George Cain was born on 27th December 1896, and was one of eleven children to Edward and Florence Cain. Edward was a house painter from Richmond in Surrey, who passed away when George was a child, leaving Florence to raise the family. She found work as a shopkeeper in the town, and, when he left school, George was apprenticed to a printer to help bring in some extra money.
He had moved on to compositing – setting type – when war broke out. With conflict raging in Europe, George felt the need to play his part and, on 31st July 1915, he enlisted in the Royal Navy. His records show that he was 5ft 7ins (1.7m) tall, had dark brown hair, brown eyes and a pale complexion.
George was given the rank of Junior Reserve Attendant, supporting medical staff in the navy’s sick bays. After a couple of weeks at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, he was posted to the town’s main hospital, where he remained for just under two years, and where he received a promotion to Senior Reserve Attendant.
In July 1917, George was reassigned to HMS Pembroke. That summer was particularly busy for the base, and temporary accommodation was set up in the Drill Hall; this is where George found himself billeted.
On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham suddenly found itself in the firing line as a wave of German aircraft bombed the town. The Drill Hall received a direct hit, and Senior Reserve Assistant Cain was injured. He was admitted to the hospital at which he had worked just weeks before, but died of his wounds the following day. He was just 20 years old.
George Cain was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham, along with the other servicemen who had perished during the Chatham Air Raid that night.