The rush of volunteers to fill the ranks of the Kitchener battalions in the last days of the summer of 1914 created a desperate shortage of N.C.O.s which was met largely by enlisting ex-army regulars. George Lee, then aged 52, a veteran of the Zulu War with 12 years army service in India behind him, was one of the first to offer his services to the Accrington battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment. Within a day of enlisting, he was appointed Company Sergeant Major in the Accrington Pals.
An opportunity for service in another corner of the British Empire came as early as December when George transferred again, this time to the 30th Regiment, soon to be re-designated as the 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment. On 7th January 1880, 12-years service with his regiment in India began when George embarked on the troopship HMS Serapis at Portsmouth. Starting with his appointment as Lance Corporal early in 1883, a series of promotions took him to the rank of Colour Sergeant by 1st July 1888. The following year, he married Martha Marshall at Calaba, Bombay on 6th March.
Shortly after returning to England from India in 1892, George was appointed drill instructor to The King's (Liverpool Regiment). Having received the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal in 1897, he was discharged to pension on 25th September 1899 having completed 21 years 23 days service, entitling him to a pension of 2/6 (12½p) per day.
George retired to a house in Westwood Street, Accrington only to re-join the army in July 1900 as temporary drill instructor to the 5th V.B. East Lancashire Regiment. For the additional 40 months of service his pension was increased by the grand sum of 1½d per day!
As an ex-regular army N.C.O., George was welcomed into the ranks of the Accrington Pals in September 1914, despite his 52 years of age. He was promoted to Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant in October and continued to serve with the Pals until - suffering from rheumatism - he was invalided home from France on 25th May 1916. After leaving hospital, he spent short spells with both the 10th and 12th (Reserve) Battalions of the East Lancashire Regiment before being discharged from the army on 10th August.
After the war, George returned to the West Country where he died at Devonport on 4th August 1936.
© Andrew C Jackson 2008
Compiled from TNA document WO97/3277 and with the kind help of Dennis Hounsell.