George Straw was a Crimean War veteran whose funeral prompted the newspaper headline "Regrettable Blunder", as the expected "buried with full military honours" failed to materialise.
The Salford Reporter of 2nd June 1906 records:
"Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,
As his corpse to the ramparts we hurried,
Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot,
O'er the grave where our hero we buried."
It continued "The above lines, taken from Charles Wolfe's famous poem to commemorate the burial of Sir John Moore(*), who fell at Corunna, might also have been written to apply to George Straw, the old Crimean veteran who was killed by a motor lorry on Monday 14th May and whose funeral took place on Saturday (26th May 1906) at Weaste Cemetery".
George Straw was born in Lincoln in 1824. He trained as a Whitesmith, (Tinsmith), but at the age of 22, he decided to enlist in the 68th Light Infantry (later to become the Durham Regiment) on 10th September 1846, at Warwick. His first posting was in Ireland and he was stationed at Dublin, Elphin, Galway and Limerick. From there he was transferred to Malta, where he landed on 20th March 1851. When the Crimean War broke out he was transferred there, landing on 14th September 1855. George took part in the battles of Inkerman, Alma, Balaclava and Sebastopol and received the Crimean War medal with clasps as well as the Turkish medal.
At the termination of the Crimean War, the 68th Light Infantry came home to England, landing on 18th August 1857. After a brief stay he was despatched to help quell the Indian Mutiny, but the slow-going ship landed in Burma on 23th March 1858, too late to take part. He stayed in India until 24th February 1862, before returning home. In 1863, he was posted to Ireland again and was stationed in Fermoy, County Cork. It was here that he was promoted to corporal on 23rd March 1864. In 1865 he was back home in Preston and on 15th March, George was promoted to Sergeant along with being presented with his long service and good conduct medal. His final station was at Portsmouth where he took his voluntary discharge on 11th September 1867 after 21 years service.
At first George went to live in Lincoln, but after a short time he came to Salford, to work as a night Watchman for Messrs Robert Neill and Sons, Broughton, (Salford's largest construction company, covering 7 acres and employing over one thousand men). Later he was employed by the Globe Carpet Beating Company of Pendleton. He continued working until Christmas 1905 despite being over 80 years old. He lived in Railway Street, Brindle Heath for his last thirty years.
The funeral of George Straw took place on Saturday 26th May 1906. Thousands of people gathered on Railway Street and Broad Street in respect of the veteran. Representations had been made to Hulme Barracks and there was an expectation of full military honours. Shortly before half past two, a horse-drawn, gun carriage, under the charge of Corporal Wickens of the 39th Company of the Army Service Corps arrived at 24, Railway Street, but no firing party or band arrived. After waiting for as long as possible, and assuming that the firing party had gone directly to the cemetery, the cortege set off. Drawn curtains and respectful crowds were encountered along the route. Very noticeable along the route were old soldiers who sprang from a loose-jointed repose to a statue-like rigidity as the flag-covered coffin hove into sight.
On arrival at the cemetery it was discovered that the firing party and the band were not to be in attendance, due to previous commitments. After a brief service in the Church of England chapel, the coffin was borne by four soldiers to its last resting place in the common grave section. The committal was conducted by Rev.A.W.Davies of St. Stephen's Church, Salford, whilst every man in the crowd stood bare-headed in the falling rain. Principal mourners were George's two sons and their wives. He was 82 years of age.
(*) Sir John Moore was born in Glasgow in 1761 and became a soldier, fighting in the American War of Independence and other British Imperial actions. When Napoleon was planning to invade England, he was put in charge of coastal defences and initiated the building of Martello towers and the Royal Military Canal in Kent and Sussex. During the Peninsular War against Napoleon he was mortally wounded at Corunna in 1809. Moore had to be buried in secret, so as not to alert the French.