Bedales 1908 – 1913, Private 1365 18th Battalion Royal Fusiliers

George Cohen died before he went into battle.  In The Bedales Record for 1915 Mr Badley wrote:- “Of him as of Wilson we can feel that their lives were no less given in the service of their country, though to both of them it was denied to carry out the task for which they were training and to fall on active service.”

George arrived at Bedales from his home in Withington, in the Autumn Term of 1908.  His father, Max Eduard Cohen, had been born in Hamburg in 1870, the son of Dr. Eduard Cohen and his wife Olga.  His maternal grandfather had been born in Hamburg also, but had met and married his wife in Copenhagen.  They must have migrated to England almost immediately after their marriage as all their children, including George’s mother Charlotte Elizabeth, had been born in the Manchester area.

The earliest factual evidence for George’s father in England is the record of the marriage on 12th July 1893 in Platt’s Fields Unitarian Chapel.  On census day 1901 George, a Shipping Merchant, and Charlotte were living in Withington with two sons and a daughter.  Five years later, on 23rd January 1906, Max Edward Cohen became a naturalised British subject and the grant of citizenship included his children Edwin, George, Helen and Margaret.

George hasn’t left much of a paper trail at Bedales though in the awards for Prize Work in 1911 he was listed with credit for two photographs of Cowdray Hall.  In 1912 he unsuccessfully proposed the motion, “That the Tendency of Modern Life is Towards Luxury rather than Civilisation”, being heavily defeated by 12 votes to 56.  He was more successful in public exams however, being credited with passes at Higher Certificate in English, History, German and Mathematics though he failed in Latin.  In his final term at Bedales (Autumn 1913) he was a House prefect.

For his two final terms at Bedales George had been joined by the elder of his sisters, Helen Olga.  In 1914 George went on to study at the Ecole de Commerce at Neuchatel in Switzerland, presumable to prepare himself for joining his father in his Shipping business.  He returned to England at the beginning of August 1914 and attended the OB meeting which took place in the week in which War was declared.  This must have been an emotional gathering from which many OBs went off to volunteer for service for the duration of the War.  George became a private in the 18th Battalion of Royal Fusiliers, known as the Universities and Public School Battalion, and began his training to join the BEF in France.  The Bedales Chronicles for October and November 1914 listed him, with 5 other OBs and the ex-farm manager, in training with the 18th Royal Fusiliers in Epsom.  In October he and Ronald Wilson both visited Bedales.

I don’t know when or where George contracted meningitis but it does seem likely that there was an epidemic amongst the young soldiers in 1915.  Mr Badley indicated that, unlike Ronald Wilson, George seemed on the way to recovery but then relapsed.  He died, with his father at his bedside, in the London Military Hospital on 3rd April, aged 18.  Presumably his body lies in a Manchester cemetery. 

George’s death was announced in The Bedales Chronicle’s first edition for the Summer Term.  As his sisters Helen and Margaret mourned their brother, all Bedalians, and especially those in their final term at school, were now fully conscious of the meaning of war.