Coincidental Comrades: George and William Roe

Defined by Collins Dictionary as a friendship between several people doing the same work or sharing the same difficulties or dangers, comradeship is easily created during times of conflict and war. Unquestionably, this allows men from wildly different backgrounds to become as close as brothers in a matter of weeks, as did William and George Roe during the First World War.

George Roe was born in mid-February 1897, the youngest of nine children, with two sadly dying in infancy. His father was George Roe, a mill worker, and his mother was Hannah Maria Roe, who undertook the typical but trying domestic duties. His family lived in the White Lee area of Heckmondwike. He was baptised into the Methodist Free Church near White Lee on 30 May 1897, aged 15 weeks.

George was educated at Healey Council School and then later St. James’ School. Despite his humble background, he was awarded an apprenticeship in the tailoring department of the Heckmondwike Co-operative Society and was held in high esteem there. Furthermore, he was a regular attendee of the White Lee United Methodist Church and its Sunday School.

In late June 1914, Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and the spiralling web of alliances across Europe soon led to the outbreak of the Great War.

George Roe

George was called up and enlisted promptly afterwards. He was posted to the Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment’s 9th Battalion. He had been involved with the Batley Ambulance Corps before his enlistment.

He was soon sent to train in Blyth and Whitley Bay and became acquainted with a William Roe of Oakworth. The two lads were not related but had lots in common; they were both the same age, both worked for a co-operative society, both were called to the colours on the same day. Perhaps down to these similarities, they both became incredibly close over their period of training.

William Roe

Just before Christmas 1916, when the two lads were sent to France, they were both made Lance-Corporals and began the horrors of active service together.

Both lads were close to each other and had become true friends and comrades. The horrors and dangers of the war only furthered the connections they both shared, and they became coincidental comrades.

War is cruel, and despite their luck in both being unscathed after being buried by the same shell, a different shell killed both George and William instantly on 17 January 1917.

They made the ultimate sacrifice for their country with a gallant and noble attitude and, through all the horrors, forged an unbreakable bond that not even death could break. Despite my focus upon the more locally based George Roe, it is clear that both William and George’s legacies are strong, and both men deserve to be remembered equally.

George Roe from the Bradford Daily Telegraph

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