George Elmitt

Co. 50

A young soldier

My soldier and I are not all that different from each other, in fact we have a couple of similarities; we both lived in Bray, Co. Wicklow, we both went to the town's local school and we are both one of four children. However there is one key distinction between us other than difference of generation; I turned 17 last June, George turned 17, 102 years ago, in 1915 and in June of that year he enlisted to fight in "The Great War". 

He died before the end of his second decade and left behind a mother who had lost two of her sons, within four months of each other, to this terrible and futile war. 

George Carleton Brooksbey Elmitt


George's story expands all over Ireland and Europe.

  • Antrim, where he was born.
  • Wicklow, where he lived and went to school.
  • He enlisted in Cork. 
  • London, where his parents met and married.
  • Ypres, Belgium where he fought and died.

That is where George's life ended, but not his story.

George was born on the 11th of March 1898, in the Scotch Institute, Larne, Co. Antrim and his birth was registered on the 1st of April in Carrickfergus. 

He was the second child to George and Austina Elmitt, who already had his older brother Austin and was later followed by his two younger siblings Margaret and Edward. The family moved to Bray after George was born and resided in the house pictured above.

George and his siblings attended Aravon School in Bray as it was the only Church of Ireland school in the area. The school had a plaque commissioned for all their students who died in the First World War. George and Austin's names are on the bottom left corner. The plaque currently resides in Christ Church Bray as the school closed down in 2013. 

George's father, George Edward Brooksbey Elmitt was born in 1864 in Lincolnshire, London, he married Austina Cornwall in 1896. He was a lieutenant in the Donegal Artillery and a Major in the special service company of the Antrim Artillery. He died in 1905, aged 40. 

George enlisted at Kilworth camp Co. Cork on the 2nd of June 1915 and joined the 16th Division, Royal irish Rifles 7th battalion. Upon enlistment he was described as 5ft 11.5" and had two moles on his lower left jaw. 

George and Austin both enlisted at different times and places, I imagine to serve their country as their father had done before them.

After enlisting, The 7th Battalion moved to Aldershot and on 20th of December 1915 they were mobilised for war and landed at La Harve. George and his battalion took part in The Battle of Guillemont and Ginchy in 1916, and The Battle of Messines in 1917. 

This is a letter that George wrote on the 14th of December 1916 to apply for extended sick leave as he had been injured on the 6th of September at the Battle of Guillemont. The medical report for his injuries stated that he had an wound sustained to the front of his left leg but was healing well with no sepsis. He was granted 4 weeks extended sick leave by the war office. 

The 7th Battalion kept war diaries which are hand written accounts for each day of the war. I am going to focus on the events that took place between the 16th-18th of August 1917, which was the battle of Langemarck, third battle of Ypres. The 16th of August in particular has a 4 page detailed account of what happened that day. This is also the date in which George is suspected to have died. He was reported missing in action on  the 16th of August 1917. The report was sent to his mother in Bray who immediately inquired for more information about her son, undoubtedly hoping that he would be found. 

After Austina's inquiry about her son, the war office contacted The Red Cross to see if they had identified any soldiers that might be George. The Red Cross wrote back to say that they had made contact with a soldier who believed he was with George the day he was reported missing. M. Moran of the Connaught Rangers stated " [George] had passed our lines about 157 yards when he saw L. Elmitt drop without a sound on his knees and then on the ground." It was later reported that they had found his disc but his body was buried without a name. 

Austina, obviously grief-stricken, did not believe that her son was dead, as she had received news of Austin's death soon after George had been reported missing. Desperate to find information, she asked for the prisoners-of-war camps to be checked for her son. Unfortunately, there was no record of him in any prisoner-of-war camps. 

Nearly two years after George was reported missing and a year after the war had ended, Austina wrote to the war office saying she now felt she had to accept his death. 

The British war office issued the official death notice on the 19th of September 1919. 

His mother applied for his medal on the 27th of June 1921 and was issued his service medal. 

Austina now had medals instead of her husband and two of her sons. 

George's name is listed on the World War One memorial in our home town of Bray. There may have been 102 years between myself and George but we both have a story, and I'm privileged that part of mine has been telling his. 

My story

My name is Sarah McGrath, I am 17 years old and I am a student in Loreto Bray Secondary School, Wicklow. I first heard about this project through my history teacher, Ms Power and thought it was such a unique idea that I had to apply. I felt a great sense of honour, pride and astonishment when I found out that I had been selected to represent Leinster and I could not wait to get started. 

A love affair with history

My interest in history sparked at a very young age because I was always curious about the past. I vividly remember pestering my dad about both the first and second world wars, asking how they began, what happened during them, and who came out victorious. I recall a family car journey to Belfast where i took it upon myself to give a three hour long dictation to my family from the about the time of Christopher Columbus' first expedition all the way to the Second World War. I can't imagine they were too impressed but I was completely in my element . So naturally I was incredibly eager to be a part of this project. 

first meeting at collins barracks.

We met on the 4th of February where we all got a chance to meet each other for the first time. We had some ice-breaker games to help us get to know each other and we all became friends very quickly. Then we listened to all the speakers who told us about the project, what we would be doing and all about the last trip as well. Each province split up into groups and we were given our soldiers and discussed how we would conduct our research. 

Group picture at first meeting

second meeting

After spending an unhealthy amount of time on genealogy websites and deciphering the handwriting of the British War Office, we had all our research completed and our power-points at the ready for our second meeting. One person from each province presented their research and we all answered questions about our experience so far. We talked about what the plans for the trip were and took some photographs as well. 

trip to belgium.

All fifteen of us headed to Dublin airport on the 20th of June from all around Ireland. We stayed in the Irish College in Leuven, just outside Brussels. It was a beautifully historic city and had some amazing architecture. We explored the city and accustomed ourselves to the heat with our German counterparts. Some more presentations were made later that evening from both Irish and German students. 

Our first stop was the European Parliament where we met the Irish MEP, Marian Harkin, and the German MEP Gesine Mei├čner. I got the chance to present my research in the parliament itself along with one of the German students. It was such a proud moment to be able to tell my soldiers story in such an important and historic building.

We made our way across Belgium, visiting everyone's soldier's graves and memorials. Everyone got a chance to speak at their soldier's grave and take a minute of silence to remember them. We stayed in Ypres for a night as well.

Visiting German Cemetery.

 Commonwealth Cemetery.

It was very sobering to see the sheer amount of graves and memorials for both the Commonwealth and the German soldiers. We got to see so many important historical remnants from the war including the peace pool, battlefields and cemeteries. 

Peace pool

Restored German Trenches

This is a picture of me at The Tyne Cot Memorial standing beside my soldier's name. It was an extremely surreal and emotional experience as I feel that I have formed a bond with my soldier through doing all my research. 

This project has been the experience of a lifetime and I have made friends for life along the way. I want to thank the dedicated committee for bringing us to Belgium and enabling us to take part in this project. I have loved contributing to the history of my soldier, my country and the world. History brought us together to remember the past and will enable us to better our futures. 

The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.

 Theodore Roosevelt