Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cleator Moor's first and last Military Funerals of WW2

CWGC Headstone in St John's Churchyard, Cleator Moor
Sgt George G. Gillbanks, Border Regiment and LAC Alfred Higgin, RAFVR

Brothers-in-law George Gillbanks and Alfred Higgin lay in the same grave in their hometown of Cleator Moor, Cumbria (previously Cumberland). Sergeant George Graham Gillbanks, 7th Battalion The Border Regiment lost his life at the age of 22 in November 1941. His was the first Military Funeral of WW2 to be held in Cleator Moor. Leading Aircraftman Alfred Higgin lost his life at the age of 28 in August 1945. His funeral was the last Military Funeral of WW2, and took place after VJ Day. They are but two of those from the Cleator and Cleator Moor area of Cumbria who are remembered on the town's 'Roll of Honour'.
For additional information about Sergeant Gillbanks and LAC Higgin, click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

1) Additional information about Sergeant George Graham Gilbanks:

Sergeant George G. Gilbanks (Service No 3599598), 7th Battalion The Border Regiment was the only son of Myles and Margaret Gilbanks of Ennerdale Road, Cleator Moor, Cumberland (now Cumbria). Sergeant Gilbanks lost his life at the age of 22 on 6 November 1941 as the result of an accident at his camp in southern England (probably at or near St Albans, Hertfordshire). Sergeant Tom Banks, another Border Regiment soldier whose home was at Inkerman Terrace, Whitehaven, Cumberland was seriously injured in the same accident.

During WW2, not all information about casualties was released, even to a casualty's family. However, having checked at the Border Regiment and KORBR Museum about the incident in which Sergeant Gilbanks lost his life, the Regimental records show that he died of a shrapnel wound on 6 November 1941. Other records state that he was killed in action. This may suggest he was killed in an air raid.

Whatever the truth, the body of Sergeant Gilbanks was taken to his hometown of Cleator Moor where he received a Military Funeral on Thursday 13 November 1941. The local newspaper, 'The Whitehaven News' stated this was the first Military Funeral of the war in Cleator Moor.

The Reverend A.H. Pringle of the Cleator Moor Presbyterian Church conducted the funeral service. Sergeant Gilbanks was laid to rest in the Churchyard of St John’s Anglican Church (Grave Reference No AA55).

2) Additional information about Leading Aircraftman Alfred Higgin:

In 1945, Leading Aircraftman Alfred Higgin (Service No 1032028), RAFVR, a brother-in-law of Sergeant Gilbanks, also lost his life while serving in the Forces. Leading Aircraftman Higgin was the husband of Mona Lister Higgin and the son of Thomas Higgin and Margaret Higgin of Ennerdale Road, Cleator Moor.

He died, aged 28, on 28 August 1945: after the VE Day and VJ Day celebrations. Leading Aircraftman Higgin was buried in St John’s Churchyard, Cleator Moor, in the same grave as his brother-in-law Sergeant George G. Gilbanks. The headstone marking their grave has a badge of the Border Regiment entwined with a badge of the Royal Air Force. The motto chose by the family to be engraved on the base of the headstone reads:

“Worthy of Remembrance”.

May they rest in peace.

Tuesday, 01 April, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George Graham Gillbanks was my Mothers brother and died not in an air raid but training how to use grenades as my mother told me.
A cadet pulled the pin on the grenade which left seconds to dispose of it before it exploded. George stooped down to throw the grenade and it blew up as he tried to throw it it to a safe distance. Half of his face was blown away and he lived a few days in which my grandad managed to see him before he died.
There was great confusion about the return of the body on the train and his body was left in a siding for some time as they waited in Cleator Moor to bury its dead in a first military funeral.

Sunday, 08 April, 2012  

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