capture of Beaumont Hamel, one of the Fortress Villages just behind the German lines. He rushed a German trench and captured a machine gun, which he brought away. For this act George was awarded the Military Medal, which was presented to his parents by Colonel Leigh in the presence of the officers and men of the former command.
The 3rd Battalion merged with the 1st Reserve Battalion, the Hertfordshire Regiment on 11th July 1917. George is mentioned in the appendices to the War Diary of the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment in April 1917 “ Recommendation – Bar to M.M (Military Medal) 3/7450 Lance Corporal George Henry Bland. In the action at LA COULOTTE on the 23rd inst. When wounded, organised his Lewis Gun detachment and withdrew them all in a bombing fight”. Unfortunately this recommendation was not granted, and George did not receive the bar.
The Bedfordshire regiment historical records show that George was wounded multiple times while serving in the army but returned to the front each time when recovered.
The war diary also shows the Operation Orders for the 1st Battalion for October 1st and 2nd 1917 describing the battalions’ movement towards Hazebrouck and preparing for action as par of the Third Battle of Ypres. Records of the battle show that on the date of George’s death the British Army were engaged in the Battle for Broodseinde. This Battle was the most successful Allied attack as part of the Battle of Passchendaele. Heavy rain began on October 4th and affected the remainder of the campaign, working to the advantage of the German defenders. The British had to move their artillery forward into the area devastated by shellfire and soaked by the return of heavy rain, restricting the routes on which guns and ammunition could be moved, which presented German artillery with easier targets.
George was involved in the Third Battle of Ypres and was fatally wounded during the battle. He is buried at the Hooge Crater Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The cemetery was begun by the 7th Division Burial Officer in early October 1917, making George one of the first soldiers to be buried there. George is also commemorated on a headstone in St Peter’s Churchyard, Arlesey, marking the grave of his sister Eliza Dorothy Bland, who died in 1924, aged 25 years.
George’s Military Medal was presented posthumously to his parents at a ceremony in the market square in Biggleswade. Many documents and photos about George remain in the possession of his family, including a copy of his will, leaving all his worldly possessions to his mother, Eliza, a letter he sent to his parents on his departure for France in 1914. George was also awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-15 Star.
Biography by: Sam Ward