George Joseph RAYNER


RAYNER, George Joseph

Service Number: 2268
Enlisted: 11 July 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd Pioneer Battalion
Born: Ascot Vale, Victoria, May 1894
Home Town: Footscray, Maribyrnong, Victoria
Schooling: Footscray State School
Occupation: Driver
Died: Killed in Action, France, 5 October 1918
Cemetery: Villers-Bretonneux Memorial
No known grave
Memorials: Ascot Vale War Memorial, Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

11 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2268, Melbourne, Victoria
27 Sep 1915: Involvement Private, SN 2268, 23rd Infantry Battalion
27 Sep 1915: Embarked Private, SN 2268, 23rd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Melbourne
5 Oct 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2268, 2nd Pioneer Battalion, Montbrehain

Rayner, George Joseph. SN 2268.

From Michael Ganey, part of the commemoration of the Centenary of Montbrehain 5/10/1918

George Rayner was the youngest child born to Charles and Amelia Rayner in Ascot Vale in Melbourne in 1894. He lived with his two older brothers and three sisters in Footscray and he attended the state school in Footscray.
He enlisted as a 21 year old labourer in Melbourne on the 15th July 1915 as part of the 4th Reinforcements to the 23rd Battalion andembarked on the HMAT A 20 Hororata on the 27th of September 1915.
He ended up in the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Cairo on the 10th of January 1916. George’s army records are incomplete and it is not known where or what he did until entries into his file began again on the 27th November 1916. By this stage, he was now serving with the 2nd Pioneer Battalion in France.
He caught the flu again on the 12th January 1917 and this caused ‘debility’ according to his records and he was evacuated to England. When he was better, he went AWL for one day in early March and he lost two days pay and in late April he was assigned to the Pioneer Training Battalion. He rejoined the 2nd Pioneer Battalion back in France on the 8th October 1917.
In May 1918 he was detached for a period to the 238th Royal Engineers where he served with this unit until he was given leave to a ‘Rest Camp’ on August and he rejoined the 2nd Pioneers on the 26th of August 1918.
George was killed in action at Montbrehain on the 5th October 1918. How he died was not recorded. His records simply noted that he was ‘buried in the vicinity of Montbrehain’. It appears that no court of enquiry about his death or burial was ever held.
Red cross interviews later pieced together what had happened to George. It appears that George was in C Company and was part of a machine gun crew which consisted of himself, Charles Bateman, Joseph Taylor and another unidentified soldier. The company had advanced too far and were under fire from the Germans when a shell burst killed George, Joseph and Charles. The company had to retire a short distance and left the dead where they fell. It was later left to the Americans to bury the dead in this vicinity. Either poor work by the Americans or poor communication to the Australian forces resulted in a number of pioneers being lost of forever, to be known as ‘A Soldier of the Great War – Known Unto God’. George Rayner is one of them.
As George was killed at the same time and place as Joseph Taylor and Charles Bateman, it would be fair to say that they all would have probably been buried in the same location. As Joseph and Charles are buried in the High Tree Cemetery, it would be logical that George would be buried there as well. In the High Tree Cemetery there are two graves of unknown Australian soldiers in plots A.2 and A.3. George ‘probably’ lies in one of them.

Private George Rayner is commemorated at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial
His family paced a death notice in The Independent (Footscray) on the 2nd November 1918.
RAYNER: - Killed in action in France on the 5th October, Private George Rayner, beloved youngest son of Charles and Amelia Rayner of 62 McPherson Street Footscray. Loving brother of Henry, Amelia (Mrs Moyle), Emma (Mrs Stanley), the late William, Alice (Mrs Kent) and Arthur. Aged 24 months 6 months.
“Brothers United, sadly missed.”
We pictured your safe return dear George
And Longed to clasp your hand
But God has postponed the meeting
Twill be in a better land.

A year later many soldiers had returned to Australia and many more were arriving home every week. This influenced the family when they placed a tribute to George, again in the Independent, on the 11th October 1919.
RAYNER: - In loving memory of our dear son, George killed in action on the 5th October 1918.
On Australia’s roll of honour
You will find our dear George’s name;
When we see the boys returning,
Our hearts do throb with pain
To think that you are not there, George,
And will never come home again.

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