George Bryant had been a member of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, the very same organisation that had opened the shop in Toad Lane seventy years beforehand. He had worked for the Society for twenty years, rising to become manager at their Dearnley branch.
Bryant joined the Lancashire Fusiliers as a private. He was sent out to the front lines in January 1916. In August of that year, the Equitable Pioneers Society made petitions for Bryant to be exempted from duty on the grounds that he had appendicitis. Various co-operative societies often appealed on behalf of their former employees to excuse them from military service either for a short time or permanently. The courts exempted him from duty until he could be medically examined to ascertain the extent of his illness. George was passed for his medical exam, and sent back to the front lines to fight. Unfortunately, a month after he was sent back to the battle zone, he went missing during an engagement with the enemy on 23 October 1916. He was declared dead on 31 July 1917.
Rochdale Observer, 5 August 1916, page 2
Rochdale Observer, 2 September 1916, page 2
Rochdale Observer, 1 September 1917, page 6.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight. Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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