George Palmer Carpenter was born in Worthing, West Sussex, in 1881, one of fourteen children to James and Elizabeth Carpenter. James ran the Steyne Hotel on the seafront, and sent his boys off to the Lucton Boarding School in Henfield for their education.
A regimented life seems to have suited George. When he left school, he enlisted in army, joining the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. The 1901 census found him billeted at the Elphinstone Barracks in Portsmouth.
Sadly, there is little further documentation on the life of Sapper Carpenter. He served through to and during the Great War, attaining the rank of Serjeant. He was sent to France in May 1915, though there is little to confirm his role there, or how long he stayed.
Serjeant Carpenter was subsequently attached to G Depot Company of the Royal Engineers, which received men returned from Expeditionary Force and also men enlisted for Tunnelling Companies, Special Companies and other specialist units. By this time – presumably later on in the conflict – he was based back in England, at the regiment’s barracks in Chatham, Kent.
When the war came to a close, George continued with his army career. With conflict in Europe coming end, he was shipped to Singapore in 1917, where he served through to 1920. A Sussex newspaper picked up his story from there:
Much sympathy will be extended to Mrs Carpenter and her family, of the Steyne Hotel, consequent upon the death of Sergeant George Carpenter, of the Royal Engineers, another of our Worthing boys whose life has been laid down in his country’s service. He arrived home in a bad state of health on the 25th of February last from Singapore, where he had been on duty for three years. Suffering from gastric influenza, it was found necessary that he should undergo an operation, which was carried out at midnight on Saturday. But he sank from weakness, and died at half-past eight on Sunday morning. This is the second son of whom Mrs Carpenter has been bereaved within a year, and there is pathos in the words addressed to us by her: “I have again the sorrowful task of sending the news of the death of one of my sons this morning.Worthing Gazette: Wednesday 24th March 1920
George Palmer Carpenter was 39 years old. He was laid to rest in the Broadwater Cemetery of his home town, Worthing, in West Sussex.
The other brother referred to in the report was George’s younger brother Norman.
He had emigrated to Canada in 1906, but returned to Europe as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force when war broke out. Wounded in battle in May 1917, he returned to the UK for treatment and recuperation, and remained on home soil for the rest of the war.
In the spring of 1919, he was admitted to hospital with pleurisy and anaemia, and seems that he never fully recovered, succumbing to the conditions in August of that year. He was just 32 years old.