St George's House,
Northern Police Orphanage. 1898-1956  Harrogate, Yorkshire, England.


Home Page
Catherine Gurney
St George's Buildings

Miss E. Chapman
Miss E. M. Knocker
Miss E. Duke Turner
Boys & Girls
At Play
Sports/Phys Ed
Emergency Drill
Health/Work Duties
Leaving St George's
The Services
Life at St George's
List of Children
Thank you
Story of St George's
North meets South
News & Events

Police Connections
From the Past
Annual Reports
St Andrew's
Saint George-History
The Children Trust
Police Insignias














































































The Armed Services

 Many of the men & women who were raised at St George's House, fought in the First and Second World Wars and for that matter
 in many of the armed conflicts since then. The intention of this article is to draw attention to the participation of St George's men
 and women in all of the services, including Nursing and the Police Force.  Below are reproduced some of those photographs
 showing their involvement.

 Flanking the St George's flag are two photographs of the 1918 War Memorial.  This memorial was donated in December 1918 by
 Dr & Mrs Crawford Watson and was unveiled by the Rt Honourable John Grenfell Maxwell, PC,GCB,Commander in Chief, Northern
 Command. The image portrayed on the memorial shows the vision of St George appearing to and succouring Richard,Coeur de
 Lion.  Inscribed in gold on the pediment are the words 'Deus Vult', being the Crusaders motto.
 When St George's closed, the Memorial was relocated to St Mary's Church in Westcliffe Terrace then to St Andrew's Police
 Convalescent  Home  (see photo below) and later, donated to the Ripon Museum.
 A further memorial in memory of those from St George's who lost their lives in the Second World War was erected by the Old Boys
 and Girls, Easter 1947, this memorial has recently been refurbished and is also cared for by the Ripon Museum (see photo below)
World War. 1914 - 1918 William S. Meehan Sqn Ldr Leonard Cecil Parkes
Alfred Ashburne Kathleen Webster Jack & Dennis Grist
Richard Ashburne Cadets  
World War. 1939 - 1945 Lt Col (Rt'd) Peter Geraghty MBE,BEM.  
Richard H. Peacock D.F.C John Newton  
Service Men & Women Tom Berry  
Ethel Mary Orrell  Corporal John Philip Bly  

                  World War: 1914 - 1918


          Thirty Seven old boys from St George's served during the First World War and of these, 10 gave their lives.
The Memorial shown above honours all who served and those that fell, it was the gift of Dr and Mrs Crawford Watson
        and the work of Yorkshire artist and sculptor, Frances Darlington.
See Memorials page for more information.


                    Police Constable John Ashburne, who was born in Cumbria, served with the West Yorkshire Police Force,
                    Dewsbury Division. On his death in 1898, his two sons, Richard aged 11 & Alfred aged 8, were cared for by St
                    George's, then called The Northern Police Orphanage. Their arrival in 1898 was shortly after the orphanage was
                    opened as can be seen by their admittance numbers which were Richard (6) and Alfred (7).

                         The two boys emigrated to Canada in the early 1900's and both of them served in the Canadian Armed Forces
                    in the First World War. Richard was killed in France and is buried there, his grave is visited by members of his
                    family, most recently by Vaughn Ashburne, grandson of Alfred. Vaughn still possesses the Bible which Miss 
                    Catherine Gurney (founder of St George's House) presented to his grandfather Alfred Ashburne.  

                 Alfred Ashburne  (7)                                                        
                                                                                Medals awarded to Alfred Ashburne        Alfred Ashburne (aged 80)  


                                                                  Richard Ashburne (6)


                                   Medals awarded to R. Ashburne                                                  Bronze Medal awarded to R. Ashburne

                                  The Memorial letter signed by King George, presented to Richard Ashburne's family on his death.

                                                                                                                                Vaughn Ashburne visiting Richard's grave, France.

                            See also the War Memorial 1914 - 18 on Memorials page, which bears the name of Richard Ashburne   
 Photographs and information kindly provided by Vaughn Ashburne. Further information about PC J. Ashburne
                      is available on the Police Connections page of this website.

                                                     World War: 1939 - 1945

This Memorial was erected by the 'Old' Girls and Boys in Easter 1947 to commemorate the 5 boys from St George's who lost their lives while serving with the Armed Forces during the Second World War. The production of the memorial was carried out by the firm of Robert Thomson, the 'Mouseman of Kilburn'. See Memorials page for more information.

                                                             Richard H. Peacock. D.F.C.
                                                        6/4/1923 - 30/1/2005 (St George's old boy number 402


                                                        Pilot Officer R.H.Peacock  (191819) RAF  (VR) 640 Squadron
                                             Awarded D.F.C.  25/9/1945 - London Gazette.

                                      No. 640 Squadron was formed at Leconfield on 7 January 1944 from C Flight of
                              No.158 Squadron. Equipped with Halifaxes, it took part in the bombing offensive
                              against Germany until the end of the war and disbanded on 7 May, 1945.

Handley Page Halifax B III.


                                     Pilot Officer Peacock has completed numerous sorties against enemy
                                     targets during his first tour of operations. One night, in October,1944
                                     when detailed to attack Cologne, P.O. Peacock was forced to make
                                     a long bombing run through heavy anti-aircraft fire. Despite this, he
                                     continued with his task and bombed the target successfully.
                                     An excellent photograph was secured. This officer has displayed
                                     untiring gallantry and devotion to duty.

Letter of congratulations to P/O R.H.Peacock written           Letter of congratulations to P/O R.H.Peacock 
              by Middlesbrough Chief Constable A.E.Edwards, dated        written by Preston Kitchen CBE, Town Clerk
              11 October, 1945.                                                         of Middlesbrough, dated 9 January, 1946 

              During the Second World War, girls at the Orphanage knitted various articles for the serving men, made camouflage
              nets and in conjunction with the St George's Scout Troop, collected salvage in the neighbourhood to contribute and
              help in the war effort.

Service Men & Women

Some of the St George's old boys and girls who served in the Armed Forces during World War II.

                                                                         Ethel Mary Orrell (359)

                      William S. Meehan (223)          Kathleen Webster (302)

Cadets c.1944. From left to right, Tom Ruddick,                                           Ethel Mary Orrell (359)
           Geoffrey Whitaker, Alfred Lewis, Frank Gilbert and
           Jim Shepherd.

                                               St George's Army Cadets c 1942 - 43
                                      Back: Malcolm Tait, Peter Waddington, Stanley Carter, John Williams
                                      Front: Alfred Lewis, Frank Gilbert, Jim Shepherd

                                                 Lt Col (Rt'd) Peter A. Geraghty  MBE, BEM. 
St George's old boy number 548
                      Peter A. Geraghty. Malaya 1956.

                                                                         John Newton                                                                  
                                                               St George's old boy number 549

                             John Newton, May 1952.               Gloster Meteor F.8
                             John gained his 'Wings' with the
                             RAF after training on Tiger Moths,
                             Harvards and the Gloster Meteor F.8                                                                                        



                                                        Tom Berry  
St George's old boy number 341


                                                    The War Years           
                        Tom Berry: Army Services Number 2581722

79th Armoured Division

I was called up for full time service in 1939, having joined the Territorial Army (Royal Signals) about a year earlier. After periods of service with AA Signals, Northern Command Signals and as Orderly Room Sergeant at 6th Armoured Division Signals I was posted with the same job to 79th Armoured Division Signals in 1943.

The Division was unique in that it's tanks were adapted to deal, initially, with the various problems of terrain and defence, which would face our troops attacking the coast of northern Europe. These included amphibious tanks, on the face of it a contradiction in terms, which could be launched from tank landing craft some distance from the beach and then 'swim' ashore. There were also flame throwers, tanks with circulating heavy chains which cleared a path through minefields, others with a large bobbin of reinforced 'carpet' which could be unrolled over soft ground to provide a useable road for vehicles. There were also a number of others adapted in different ways to provide passage for vehicles over various obstacles.

       A tank, flailing.                                Tank carrying temporary 'road' surfacing.             A 'bobbin' tank

German 'V' Weapons

I think I probably heard the first of the V1's (buzz bombs) and V2's (rockets) which the Germans launched. It was fairly early in June 1944, the invasion of France was well under way, and the Division's tanks were proving their worth. The administrative troops which included my staff, were still in Southern England. Some time during the night I heard an aircraft going over which I took to be an American Flying Fortress limping home on one very dodgy engine. Suddenly the engine cut out and, after a few seconds silence, there was quite a big explosion. I assumed the Flying Fortress had not dropped all of its bombs on the mission and that the crew, of which there were about ten, were lost. However, the next day there was much talk about a pilotless plane and that no Flying Fortress had crashed. I subsequently heard and saw many V1's and there was no doubt that that was what I had heard for the first time.

                German V1 (buzz bomb)                               German V2 Rocket

Some months later the Division headquarters occupied what had been an hotel a few miles south of Antwerp. One evening I was working in the office and had gone outside when I heard a deep rumble coming from the sky. Looking up towards the sound I saw a light coming down and, it seemed to be coming in my general direction. As I hadn't the faintest idea what it was, it seemed a good idea to squat down between two Jeeps which were parked fairly close together.  Fortunate that I did as, not too far away, there was an enormous explosion and part of the hotel's roof came down, but didn't hit me. Even more fortunate was the fact that the rocket, for that was what it was, landed in very soft ground and left a large crater, thus doing little other damage. If it had landed on a hard surface the outcome might have been very different.  I believe this must have been the first of these weapons to be used as the following day General Montgomery came to inspect the scene.
While we occupied this building we seemed to be on the regular flight path for the V1's. On one occasion the Adjutant had come into my office to talk about something or other when we heard a V1 approaching. As my desk was immediately in front of the window we moved into the corridor to finish our conversation. After a short while a little terrier came along the corridor and sat between my legs, absolutely shaking with fear. He was obviously well acquainted with V1's as immediately this one had exploded he trotted off quite happily.

Belsen Concentration Camp

The camp was liberated by British and Canadian troops in mid April, 1945, but few of the men can have imagined the horrors they were going to find there. They were accompanied by Richard Dimbleby who, in his report for the BBC, described the day at Belsen as the most horrible of his life. Michael Bentine, visiting shortly afterwards, described the camp as "the ultimate blasphemy".
There were tens of thousands of prisoners and another 13,000 corpses, in various stages of decomposition, lay unburied around the camp, both inside and outside the huts. Belsen did not have gas chambers to eliminate its prisoners, as some other concentration camps had, but it did have typhus and starvation. These took a dreadful toll, made so much worse by the terrible overcrowding. Among those dying within a few weeks before the liberation were Anne Frank and her sister Margot.  Anne's diary, describing the experiences of her and her family in occupied Amsterdam, was later published.
An immediate necessity was the burial of the dead and this was carried out in mass graves by very reluctant German and Hungarian guards. Apparently the people in a nearby village claimed ignorance of what had been going on, but the smell alone must have made them wonder. However they were left in no doubt when they were made to walk round the open graves and see for themselves the horror of tangled corpses which they contained.

German medical staff were made to clean and delouse the survivors, who were moved into a nearby German army camp. There were, however, serious problems with regard to food as the prisoners were unable to cope with a normal diet after their periods of starvation. Unfortunately, very many were beyond recall and, in spite of the efforts of the medical people, a large number died in the following few months.

My own impression of some of the male prisoners was of their striped uniforms hanging from coat-hangers, topped with skulls. There seemed to be so little flesh on faces or bodies.
As the only way of dealing with the infestation, our flame thrower tanks were given the job of burning down the prison huts.
This seemed a fitting end to the camp which had been the scene of sadistic cruelty and so much misery and suffering.

Tom Berry. 2009

                                                  Corporal John Philip Bly, 2721129 RAFP
                                                               St George's old boy number 570

His father was Police Sergeant Philip Bly of the Lincolnshire Constabulary and John, himself, was a Police Cadet with the same Force. His father died, aged 49, in the December Quarter of 1944.
At the time John Bly lived in Wharfe Road, Crowle, Lincolnshire, he subsequently entered St George's in January 1945.
John spent part of his National service in Malta and lost his life in an air accident, aged 20, on 18 February, 1956, just a month prior to the completion of his National Service obligation.

In the St George's Annual Report for 1955 - 1956 is the following reference to John Philip Bly:

“One sad item of news we received in February was that Corporal John Philip Bly (Lincs), who left St. George’s in April 1952, was killed in the plane which crashed on Malta on February 18th. We had a long letter from him in the previous August saying how he was looking forward to the completion of his National Service in March 1956, and hoping to become engaged to be married, and it seems hard to grasp that his promising young life had come to such a sudden end.”
                                                                           Signed: E. P. Duke Turner.  Lady Superintendent

                  Avro York aircraft

The Military Report included the following:


18 FEB 1956


12:23 UTC


Avro 685 York C.1


Scottish Airlines



C/n / msn:


First flight:



Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 5


Fatalities: 45 / Occupants: 45


Fatalities: 50 / Occupants: 50

Airplane damage:

Written off

Airplane fate:

Written off (damaged beyond repair)


near Zurrieq (Malta)


En route (ENR)


Int'l Non Scheduled Passenger

Departure airport:

Malta-Luqa Airport (MLA/LMML), Malta

Destination airport:

London-Stansted Airport (STN/EGSS), United Kingdom

Avro York G-ANSY took off from Malta-Luqa Airport at 12:21 for a flight to London Stansted. Shortly after becoming airborne the boost enrichment capsule in the carburetor of the no. 1 engine failed, causing a fire in the engine. It is presumed that the engine stopped producing power after 30 seconds of flight. The propeller was not feathered as the aircraft slowly climbed to 700-800 feet amsl (300-400 feet agl) with a 'crabbing' or 'yawing' motion to the left. Shortly after retracting the flaps, while still in a nose up attitude at very low flying speed, the aircraft stalled and dove to the ground.
The aircraft was engaged to fly Service Personnel from the Suez area to the UK and had stopped to refuel on Malta. In attempting to return to the airfield at Luqa the aircraft crashed killing all 50 passengers and crew on board.

                                                    Squadron Leader. Leonard Cecil Parkes
St George's old boy, number 120

                  Leonard Cecil Parkes, born 20 April, 1902, entered St George's in 1906. Child number 120.
                  Served in United States Marine Corps c1925
                  RCAF 1939 - 45 O.C. Squadron Leader. Commanding Officer of Wireless No2 School Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
                  Camp X 1940 - 45.
                  Died, 21 April 1949, serving with Royal Canadian Air Force, he was killed when his plane (a Hudson)
                  crashed on route from Ottawa to New Brunswick. The crash site was not found until 7 years later, by
                  hunters, in a remote wooded area. Sqn Ldr Leonard Parkes was identified by the watch he was wearing.

                                                     Typical Lockheed Hudson aircraft.

Early photograph of Leonard C. Parkes         Squadron Leader, Leonard Cecil Parkes. RCAF.

                                                                      Jack & Dennis Grist 
St George's old boys numbered 368 & 363

Jack Grist (368) was born in Skegness, Lincolnshire on 4th August 1915. Before WWII and after leaving St George's he worked at the County Hall Boston.During the war he reached the rank of Captain and was serving in Palestine up to at least 1948 where he met and married an American - Dorothy May Donnell (she was something to do with scouting and the girl guide movement) on 10th March 1948 in  Nuseirat. He was in charge of transport.

Dennis Grist (363) was born in Alford, Lincolnshire on 21st may 1921 and died on 26th February 2004 in Boston Lincolnshire.During WWII he spent time in Canada - Winnipeg and Malta. He married Mary Georgiana Pinches in Boston on 16th June 1952 and was a clerical officer with the Inland Revenue.       

                                 Captain Jack Grist with his wife Dorothy           Dennis Grist
                          Photo taken in Palestine, 1948                        Photo taken in Toronto



Return to top of Page

                                                                                                     Deus vult

                                        Email contact: