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He Died For His Country

Date: 1980

He Died for His Country - George Mainwaring – Rochdale Artist

George's Notes

During the summer of 1917, as a boy of ten years of age, I went with my mother to a memorial service in Greenacres Congregational Chapel. Such services were at the time a poignant reminder of the dreadful wastage of our young manhood in the war, and the one we mourned was my cousin Enoch Dunkerley who had died in hospital in Boulogne. After the service, another of my cousins told me of a wonderful statue, erected to another soldier, which had just been unveiled in nearby Greenacres Cemetery, and making our way there we joined a large company of people standing round a remarkable life-sized figure cut in stone, mounted on a plinth, and representing a young officer in uniform, with his left hand resting on his sword hilt and with his right foot resting on a shell. At the foot of the plinth there were masses of flowers and there was an inscription cut into the stone which read “erected in loving memory of Lieutenant John Sutcliffe, 24 Batt. Manchester Regt. (Oldham Comrades), the dear beloved eldest son of John Willie and Harriet Louise Sutcliffe, May 12th, 1916, in his 19th year and was interred at Meaulte Military Cemetery May 14th, 1916. Died for his country.

Apparently the gallant young officer had been in action when a delayed action German shell had fallen among his Company. He had acted immediately, throwing himself on the missile and covering it with his body, thus taking the full force of the explosion in order to protect his men. The whole scene, with the relations standing reverently round, was an unforgettable experience. Now, after almost 64 years [1980], I recently visited Greenacres Cemetery again. The memorial is now surrounded by many more memorials to members of the Sutcliffe family who have found their resting place beside it; yet the mental picture of it as it stood in splendid isolation comes vividly to mind over the years.

George Mainwaring

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