George Rice

Beau, George and LeaneInterviewed by Marcus, Beau and Leane, 2003

George’s Story.

“I’m an old soldier of the  First World War.”

I’m not very good at talking about myself.My age is against me talking with any certainty.I’m a hundred and five.

It’s good living here.They look after you well. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what people like me would do. There must be lots of places like this in the world, the number of old, very old people is growing, we’re all living longer, getting older.

But I’m an old soldier of the First World War. I fought in France, there’s a medal up there to show you, from the French president of the time.

As soon as the First World War broke out I was in it straight away, as a territorial. I was born in 1897, so I was seventeen. I just wanted something to do. I was a choir boy in the Church of England in Stockton on Tees. I joined the territorials in County Durham and it had hardly been five minutes and I was in it. I used to know the name of the place where the front line was, half way through France. The front line where we were all engaged, different regiments going through in the leapfrog fashion, pushing the Germans back to their own land. That’s what we were doing.

I was a private I’d got no rank at all. I was a machine gunner. I know with certainty that I killed six people with my machine gun. The Germans came out of nowhere to bayonet us with fixed bayonets. I got down on the floor, my gun had two bipeds to keep it steady. As  they came forward, they ran on to my bullets like a pack of cards.You set them up and knock the first ones down and the others follow.That’s the idea. I was a private, a machine gunner.

I was injured in the back of my hand, not seriously. But I was sent to hospital with trench fever, a sort of general cold and pneumonia. We had to live in a hole in the ground. This prevented you from living on the surface where you might get killed by the enemy. That’s where I got trench fever.'

List of veterans of World War I who died in 2005