Monday, December 15, 2008

A life nobly given

Sgt. George Graham Gillbanks, Border Regiment, WW2
(Use of photograph by courtesy of his sister Mrs Mary Hodgson)

Sergeant George Graham Gillbanks, Border Regiment, Service Number 3599598, was serving with the 7th Battalion The Border Regiment on Home Service when he lost his life as the result of a training accident on 6 November 1941. Sergeant Gillbanks, who was 22 years old when he died, was the son of Myles Gillbanks and Margaret Gillbanks of Ennerdale Road, Cleator Moor, Cumberland.

Before the war, George Gillbanks had been a Sunday School teacher and organ blower at Cleator Moor Presbyterian Church, which was also based on Ennerdale Road. The funeral service for Sergeant Gillbanks was held at Cleator Moor Presbyterian Church, followed by interment at St John's Anglican Churchyard, Cleator Moor. In 1945, Sergeant Gillbanks' brother-in-law Leading Aircraftman Alfred Higgin lost his life in an acident and was laid to rest in the same grave.

After the war, along with Captain William Walker, Sergeant George Gillbanks was one of two members of the Cleator Moor Presbyterian Church commemorated on a Memorial Plaque installed at the now-closed church. It can now be found at the town's Methodist Church.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

Among the many letters of condolence received by Mr and Mrs Gillbanks was one sent out by King George VI to the next of kin of those who died in war. It reads as follows:

"The Queen and I offer you our heartfelt sympathy in your great sorrow. We pray that your country's gratitude for a life so nobly given in its service may bring you some measure of consolation.
George R.I."

In November 1941 the 7th Battalion The Border Regiment was based in the South of England (St Albans area) for Home Defence. Sergeant George Gillbanks lost his life as the result of an accident during training at camp, in which his good pal Sergeant Tom Banks, Border Regiment from Inkerman Terrace, Whitehaven was seriously injured.

Although I have been unable to trace the exact official record of the sequence of events that led to the tragedy, according to Mr James Rogan, formerly with 7th Battalion The Border Regiment, the sequence of events began with Sergeant Tom Banks accidentally dropping a live grenade during a training exercise at the camp. Sergeant Gillbanks then threw himself down to shield Sergeant Banks and other men in the vicinity from the blast. Unfortunately, this selfless act led to Sergeant Gillbanks sustaining serious abdominal injuries from which he died a short time later on the way to hospital.

After George's family in Cleator Moor learnt that he had died, word was passed around town and they received many visitors to their home as well as letters of condolence. Mrs Mary Hodgson, a sister of Sergeant George Gillbanks, told me that although her family were Presbyterians, one of the first visitors to visit her parents' home when the news became known was the Parish Priest of the Catholic Church, Father F.C. Clayton. This was typical of the man, of whom many such actions have been remembered and passed on to others. Mrs Hodgson described Father Clayton as "... a real gentleman".

Sergeant George Gillbanks is remembered on the Cleator Moor Roll of Honour. His sacrifice will long be remembered.

Thanks to the following with their assistance in writing this article: :

Mrs Mary Hodgson, sister of Sergeant George G. Gillbanks

Mr James Rogan, formerly of 7th Battalion The Border Regiment, WW2

Border Regiment & KORBR Museum, Carlisle

Monday, 15 December, 2008  

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