George Bishop was born in 1884 to Joseph Lynch Bishop, an engineer, and Mary Ann Bishop (née Hamilton) in Neyland, Pembroke, Wales. Unfortunately, his father died when he was only an infant. Mary Ann subsequently married William Henry Darch, a timber merchant’s foreman in 1891 and later worked as a tmekeeper for Gloucester Corporation. From the age of four, George Bishop was brought up by William Darch and Mary in Gloucester, first in Archibald Street and latterly in Tredworth Road, along with his stepsister, Ethel Mary Darch (five years his junior). In the 1901 census Bishop, aged 16, is recorded as a Pupil Teacher and by the 1911 census, he is listed as a student with a view to taking Holy Orders. At this time, both his mother and sister were school-mistresses.
George Bishop’s early education was at King’s School, Gloucester, and Culham College, Oxford. Before entering St Chad’s Hall at Durham in 1910 with the intention of qualifying for a position in the church, his preparation included a period at St Chad’s Hostel, at Hooton Pagnell, starting in the Michaelmas term of 1908. He won the Capel Cure prize whilst at St Chad’s Hall: this was presented to a second year student for the best (written) sermon in the Epiphany term: an early indication, perhaps, of his later literary prowess.
Bishop was connected to The Stag, the magazine of St Chad’s Hall and Hostel from 1908 when he was described as a Committee Member, and 1909 when he was sub-editor. During 1912, he contributed articles to The Stag entitled “Extracts from a Russian Diary. June – November 1911” (The Stag, series 2, vol. 3, nos 1-3, Epiphany to Michaelmas Terms 1912), extracts which he subsequently worked up into a series of articles for the Scottish Chronicle and then into a publication of his own, The Religion of Russia. A Study of the Orthodox Church in Russia from the point of view of the Church of England (Society of SS. Peter & Paul, 1915). This was followed by Tales of Muscovy and the Ukraine (Society of SS. Peter & Paul, 1916), The Barbarian. A Tale of the Russian Front(Society of SS. Peter & Paul, 1916), and Sacerdos in aeternum (Society of SS. Peter & Paul, 1916).
Whilst at St Chad’s he was a keen rower and witnessed a tragic accident in rough weather on the Wear, when the cox of the St Chad’s Graduate boat lost his life. Soon after the start of the race the boat was seen to take on water and the watchers recognised that some of the rowers were in distress. Bishop was ashore, acting as coach, at the time and was credited with helping to save the life of another crew member who despite being a non-swimmer had left the boat in an effort to reach the bank. The unfortunate accident resulted in a University ruling that all rowers should be competent swimmers.
The Officers’ Training Corps (OTC) was another of George Bishop’s interests whilst in Durham and he was a member of the guard of honour provided for the coronation of George V in 1911. In this he was continuing a family military tradition, for his maternal grandfather Joseph Hamilton served in the 2nd Life Guards and was a Chelsea Pensioner from 1882; he was born in 1814 in Dublin at the Windsor Cavalry Barracks.
Although 1911 had started badly with the rowing accident in February, it eventually led to a momentous period for George Bishop. He achieved his B.A. (Theology) later that year, was ordained deacon and appointed curate of St Mary the Virgin, Kettering. He was ordained priest in 1912 by the Bishop of Peterborough and became vicar of St Mary, Plaistow in 1913. This was the year of his marriage to Dorothy Maud Evans at Christ Church, London and in 1914, he was appointed Vicar of St James, Cardington, in Shropshire.
The Reverend Bishop had volunteered early in the war but only finally joined in July 1917. As he explained to his parishioners in the parish newsletter, “[i]t is only lawful for a clergyman to fight when the situation is desperate. He can, of course, at once join the Army Medical Corps or go as an army chaplain if he can find anybody to do his work. I have tried to do so, but have not succeeded.”
It would appear that in 1917 his efforts were rewarded. His final signature in the Cardington parish registers was in January and finally, on 5 July 1917, he was appointed Army Chaplain (4th Class), attached to the 6th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers and posted to France. Only a few short months later, in May 1918, he was killed on the battlefield at Concevreux, during an artillery bombardment of the trenches which lasted about ten hours. This was the opening move of the Third Battle of the Aisne, when the German forces launched a large attack and carried the Chemin des Dames ridge.
Chaplain George Bishop’s death is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial (Aisne), and his sacrifice is also remembered on the war memorials of King’s School, Gloucester and at Cardington, Shropshire, on the Aldershot Memorial, on the reredos in St Chad’s College Chapel, and on the Durham University Roll of Service.