George Edward Cates VC
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|Partial / Incomplete Date||c.1916|
|Copyright 1||London Borough of Merton|
|Original Format||Newspaper article|
|Notes / History||Born at 86, Hartfield Road, Wimbledon in May 1892, George was the son of travelling salesman George Cates and his wife, Alice. The couple had nine children and moved house several times, partly to accommodate the needs of their growing family.
George was educated at Rutlish School, Merton Park. This had its own cadet force and membership undoubtedly helped George to prepare for the military and his role as an army officer.
Prior to the war George was Assistant Scoutmaster of the 2nd Wimbledon troop, based at the YMCA. The Boy Scout movement made a valuable contribution to the war effort, acting as messengers, giving first aid and fundraising.
Following the outbreak of war, George joined the Artists Rifles ( 28th County of London Battalion,) a regiment in the British Army Reserve. George spent his first months as a private and signalman ( relaying messages between the front line and military headquarters.
In 1915 George secured a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade and joined the 2nd Battalion in France. By 1917 the British cavalry had secured the town of Peronne. On 4 March the 2nd Rifles were kept in reserve as the 8th Division successfully occupied the German first and second lines, three miles to the north. Four days later George and his comrades were in a working party responsible for deepening a captured German trench at Bouchavesnes. When his spade hit a buried bomb, George smothered the resulting blast with his own body, so saving the lives of his comrades. He died on 9 March, aged 24.
For this act of valour, George was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. This was presented to his father by King George V, at a ceremony in Hyde Park on 2 June, 1917.