b. 09/05/1892 London. d. 08/03/1917 Bouchavesnes, France
George Edward Cates (1892-1917) was born at 86 Hartfield Road, Wimbledon, Surrey on 9th May 1892. His father, also George, was born in Essex and was variously employed as a warehouseman, wholesaler and a commercial traveller. He married Alice Ann nee Livermore, and they had ten children in all. Two of his brothers also died in the Great War.
George was educated at Rutlish School, Merton, Surrey, and Mr Sutherland’s King’s College Private School in Worple Road, Wimbledon. Rutlish School was previously attended by John Dimmer VC, and later the British Prime Minister, John Major. George was employed as a clerk with the Royal Insurance Company. In his free time, he was a Assistant Scoutmaster with 2nd Wimbledon Scout Troop and was also a member of the YMCA.
George enlisted as a Signaller in 28th London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles) on 8th December 1914. He transferred to 2nd (Reserve) Battalion on 26th December, and finally went to France on 11th August 1915 and joined his unit in the field on 16th August. He was commissioned in 2nd Rifle Brigade on 26th February 1917.
On 8th March 1917, east of Bouchavesnes, France, when engaged with some other men in deepening a captured trench this officer struck with his spade a buried bomb, which immediately started to burn. 2nd Lt. Cates, in order to save the lives of his comrades, placed his foot on the bomb, which immediately exploded. He showed the most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in performing the act which cost him his life, but saved the lives of others.
Cates died of his wounds at 137th Field Ambulance at Bouchavesnes on 9th March 1917 and was buried in Hem Farm Military Cemetery, Hem-Monacu, France. George never married so the medal was presented to his father at Hyde Park, London on 2nd June 1917 by King George V. In addition to the VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. The VC was lost in a fire in 1951 and a replacement was provided. It is now held by the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester, Hampshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL GREEN JACKETS MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: HEM FARM CEMETERY, HEM-MONACU, FRANCE.
George Cates' medal and his photograph and bible on display at the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester, Hampshire. (Picture - Thomas Stewart).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT I, ROW G, GRAVE 15
War Illustrated, 9th June 1917