My name is Chris Atkinson and I’m working on a collection of family photographs from the First World War held in the archives of Greater Manchester. To mark the centenary of the First World War, we will be doing research into the people of these photographs. If you know anymore information regarding the people we mention then please tell us. Volunteers will be working on research and check out our new blog gm1914 to keep up to date with developments.

Whilst looking through the DPA (Documentary Photographic Archives) images of WW1 soldiers I came across a photograph of George Alfred Gardner who was in the 1st Manchester PALS during WW1.

Manchester Pal Soldier

The information provided with the picture told me that his baptism certificate was also included within that particular collection.

So I decided to have a look at that baptism certificate which unfortunately didn’t include a date of birth which would be key to finding out any more information about him. Although the certificate did tell me the date upon he got baptised on.

Whilst at the Manchester Room, at City Library Manchester, I decided to have a look at the baptism register for the Church he was baptised at. He was baptised at Holy Innocents Church in Fallowfield on the 1st April 1894.

Looking through the microfilmed baptism register at the Manchester Room I found that the priest had written Georges date of birth on the side of his entry. Fantastic!

He was born 25th January 1894 to Alfred Charles & Mary Elizabeth Gardner who at the time according to his baptism register entry was living at 2 Field Place in Didsbury.

On Ancestry the 1901 census tells me that George had moved to 13 Moor Street, Withington and at the time was 7 years old. He was living at home with his parents and his younger brother, William.

On Ancestry the 1911 census tells me that he was still living at the same place but that he was only living with his father and brother. The census says that his father, Alfred Charles Gardner, was widowed. Mary Elizabeth died in 1907 and buried in Southern Cemetery.

The 1911 census also points out that at this point George is working for a company called Van Lad Bakers.

In 1914 a lot of people volunteered to join the forces and George being 20 at the time didn’t waste time in joining up and he joined the 1st Manchester PALS (16th Battalion, Manchester Regiment).

Manchester Regiment WW1 OSD Cap Badge

The 16th Battalion were based at Stretford Road, Hulme. Part of Manchester Brigade, East Lancashire Division. Formed in Manchester on 28 August 1914 by the Lord Mayor and City. Initially established at Heaton Park but moved in April 1915 to Belton Park, where placed under command of 90th Brigade in 30th Division. Moved on to Larkhill in September 1915.
6 November 1915: landed in France.
13 May 1918: reduced to cadre strength.
18 June 1918: moved to Boulogne and transferred to 42nd Brigade in 14th (Light) Division. Returned to England and moved to Cowshott. Reconstituted by absorbing 29th Bn.
4 July 1918: returned to France.

Through findmypast I was able to find his medal card and it shows his regimental numbers and ranks that he got to. George gained the rank of private and his personnel number for the Manchester Regiment was 29628. We also know that at some point George left the Manchester Battalion and joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The RNAS became the Royal Air Force as it is known today. His number in the RNAS is 136310.

On his medal card he received two medals that every soldier receives when the First World War ended. He received these two medals whilst serving in the RNAS. The Victory Medal Roll Number RAF/101B10 and also the British Medal Roll Number RAF/101B10.

Also through findmypast I was also able to get a few more bits of information that he was a wireless operator and was last promoted on 27/2/1918 to Private 2.

Not much is known about George after the First World War. Unfortunately the Second World War records are not available and so we can’t tell if he continued to fight during the Second World War also.

We do know that on the 13th February 1956 George Alfred Gardner, aged 62 was buried in Southern Cemetery in Manchester.

He was noted to have been a clerk at the time and he was living at 13 Fordbank Road Didsbury.

He’s buried in a family plot with his parents, Mary Elizabeth & Alfred Charles, his younger brother William and a lady called Alice Gardner.

I was unable to find any record of a marriage for George as I didn’t know his possible wife’s maiden name.

What I did find interesting is that he is buried in a family plot, which contained his parents, his younger brother William who died at the age of 17 and another person called Alice Gardner. Prior to this there has been no mention of Alice in any records of George.

It raises questions as to who Alice Gardner is and all I can assume is that Alice is George’s wife. There is also something else that suggests this, as that they were both living at the same address when they died. George died in 1956 and Alice died in 1985 and on her register it tells us that she was a widow. All these things suggest that George married Alice at some point and they are now buried together in Southern Cemetery.

It is by using the resources that the Manchester City Council Libraries provide that we are able to unravel the history of so many people like George. Especially at this time when the centenary of the First World War is looming fast that we can tell you about soldiers who were born, lived, served, survived and died in Manchester.