Men from the Yorkshire city of Kingston-Upon-Hull formed the backbone of 150 Field Ambulance, a territorial unit which had been formed in 1939. Based in Wenlock Barracks in the west of the city, this RAMC unit formed part of 50th (Northumbrian) Division. Nineteen of its cohort would lose their lives in the war, predominantly during the retreat from France in 1940 and the Battle of Gazala in 1942.
One of those killed was 19-year-old George Mussared. A former pupil of Kingston
School on Hull’s Boulevard, George had a posthumous school prize named in
his honour. During the Battle of Arras in May 1940, George was badly injured and was carried by his RAMC comrades, including Private Stanley Cross, as the unit dispiritedly made its way towards Dunkirk. However a German strafing attack pierced the side of the ambulance lorry in which young George was being carried, and he was killed on 22 May 1940.
Private George Mussared RAMC
Stanley Cross always remembered young George, as did many people in the tightly-knit community of West Hull.
Private Stanley Cross RAMC
For decades after his death, on the anniversary of his birth, 1 January, family members and friends would insert memorials in the Hull Daily Mail. Devout Christians, who attended the Boulevard Methodist Church The family also sought to understand their loss through their faith. For George’s gravestone, situated near Outtersteene on the Franco-Belgian border, they chose the epitaph
‘SAFE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS. LOVED AND LONGED FOR
ALWAYS BY MAM, DAD AND OLIVE’.
An RAMC comrade named ‘Cyril’ inserted a tribute in the Hull Daily Mail reinforcing George’s faith: ‘He died as Christ would have him die.’ ‘Charlie’ of the RASC wrote, ‘So we part sadly to meet in sweet Jerusalem’, and George’s sweetheart, ‘Emmie’, recorded that she felt he was ‘Safe in God’s haven of peace’.
A decade later, his cousin Tom would recall ‘The wonderful memory of his smiling face and loving disposition’ which ‘will ever be an inspiration to those who loved him’.
George’s parents, who like so many hundreds of thousands, had to carry the memory of their son’s life cut cruelly short, beseeched God to ‘Hold him, O Father, in Thine arms and let him for ever be a messenger of love between our aching hearts and Thee’.
Stanley Cross managed to make it to Dunkirk, from where he was able to board a converted coal carrier. The combination of the water he had swallowed during his embarkation and the sooty conditions on the vessel meant that his medical category was downgraded upon his return, and Stanley saw out the remainder of the war as a nursing orderly at Edinburgh Castle, which had been converted into a PoW camp for
injured enemy servicemen.
Although Stanley was able to continue with a relatively normal post-war life, the young comrade who had been killed beside him in May 1940, Private George Mussared, left an enormous hole in the life of his devoutly Methodist family and friends.
One of George’s boyhood friends, John Hunter, forever felt deep anguish over the loss of his chum. Even 56 years later, on his birthday, he bemoaned the fact that he had had over half a century of life, an experience denied to George. One memory John would relive was a day spent on the River Humber in 1938, when a lifetime of promise awaited them. One of them would live to old age, whilst the other would never fulfil his ambitions, leaving decades of grief for the many who loved him.
John Hunter and George Mussared enjoying life on the River Humber, 1938
(Courtesy of John’s family)
George Mussared and Stanley Cross are just two of the many members of the Royal Army Medical Corps who feature in my book Faithful in Adversity: The Royal Army Medical Corps in the Second World War