522 Corporal George Norris, 36th Infantry Battalion, AIF
George Norris was born in Lake Cargelligo in July 1891, one of 16 children in the family of Sampson and Eliza Norris. George received his education at the Murrin Provisional School and was working as a labourer at the outbreak of war in 1914.
George Norris enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 8 January 1916, and was assigned to the 36th Battalion. His brothers, 18-year-old Stanley, and 21-year-old Percival also enlisted for service but were assigned to different battalions.
George embarked from Australia aboard troopship Beltana on 13 May, bound for overseas service. He arrived in England in July 1916 and spent the next four months training in preparation for deployment to the front.
In late November, the 36th Battalion proceeded to France, moving into front-line trenches in December with the onset of winter. The 36th Battalion had its first major battle at Messines in June 1917 and suffered heavy casualties. After Messines, Norris and his comrades took part in the battle at Passchendaele. Following operations at Passchendaele, Norris spent time alternating between service in the front line and periods of training and working parties behind the lines in Belgium.
In 1918, the 36th Battalion moved south to the Somme region around Corbie and Villers-Bretonneux in an effort to thwart the German Spring Offensive. While assisting in the defence of Amiens, Norris’s battalion took part in a counter-attack near the French village of Hangard Wood where its lines were shelled heavily and many troops fell under machine-gun fire.
On 12 April, Norris proceeded to an advanced post with a Lewis gun and two other men to stop the enemy advancing as the French were pushed back towards the village. While manning their guns, Norris and his comrades were shot by enemy snipers and killed.
Norris’s comrade, Sergeant Laurie Barber provided details of Norris’s death to the Red Cross, writing:
“he died instantly and was buried the same evening. Will you please convey to his mother my deepest sympathy and tell her that George died doing his duty as he was one of the bravest soldiers in the battalion.”
Corporal George Norris was buried at Hangard Communal Cemetery beneath the words of his bereft and recently widowed mother: “May God rest his soul”. He was 26 years old.
KIA 12th April 1918