• Claire Jordan

The Lost, Shy Smile of George Corrie




George and his identical twin brother were born to a Whitechapel brewer’s cooper and his doughty wife Agnes in June 1892.


Tiny George must have been second to arrive in the world, as it was his brother who would be named after their father Sydney.


The little twins had an elder brother Fred and their Mum bravely carried on bearing children in the years following the twins’ arrival, giving George and Syd sisters Agnes, Nellie, Ethel May and Clara, plus another little brother Harold.


The twins were enrolled in the Highway School at the age of four and stuck it out together until they moved up to the mixed junior school on turning 7.


When he left school, young George went to work as a labourer in a packing factory, but the whole family stayed together, all the children as they became old enough to work contributing to the household kitty until, one by one, they met someone they wanted to marry and began their own adventures.


George’s turn came around his 22nd birthday; his gentle smile was clearly particularly effective one warm evening in the summer of 1914, for he married local girl Jessie Wood in the early weeks of 1915 and their own first little boy George William would arrive shortly afterwards on 21st March.


Despite the War, George and Jessie had a second baby boy on Boxing Day 1916.


Called up to fight, it’s not clear at what point he embarked but it is certain that at lunchtime on 14th April 1917, he was serving with A Company, 22nd Londons just outside Ypres, when the enemy began a heavy, 45-minute bombardment of his Company’s position at Swan Chateau with 5.9” shells.


“They were all directed at the gun positions,” notes the war diary sadly, “which are disused."


Casualties: 2 Other Ranks killed, 3 wounded.


One of the wounded was our Private George Corrie, Jessie’s husband, Syd’s twin brother, little George and William’s dad, who was taken to the 10th Casualty Clearing Station but who died of his wounds the following day, not quite 25 years old.


His twin Sydney was also a soldier, also newly married (to Jennie) and a new Dad (to little Syd).


For him, six weeks after George’s death, that first ever birthday without him on 9th June must have been an extraordinarily strange one, standing in the trenches with his South Staffordshire Regiment but no longer one half of a whole.


Sydney Corrie would survive the War, his face ever after a ghostly facsimile of his brother’s, lost 105 years ago this week.



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