Finding my grandfather

George E Huntley in his Colour Sergeant’s uniform of the RASC, circa 1915.

My mother never knew her father. She was brought up by her aunt Edith, after her mother died in childbirth. Her aunts would not discuss her father’s identity. However, when Edith died in 1967, my mother found a clue amongst her possessions in the form of two scraps of paper, photos of which are shown below.

His name was Captain George E. Huntley and his army number was given as P/80355. I searched for all the George E. Huntleys and the only sign I could find was of a Sgt G. E. Huntley in the Great War. Could this possibly be my grandfather?

Evidence of a Sgt G. E. Huntley in the First World War
In this document, he is Second Lieutenant G. E. Huntley
Finally, his full name George Edward Huntley
His medal index card and two addresses
A match with the WW2 service number stated in my great-aunt’s note

I paid a researcher to look into his service record who discovered the following information.

 George enlisted under a short service (duration of war) engagement to the Army Service Corps (Mechanical Branch) at Sheffield on 18/03/1915. He was issued with the Regimental number M2/054502 – the ‘M2’ prefix denoting the Mechanical Transport Branch and the ‘0’ at the front of his number denoted a short service/duration of war engagement. 

George is posted initially to Grove Park, the Depot of the Mechanical Transport Branch, where he is given military and trade training. He is promoted to Corporal on being posted to 10th Motor Ambulance Convoy (359th Company) Army Service Corps on 07/06/1915 and on the same date (probably to fill a vacancy of formation of the unit) he is promoted to Sergeant. The 10th Motor Ambulance Convoy embarked for France from Southampton on 06/07/1915 and landed in France the next day from the ‘Princess Victoria’ before they proceeded to Rouen. The diary for the unit is in WO 95-496-3.

George is appointed as Mechanical Staff Sergeant on 26/09/1915 which suggests he was heading up the maintenance & repair section of the Company. By 29/09/1915 he is appointed as the Acting Company Sergeant Major of 10th Motor Ambulance Convoy, his substantive promotion to this rank is later confirmed with the same seniority date. He is mentioned in despatches in the London Gazette of 04/01/1917 for his actions during the Somme operations in 1916 at which time he has proceeded back to the UK, arriving on 01/01/1917 according to his papers. 

George seems to have had some participation in the German Spring Offensive in late March and April of 1918 but there are no specific details about this. He is promoted to Lieutenant on 01/12/1918 and Acting Captain on 10/05/1919 before returning to the UK for discharge to the Reserve of Officers on 15/02/1920. 

George is re-mobilized on 31/08/1939 at the onset of WW2 and his career is as follows from that point:- 

31/08/1939 – Joined at Regent’s Park Barracks as an Impressment Officer (Lieutenant) and is given the Acting rank of Captain. 

09/11/1939 – Posted to No.2 Motor Transport Depot at Slough in the role of a Draft Conducting Officer. The officers were employed to ‘escort’ drafts of other ranks from the Training Depot to the ports for embarkation on the basis that they could not be trusted to get from A to B by themselves! This is almost 9 months to the day before the birth of my mother. A perfect match.

01/12/1939 – Appointed Temporary Captain after holding an acting rank for 90 days. 

12/12/1940 – Reverts to Lieutenant on being posted to 29th Station Transport Company, Shropshire. Note that this is the same address given in my great-aunt’s note and coincides with the time when my grandmother became pregnant with my mother. My grandmother’s mother came from Hereford which is in the adjoining county of Gloucestershire.

28/12/1940 – Posted to a War Office Post at Benhall Farm, Gloucester Road at Cheltenham for temporary duties as a Transport Officer. 

08/02/1941 – Posted to No.3 Training Brigade & posted to No.8 Training Battalion. 

18/02/1941 – Posted to Royal Army Service Corps, Cambridge District as a Liaison Officer. 

15/07/1941 – Posted to Anti-Aircraft Command as a Workshop Officer, starting at 182nd Company RASC at Eccles. 

15/08/1941 – Posted to 904th A-A Company, part of 2nd A-A Division at Eccles. 

10/09/1941 – Posted to attached station of 1st Holding Battalion (at Worthing) whilst he is on the ‘Y’ List – this is the code used for men who were sick and not fit for duty. This was a few weeks after the death of my grandmother, so he may have heard the news.

23/09/1941 – Discharged from General Hospital at Llandudno and joins 1st Holding Battalion after sick leave. He had been medically down-graded for Grade ‘B’ Garrison duties only. I discovered that his son was born on 27/1/42 in Conwy, a mere four miles from Llandudno, so is consistent with him being there.

18/11/1941 – Posted to Anti-Aircraft Command at Stanmore to await allocation. He is then posted to 930th A-A Company at Pontefract with effect the same day. 

06/12/1941 – Posted to 192nd A-A Company at Edinburgh. 

26/03/1942 – Posted to 1st Holding Battalion at Worthing having been classified as medically unfit. 

07/05/1942 – Relegated to ‘Unemployed’ and put into the Reserve of Officers. 

21/08/1948 – Having reached the age limit for their rank, George relinquishes his rank and is given the honorary rank of Captain (LG 20/08/1948). 

My mother was delighted to have found the identity of her father. The sad news was that I then discovered that he had died in 1981 so my mother would have had the opportunity to have met her father.

Details discovered in the public records confirmed what my mother had been told, that he was a married man at the time my mother was born however my mother’s aunt had lied and said that he had died in the war, meaning the second world war. This was not true.

He was born in Sheffield in 1884 to a middle class family and went to university to study engineering. It appears that he worked as a consulting engineer for Sheffield City Council at some point and was also a representative for sales of lorries and cars at a Sheffield garage after the First World War. He contributed regularly to the letters pages of local newspapers of the time.

In 2018, I finally took the Ancestry DNA test which confirmed that I and George Huntley have common ancestors. The person who kept popping up as a common ancestor is my two-times great grandmother Susannah Offer, born in 1814 in Swindon, Wiltshire. I made contact with Canadian cousins as a result of this. Susannah’s daughter Julia (George’s aunt) married a Frederick Nash. They had four sons, Albert, Norton, Frank and Julien, who migrated to Canada. Many of their descendants, my cousins, live there today and I have managed to contact some of them.

Susannah Offer

Julien Nash, my grandfather’s cousin, was a pioneer Mountie in Alberta having joined the service in 1908. I found a fascinating obituary. Finding my grandfather has opened up so much more that I had expected.

Julien Nash

I located George’s two sons, both in their seventies. One is living in Suffolk and the other in Australia. Neither replied, which disappointed me. If someone contacted me with irrefutable evidence that they were the child of my long lost half-sister, I’d be interested to know more.

My brother settled in British Columbia in 1996 and had no idea that his third cousins were living in the same and neighbouring provinces of Canada.


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