George Mervyn Cornish
George was born on 11 September 1884 in Yarmouth, Norfolkshire, nestled on the shores of the North Sea. Yarmouth missed out on being the easternmost point in England by just a few metres, that honour went to Lowestoft, a town a few kilometres south of Yarmouth. Young George was the first child of Australian expats, Lt. George William Cornish and Maud Ethel Nathan.
George Sr. had a most interesting career. In 1877, at the tender age of 17, George Sr. received a commission in the Royal Navy as a Midshipman. By 1879, George Sr. was serving on Her Majesty's frigate, the Raleigh. George was promoted to sub-lieutenant in 1881, and by 1884, George Sr was serving on the Corvette Briton. A promotion to Lieutenant followed in 1885. At some point, George Sr. married Maud and the young couple moved to England. They moved around a fair bit as George Sr's postings took him to various coastal stations in England.
George Sr. and Maud had a second child in 1897. Young Norah Brooking Cornish was born in Weymouth on the Dorset coast. Four years later, the young family was living in Youghal, County Cork in Ireland. They were evidently fairly well off, for the household included a couple of cooks, a nanny and a coachman. At the time, George Sr. was serving as a Lieutenant within the Royal Navy and was a Divisional Officer of the Coast Guard. In 1906, George Sr. retired from the Royal Navy with the rank of Commander and the family settled down in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent.
One would expect that young George, with such a sea-faring history in his family would have followed in his father's footsteps, but George was not a sailor. By 1911, George was attending Sherbourne School, a private boy's school in northwest Dorset. A decade later, young Alan Turing would attend the same school and go on to become England's best code-breaker during World War II.
|Artists Rifles Badge|
|Grenadier Guards Badge|
In 1938, George, now a Major, returned to London from Jamaica and took up residence at 417 Nell Gwynn House in Chelsea, a few blocks from the Chelsea Barracks. Unlike many of his military brethern, George apparently never married before the war. His first, and only love, was the Grenadier Guards.
On 1 August, 1939, George was appointed Lt. Colonel and given command of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards. His battalion was quickly sent to France where, on 12 September, 1939, it was inspected by His Majesty the King. On 20 April, 1940, George was transferred back to London where he was given command of the Holding Battalion Grenadier Guards, a move that would save him from the humiliating evacuation at Dunkirk in June 1940. A year later, in July 1941, George was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).
After the war, George retired from the Army and eventually passed away in Truro, Cornwall, the town in which his parents had eventually settled. There is some evidence that in 1947 he may have married one Josephine Phyllis Carlisle.
Ancestry.co.uk - Birth, Marriage, Death, Census records, Passenger Lists.
Army List - 1941.
Artists Rifles. Regimental Roll of Honour and War Record 1914-1919, S. Stagoll Higham (ed.) 1922.
London Gazette - various notices.
Navy List - various years.
Orders of Battle website.
World War 2 Guards website.