Looking back at the life of George T. Swales, the month of May was filled with many important, life changing events. Earlier in the month, on the 3rd of May, 1902, he married his beloved Rosanna. Today, May 21, 2013, marks the 96th anniversary of another significant occasion in George’s life, his “voluntary” enlistment in the British Army.
By 1917, George, Rosanna and their young son, Bernard had lived in Fall River, Massachusetts for nearly 10 years. Presumably they had no intentions of moving back to England, but for whatever reason, had not yet become naturalized citizens of the US.
Family lore has it that George went away one weekend in March of 1917 on a “toot” with some friends and somehow ended up in Canada. What happened from that point on, we can only speculate. Most likely, George was stopped at the border on his return to the US and was detained by Canadian officials because he was a British citizen. At this point in World War I with the British Army in dire straits, conscription had been instituted and all British men from ages 18-41 were required to serve in the military for the duration of the war. According to George’s military records, he arrived in Glasgow, Scotland on March 20, 1917 aboard the ship Saturnia, a steam ship that regularly traveled from Montreal and Quebec to Glasgow.
From Scotland, George made his way to Burnley, Lancashire, England, the city he had emigrated from in 1907. By this point in time, all of George’s sisters and their families had immigrated to Fall River, so he moved in with Rosanna’s sister, Polly Bradshaw, and her family at 44 Holbeck Street. George was ordered to appear for a physical on May 21, 1917. Although at 44 years old he was considered over age, George passed the physical and was deemed fit for enlistment. By the time the war ended, the maximum age limit had been raised to 51 years old.
For the next two years, George was in His Majesty’s service, abiding by the oath below, which he swore to uphold on this date, 96 years ago:
I, George Thomas Swales swear by Almighty God, that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to His Majesty King George the Fifth, His Heirs, and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, His Heirs, and Successors, in Person, Crown, and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, and of the Generals and Officers set over me. So help me God.