George Robert Henderson was the eldest of three children born to George Henderson, a life assurance agent, and his wife Jane Ann. They lived in Cowpen and then Bebside in Northumberland, where George attended Blyth County Secondary School (from which, 88 out of 160 servicemen were killed during the coming conflict). According to the 1911 census George’s father was then a colliery weighman, and George junior was a pupil teacher in a local elementary school.
In 1913, George enrolled at Bede College, but while the 73rd Annual report (April 1914) lists George as having successfully taken the examination for the Archbishops’ Certificate, it also reports that he was by then already serving with 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.
It was expected that students enrolling at the college would join the Bede Company in the 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, a volunteer battalion. Along with members of college staff, they would undergo volunteer and territorial training, attending annual camps and taking part in drills. George Henderson’s regimental number for the volunteer brigade was 2326. The ‘Bede Boys’ formed “A” company of 8 D.L.I., and their commanding officer at this time was Captain Frank Harvey, a staff member at Bede College.
At some time during the next three years, George Henderson transferred to 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. The Bede magazine listed George Henderson in its June 1916 the Roll of Honour, reporting that he had joined the 2/5th Lincolns with nine of his fellow students.
The battalion’s war diary for the week leading up to George’s death records that, the battalion was being held in reserve and had been practising advance guard, and later in the day on the Sunday afternoon, there had been a football match final between C Company and 62nd T.M.B., the Lincolnshire men winning 3 – 0. Two days later, on the 22 October, the battalion moved forward to the Inchy area, preparatory to an attack on the following morning when they advanced on an enemy position north east of Neuvilly route Inchy-Neuvilly-Ambrival. On the morning of 23 October the battalion halted on a sunken road at 04:30 for breakfast, and which they enjoyed with only a little shelling while the brigade attacked in order to gain line east of Ovillers to gain crossing over the Harpies River to allow the advance to be continued.
“05.45 Companies moved up to assembly positions in valley East of AMERVAL. D Company on right, A Company on left, B Company in right support, C Company in left support. Battalion Head-Quarters moved up in centre behind C Company.
07.30 D Company moved off in order to reach line held by 64th Brigade by 08.40 hrs, and then the other companies moving up behind, at a distance of 200 yards. This was done so as to avoid left Company having to pass through village. As soon as this was complete the battalion advanced on a 2 Company frontage. A Considerable amount of shelling was encountered coming chiefly from right flank, but machine gun fire was not so heavy as usual. When the battalion started advancing there was a very heavy mist which considerably interfered with the direction and consequently D company in moving forward moved too much to their right and overlapped the 33rd Division front.
10.00 The mist rose a good deal and this enabled direction to be re-established. The advance continued under considerable machine gun fire and heavy shelling was encountered on the high ground about road running NW and SE in F8.g and F9.a and c.
14:00 Battalion Head-Quarters was established at F13 G4.3.
15:00 The general line F2.d.73 - F9 centred was made good and orders were issued for the two supporting Companies B and C to go through D and A Companies and continue the advance.
16.00 This advance was countermanded as hostile shelling became very heavy and the enemy made a small counter-attack. Situating on the flanks was also obscure.
17.00 The Companies withdrew and consolidated for the night on the road running NW and SE in F8.b and F9.a and c.”
War Diary of 2/5th Lincolnshire Regiment, 23 October 1918 (WO 95/2154/2)
The war diary records on this day that one officer was killed and four officers wounded. 28 were killed among the other ranks, with 132 wounded and 13 soldiers missing.
Lance Corporal Henderson is buried at the Selridge British Cemetery, Montay, France. A short obituary for Henderson was published in The Bede magazine in December 1918 (vol XV, no. 1, p.2). He is also commemorated on a plaque formerly at Blyth County Secondary School (now at Blyth Academy), the war memorial in Ridley Park, Blyth, the Bebside Colliery war memorial (formerly at Bebside Primitive Methodist Church and now at St Mary’s Church, Horton Road), and on the Bede College 1914-1918 Cross, Plaque, and Roll of Honour.