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  • Christina Drummond

Lieutenant Geoffrey St. George Shillington Cather VC, 9th Battalion, the Royal Irish Fusiliers

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Lieutenant Geoffrey St. George Shillington Cather VC, 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme.

Educated at Rugby, he was employed at Tetley’s (where his father was a partner) before enlisting with the 28th London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles) in 1909, serving as a private. He left the army two years later to travel in North America, returning in 1914 and enlisting in 19th Royal Fusiliers (2nd Public Schools Battalion) at the outbreak of the Great War. He was commissioned into the Royal Irish Fusiliers in May of 1915, and promoted to Lieutenant on arrival in France in October, before being appointed Adjutant in December. At the time he was described as “brave and fearless' and 'ready at all times to extend a kindly hand.”

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the day before his death, he spent hours searching No Man’s Land and brought in several wounded men. Six hundred men of the 9th Battalion had been involved in the fighting, but only eighty returned to the lines; the cries for help from the wounded could be heard as the battle continued. Lieutenant Cather took water to the dying and set about carrying or dragging men to safety. One observer noted: “How his slight figure was able to aid and almost carry helpless and heavier men was a wonder, and no sooner did he hand a man to willing hands at the wire than he was back again to continue his search.”

The following morning at first light he continued the search despite snipers, machine gun fire and intermittent artillery fire. At 10:30 that morning he was hit by a machine-gun burst and died quickly. He was buried near Beaumont Hamel but a fellow officer had removed his ID discs and therefore he was not identifiable when his and other bodies were recovered some time later. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, Picardie, France. He was awarded the Victoria Cross “for most conspicuous bravery” and for him having “set a splendid example of courage and self-sacrifice.”

Geoffrey, from Streatham Hill, London, was 25 years old.

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