Horses powered driver through war

COFFS Harbour's George family will pay tribute to one special Anzac.

The family will gather at the historical Coffs Harbour Cemetery at 8am today to lay a wreath on the grave of Driver Alexander Henry George.

A member of the 1st Field Artillery, Regimental No 642, served in Gallipoli and later went on to fight in France.

Among the first contingent to go to World War I, he enlisted on August 24, 1914 and sailed for Egypt on the troopship HMAT Argyllshire on October 18, 1914.

WWI soldier Alexander Henry George will be remembered by his family today as they lay a wreath at his grave in Coffs Harbour.
WWI soldier Alexander Henry George will be remembered by his family today as they lay a wreath at his grave in Coffs Harbour. Contributed

The 1st Field Artillery Brigade went to the landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915 but was unable to land its guns due to the unsuitability of the terrain.

AH George was part of the 1st Battery which went ashore at 3am the next day and went into action with one gun and two wagons.

Extracts from the war diary of the AIF's 1st field artillery graphically demonstrate the difficulties the Anzacs faced as they struggled to land men, guns, horses and ammunition from the sea at the foot of steep cliffs, under fire from Turkish troops trying to sink their ships and scuttle their landing craft.

In the next four years Alexander George would also see action throughout the Western Front and the Somme before returning to Australia on HMAT Devon on November 24, 1918.

He was discharged two months later.

His son, Lieutenant Colonel John George, OBE, said he remembered as a child watching his father fill out his RSL application form on the kitchen table.

Seeing him write 'DVR', The youngster asked what it stood for and on being told it meant 'driver' his father gave him a very different picture by telling him "them's not cars, them's horses."

He said his father had been lucky to avoid being wounded in the four years of conflict, but lost one of his two brothers, who died of wounds in Sydney after the war.

His father rarely spoke about his overseas experiences and had few mementoes, his son said.

"He had a few things - a German telephone box and loads of badges," Lt-Col George said.

Driver George, who moved the family to Coffs Harbour in 1946, died in 1962 aged 67, two years after John left Coffs Harbour High School to join the Army.

He was not around to see John leave for yet another war overseas, the Vietnam War, where he served as a young lieutenant.

John George, who is now retired, went on to distinguish himself and later receive an OBE for his services in raising Australia's Norforce in 1981 and commanding the famous northern Australian Army regiment in its early years.