13697 Guardsman George William Pratt, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards
Born on 6th May 1889 in St Margaret’s, Great Gaddesden
Died on 10th January 1937 at Cassiobridge, Rickmansworth
George William Pratt was born in St Margaret’s, then in Ivinghoe parish. He was the second of the 3 sons of Charles Pratt and Mary Emma née Waterton.
His elder brother Mark Charles Pratt was born on 29th October 1886 and his younger brother William Edgar Pratt on 13th August 1892. Their father was a Farm Labourer.
The 1891 Census shows the family living at 10 St Margaret’s Lane.
In the 3rd Quarter of 1894, George’s mother Mary Emma died aged 39, leaving 3 young sons: Mark, 7, George, 5 and William Pratt, about 2 years old.
Then, in 1897, his father Charles married Ann Eliza Wallace, who is named in the family’s 1901 and 1911 Census returns. By 1901, the family lived at 6 St Margaret’s.
Joining the Grenadier Guards 6
However, on 7th April 1908, George William Pratt, a Domestic Servant aged 18 years 11 months, attested at Berkhamsted to join the Grenadier Guards. He was 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed 135 pounds and had a 36½ inch chest. He had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and black hair. George joined the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards at Caterham on 11th April 1908. He undertook to serve 3 years with the colours followed by 9 years in the Army Reserve. After that, from 8th May 1911 to 4th August 1914, George was a member of the Army Reserve.
The 1911 Census shows 23 year old George, an Insurance Agent, living at 6 St Margaret’s with his father, step-mother and 18 year old brother William Pratt, a Farm Labourer. However, his father and step-mother later moved to Home Farm Cottages, Little Gaddesden.
On 30th May 1914 George William Pratt married Alice Maud Deborah King at Watford Register Office.
Mobilised for War Service 6
On 5th August 1914, the day after war was declared, George Pratt was mobilised at Wellington Barracks, London; he served as a Private in the Grenadier Guards, Service Number 13697. His previous employment was as a Laundry Motor Carman in W J Whittle’s Model Laundry, Watford.
George and Alice’s son George William Charles Pratt was born in Watford on 20th September 1914.
In Belgium 6
George and the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards embarked from Southampton on 5th October 1914, arriving at Zeebrugge two days later. His service record states that he then served in the field from 20th October. The Battalion was then involved in the 1st Battle of Ypres. However, just a week later, on 27th October, George was reported missing.
A Prisoner of War 8
On 21st January 1915, Soldier 13697 George Pratt, 4th Company, 1st Grenadier Guards was found to be a Prisoner of War. He had been taken at Ypres on 27th October 1914 and was interned at Munster. He was also held at Kriegegefangenen-Lager Gottingen, though it is not clear when he was at each place. A note in his Prisoner of War record indicates communication with his wife, Mrs A M Pratt of 203 Chester Road Watford, on 21st January 1915. It must have been a terrible time for her as her husband had been missing for nearly 3 months and their infant son, born on 20th September 1914, died on 1st January 1915.
George Pratt’s Service Record states that he was struck off the strength of the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards on 26th October 1918. However, he did not return to England until 2nd December 1918, after 4 years and 60 days as a Prisoner of War in Germany. For his War Service, George was awarded the 1914 Star with Clasp, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Demobilisation and Discharge 6
29 year old Guardsman George Pratt was then transferred to the 5th (Reserve) Battalion, Grenadier Guards, in which he completed his military service. On demobilisation on 17th March 1919, he was transferred to Section B, Army Reserve. he was then able to return to his family home, 203 Chester Road, Watford. He was finally discharged from the Army Reserve on 6th April 1920.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper” 10
George Pratt is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. He is shown in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards on the original Roll and on the Centenary Revision of the Roll. Next to him on the original Roll is Walter Pratt, Royal Garrison Artillery. On the Autumn 1918 Absent Voters’ List for Little Gaddesden, George’s brother William Edgar Pratt, Royal Garrison Artillery is named; evidence indicates that he was the man was wrongly named on the original Roll as Walter. On the Centenary Revision of the Roll, this man is named William Pratt.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
George and Alice remained at 203 Chester Road, Watford. Their eldest daughter Muriel Margaret M Pratt was born on 6th July 1921, followed by Phyllis Nancy J Pratt on 24th July 1924. Their youngest daughter Dorothy G M Pratt was then born in the 3rd Quarter of 1925. However, she died aged 6 in 1932.
47 year old George William Pratt, a Lorry Driver of 203 Chester Road, Watford died on 10th January 1937 in the Grand Union Canal at Cassiobridge, Rickmansworth. The cause of death was asphyxiation from drowning. An Inquest was then held on 13th January and his death was found to be suicide, while not of sound mind. The extent to which his wartime experiences contributed to his condition is unknown.
The 1939 Register shows George’s widow and daughters still at 203 Chester Road, Watford; Alice was by then working as a Daily Domestic House Cook and Phyllis as a Shoe Shop Assistant. Muriel’s entry, however, remains closed. Alice died in Watford aged 71 in the 4th Quarter of 1952.
10. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden
11. Pdf copy of Death Certificate of George William Pratt
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson