SERGEANT GEORGE LOWBRIDGE
22ND OCTOBER 1917 AGE 21
BURIED: AEROPLANE CEMETERY, WEST-VLAANDEREN, BELGIUM
As if the death of your son was not enough grief, the fact that you had not been at his side when he died, had not been able to say goodbye, hold his hand or soothe his brow, added another layer of sorrow. The nineteenth century had idealised the 'good death': the loved one lying surrounded by their family who had gathered to say goodbye, hear their last words, comfort them. For George Lowbridge's parents, it was unbearable to think of him dying alone.
Lowbridge, a bootmaker from Newcastle, New South Wales, had been at war since he left Australia in November 1915. Travelling across France from Marseilles in the spring of 1916 he told his parents how lovely and fresh the air was after Egypt, how like home. But he was struck by the general air of sadness in all the towns and villages:
"It would do some of our Australian boys good to come here and learn a lesson - the slackers I mean. All that are left are the old men and women. Their sons have all gone to war."
By October 1917, Lowbridge was a sergeant who had been recommended for a Military Medal for "conspicuous bravery" at Polygon Wood less than a month before he was killed. There are no details of his death but the war diary records:
"22nd October Support line Anzac Ridge. Officers 40, ORs 811. Fairly heavy shelling all day. Carrying party supplied, heavy casualties to our NCOs during the day. 2 ORs killed in action, 9 ORs wounded, 2 evacuated sick."
Among the dead were two sergeants, George Lowbridge and Eustace King, and Corporal David Price. Price and Lowbridge enlisted in Newcastle on the same day - 18 July 1915 - embarked from Australia in the same ship on the same day - 9 November 1915 - and were killed in action on the same day. Sometime later, in the In Memoriam column of the local Newcastle newspaper, the following announcement appeared:
"In loving memory of our dear comrades, Sergeant George Lowbridge and Corporal D. Price, killed in action October 22, 1917 - Inserted by their comrades, F.W. Keen, F. Field and D.T. Brewster."