G. E. Starkey
Private no. 78033
Private, Durham Light Infantry, 15th Battalion, formerly M/301054, R.A.S.C. (M.T.)
Born in Clapham; enlisted in Grove Park; lived in Brixton
Killed in action on 22 March 1918, aged 19
CWGC: “Son of George A. Starkey and Letitia A. Starkey, of 85 St James’s Road, Brixton, London.”
Remembered at Pozières Memorial, France
British Army WWI Service and Pension Records 1914-1920
George Ernest Starkey had two Army careers, both short. On 12 May 1915 he joined the 21st Battalion of the London Regiment at the Flodden Road recruiting office in Camberwell. He was described as dark complexioned, with brown eyes and dark brown hair. He stood 5 feet 6½ inches, with a 34½ inch chest (which he could expand by 2 inches), and unusually for most recruits he was relatively sturdy: over 7½ stone. Surprisingly, despite his flat feet, he passed the physical. Indeed, his physical development judged “good”, with only a scar on the small of his back and four scars on the fingers of his left hand as minor defects. He said he was a porter, and he said he was of age.
Unfortunately, he lasted only 167 days. He was discovered to have made a “mis-statement as to age.” The officer who discharged him described his military character as good. “This man,” he continued, even though Starkey was only 16 or 17, “would have continued a good soldier if he had been of the required age.”
Starkey was back on 17 March 1917, at Grove Park recruiting office. This time he joined the Army Service Corps as a driver – perhaps he used the intervening time to learn how to drive. Although he had grown no taller, he was now broader: 11 stone, with a 39 inch chest. He was fairly swiftly sent to join the 88th Training Reserve (recruits were not allocated to any particular regiment), and from there he joined the Durham Light Infantry.
His notes contain no shocks. Starkey committed only two misdemeanours: at Seaham Harbour, on 6 December 1917 he was punished with seven days confinement to barracks for “inatttention in afternoon parade.” In January the following year, and also at Seaham, he was docked three days’ pay for “overstaying his pass from 6pm and remaining absent until 10pm the 4th inst [4 January] when under orders for embarkation for active service.” On 9 January, after nearly a year at Home, he sailed for France.
Starkey allotted part of his pay to his mother. The record is difficult to read but I think the amount is 14s 2d.
There are over 600 names from the Durham Light Infantry on the Pozières Memorial, which relates to the period of between March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by the enemy across the former Somme battlefields.
Information from the censuses
In 1911 George Ernest Starkey was a 12-year-old schoolboy living at 85 St James’s Road, Brixton, where his family had an eight-roomed house. His mother, Letitia Starkey, 37, was a furniture dealer, born in Borough, with five children: Millicent Starkey, 16, Percy Starkey, 13; George, 12; Jeanette Starkey, 9; Irene Starkey, 6. They had a live-in servant: Henrietta Gridley, 44 and single, from Essex and a boarder, Hilda Styles, 22, single and from London. There is no mention of George Starkey (senior), who is mentioned in Starkey’s service record as living at 39 Station Road, Brixton and is on the 1901 census as a 29-year-old tailor’s cutter from Islington. Letitia described herself as “married.” The evidence points to them being separated.