b. 05/12/1893 East Gordon, Scottish Borders. d. 24/07/1920 Hillah, Mesopotamia.
George Stuart Henderson (1893-1920) was born at East Gordon in the Scottish Borders on 5th December 1893. He was the only son of Robert Henderson, a farmer and auctioneer, and Mary Henderson, of Mount Hooly, Jedburgh, Roxburghshire. His siblings were Elspeth and Jessie. He was educated at Rossall School, Fleetwood, Lancashire.
Baghdad had been entered in March 1917 by a force from the (British) Indian Army under General Sir Frederick Maude, who issued his famous proclamation "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators".
It was during this campaign that Private George Stringer, of 1st Battalion the Manchester Regiment, was awarded the Victoria Cross for single-handedly holding his position during a Turk counter-attack. After the war, under the mandate, most of the former Ottoman officials in Iraq were replaced by British administrators. Many Iraquis feared that the country would be incorporated into the British Empire and in May 1920 there were mass meetings and demonstrations by both Sunni and Shia Muslims in Baghdad, the mood initially peaceful but soon changing.
The revolt gained momentum when it spread to the largely Shia regions of the middle and lower Euphrates. The grand mujahid of Karbala, Imam Shirazi, issued a fatwa saying that it was against Islamic law for Muslims to countenance being ruled by non-Muslims, and he called for a jihad against the British. By July, the key city of Mosul was in rebellion against British rule and reinforcements were rushed in from India and Iran, including the 2nd Battalion of the Manchesters.
One of the Manchesters’ companies was commanded by the 26-year old Captain George Henderson. A regular officer, he had been awarded the Military Cross near Ypres in Belgium in April 1915, when he had taken command after his company commander and the other senior officers had become casualties in an attack on the German trenches. In May 1916, as a temporary captain, he was awarded the DSO and in August of the following year he was awarded a bar to his DSO. By the end of the war had been mentioned in despatches five times. Towards evening on the July 24th, 1920, near Hillah -Al-Hillah, the site of ancient Babylon, 50 miles south of Baghdad -the Manchesters company he was commanding was ordered to retire from the positions they had been guarding.
On the evening of the 24th July, 1920, when about fifteen miles from Hillah (Mesopotamia), the Company under his command was ordered to retire. After proceeding about 500 yards a large party of Arabs suddenly opened fire from the flank, causing the Company to split up and waver.
Regardless of all danger, Capt. Henderson at once reorganised the Company, led them gallantly to the attack and drove off the enemy. On two further occasions this officer led his men to charge the Arabs with the bayonet and forced them to retire. At one time, wnen the situation was extremely critical and tihe troops and transport were getting out of hand, Capt. Henderson, by sheer pluck and coolness,, steadied his command prevented the Company from being cut up and saved the situation. During the second charge he fell wounded, but refused to leave his command, and just as the Company reached the trench they were making for he was again wounded. Realising that he could do no more, he asked one of his N.C.O.'s to hold him up on the embankment, saying, "I'm, done now, don't let them beat you." He died fighting.
He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial, Iraq and on the Jedburgh War Memorial, Scotland. George’s medal group including VC, DSO and Bar, MC, 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf and General Service Medal 1908-56 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf and clasp for Iraq were originally loaned by the family to the King's Regiment which was formed in 1968 from the amalgamation of the King's ( Liverpool ) Regiment and The Manchester Regiment. In December 2009, the family decided to loan his Victoria Cross medal group to The Manchester Regiment Museum located in Ashton-under-Lyne.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: MANCHESTER REGIMENT, ASHTON UNDER LYNE.
BURIAL PLACE: BASRA MEMORIAL, BASRA, IRAQ. PANEL 31 AND 64
George Henderson's impressive set of medals including VC, DSO with Bar and MC on display at Museum of Manchester Regiment Museum
Gordon Church of Scotland
Jedburgh War Memorial (Thomas Stewart)
RMA Sandhurst Chapel (Thomas Stewart)
Basra Memorial (courtesy of TWGPP)