An Old Coathamian – Not Forgotten

George Ellerker Walter STEPHENS

No. 337876 Gunner (Signaller), 38th (Welsh) Heavy Battery,
Royal Garrison Artillery.

Born 26 May 1898,
Died 9 June 1918, aged 20 years.

Buried in Wanquetin Communal Cemetery Extension,
Pas de Calais, France, Grave II. A. 9.

George Stephens had enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery in May 1915, when he would have been just 17 years old, and had been serving for more than three years at the time of his death. He was still only 20. The cemetery extension where he is buried contains 222 Commonwealth graves from the First World War. He is also commemorated on a family grave in Redcar Cemetery. His military record notes that he was killed “when undertaking a hazardous task, [for] which he volunteered".

George Ellerker Walter Stephens was the son of George William Stephens and Elizabeth Jane Stephens, of 7, Cleveland Terrace, Coatham. His father was the Headmaster of the local Wesleyan Elementary School. His elder brother William Alfred also attended Coatham Grammar School, and George also had a younger brother, Harold James. George himself attended West Dyke Council School before going to Coatham Grammar School. He was 12 when he started there in January 1911 as a day boy, and he remained until May 1915, leaving a fortnight short of his seventeenth birthday. At school George passed the Cambridge Local Examinations at Preliminary, Junior and Senior levels. Still one year short of the official age for volunteering, he nevertheless managed to be accepted for the Army in the same month as he left School.