Remembering George Cates VC
Posted on 4th Mar 2017 by Sarah Gould
As part of the UK Government First World War Centenary programme, specially designed commemorative paving stones are being installed in the home towns of Victoria Cross recipients.
Merton can boast links to 9 First World War VCs. These men attended Merton schools, some lived or worked in the area, whilst others lie buried in Merton cemeteries. However only two VCs were actually born in the borough. On Wednesday 8 March, we honoured the memory of one such individual - George Edward Cates, who was born in Hartfield Road, Wimbledon in 1892.
An insurance clerk, scout leader and keen supporter of the local YMCA, George was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade during the war. On 8 March 1917, he was leading a working party deepening a captured enemy trench near Bouchavesnes, France. When his spade hit buried munitions, George made the ultimate sacrifice, smothering the resulting blast with his own body, to save the lives of his comrades. He died later that night, aged just 24 and his act of valour was honoured with a posthumous VC. Two of his brothers were also killed during the conflict.
One century on, a commemorative event was staged at Wimbledon War Memorial, Parkside. Civic dignitaries, military representatives, scout leaders and students from Rutlish School gave speeches, readings and performed acts of remembrance. The Mayor of Merton and Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey then unveiled a commemorative paving stone in George's memory. The stone has now been permanently installed next to the war memorial.
A gallery of images from the commemorative event can be seen on the Merton Council Flickr page
Click here for more information about George Cates VC.