Private George Cartwright, V.C.

On 31st August 2018 a ceremony was held at the War Memorial in Sloane Square to mark the 100th Anniversary of the action for which George Cartwright was awarded the Victoria Cross

The Chelsea Society was represented by its Chairman, Dr. James Thompson

The ceremony was attended by the Mayor of Kensington & Chelsea, Cllr. Marie-Therese Rossi; Lady Arnold, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for London; His Excellency George Brandis QC, High Commissioner for Australia; Rt.Hon Greg Hands MP;  members of George Cartwright’s family; and representatives of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

George Cartwright was born in Chelsea on 9th December 1894.   He was the son of a coach trimmer and in 1912, at the age of 18, he emigrated alone to Australia.

He took a job as a labourer on a sheep station in the Elsmore district, near Inverell, New South Wales.

On 16th December 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force.   In May of the following year he embarked for England where the division in which he served underwent training before deployment to France in November.

Cartwright was wounded in action on 9th June 1917 at Messines, Belgium, but remained on duty.   He was one of 271 officers and soldiers from his battalion who were victims of the Germans’ concentrated gas-attack at Villiers-Bretonneux, France, on 17th April 1918.   After a period in hospital he re-joined his unit in June.

On 31st August 1918 the Australian Corps assaulted the enemy’s formidable position at Mont St. Quentin, overlooking Peronne.   The 33rd Battalion attacked south-west of Bouchavesnes at 5.40am.   Lacking adequate artillery support at the outset, the leading troops were stopped by machine-gun fire from a post at the corner of Road Wood.   Without hesitation, Private Cartwright stood up and walked towards the gun, firing his rifle from the shoulder:  he shot the gunner and two who tried to replace him.

Cartwright then threw a bomb at the post and, covered by the explosion, rushed forward, capturing the gun and nine German soldiers.   Cheering loudly, the Australians renewed their advance.   For the most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the morning of 31st August 1918, Cartwright was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 30th September, during the attack on the Hindenburg line, he was wounded in the head and left arm, and evacuated to England.   Having received his V.C. from King George V, he returned to Australia and was discharged from the A.I.F. on 16th May 1919.

Survived by his wife, and by the son of his first marriage, he died on 2nd February 1978. He is commemorated in the New South Wales Garden of Remembrance, Rookwood.

It was George’s wish that all of his medals be sent to the UK after his death, and his widow presented his V.C. and other medals to the Imperial War Museum, London, where they can be seen today.

A memorial stone was laid in the pavement adjacent to the War Memorial

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