Sunday, October 26, 2014

7979 Pte George Cottingham, Royal Sussex Regiment

George Cottingham and his twin brother William were born in Chailey in 1887, their births registered at Lewes in the December quarter of that year.  They were the sons of William and Esther Cottingham of South Common Chailey and the 1901 census shows George living at Chailey with his family.  The household comprised William Cottingham, head of the household, aged 53 and working as a tile maker, his 46 year old wife Esther Cottingham and their five children: James [Louis] Cottingham, aged 16, a brickyard labourer, William Cottingham, aged 13, a brickyard labourer, George aged 13, working as a carter boy on farm, Frederick [Samuel] Cottingham, aged nine, and finally Alfred Cottingham aged six.  The 1891 census also shows a daughter, Edith Cottingham aged five in 1891 but I could find no record of her on the census taken ten years later. 

Although George did not serve during the First World War, he was a regular soldier who had first enlisted with the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1904.  He enlisted for three years with the colours and nine on the Reserve and his papers survive in the WO 364 pension series held at the National Archives. 

A brick maker by trade, he enlisted at Lewes, Sussex on 23rd July 1904 aged 18 years and nine months.  He was five feet six and a half inches tall and weighed 166 lbs.  His complexion is recorded as fresh, his eyes blue and his hair red.  His religion is noted as Wesleyan.  He was given the number 7979 and saw service with the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Sussex Regiment.  He was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on 23rd July 1905 and two years later was placed on the Army Reserve. 

During his time in the army he remained in England and was discharged in September 1914.  His next of kin is noted as Mr W Cottingham, Norman’s Brickyard, South Common, Chailey. 

There is no indication on his service record why, as a reservist, he did not proceed overseas with the Royal Sussex Regiment when war was declared.  Chailey Parish Magazine though, helps fill in that detail.  He appears there twice: once in a special list of attested men published in March 1916 and then again the following month.  Next to his name the words “medically unfit” are written and he does not feature further.

George’s four brothers all served during World War One and Frederick was killed in 1916 on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme.

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