George Eustace Ripley

Name George Eustace Ripley
Corps Northamptonshire Regiment, 6th Battalion, formerly 1st, 2nd and 4th Battalions
Rank Colonel
Service No.  
Date / Place of entry October 1915
Date of death 16 October 1916, died of wounds
Memorial/ Grave Cottingham Churchyard

George Eustace Ripley was born in 1864, the third son of Canon Ripley of Earlham Hall, Norfolk and was educated at Rugby School. He became a professional soldier, initially with the 3rd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment then joined the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment in 1889. He was promoted Captain in November 1892 and transferred to the 2nd Battalion for active service in South Africa during which he took part in several actions and was mentioned in despatches in 1901.

In 1896 Captain Ripley married Violet Sartoris of Rushden Hall. They moved to Bury House, Cottingham after his return to England in March 1902. He served as Adjutant to the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and commanding officer in 1903. He continued in command of the battalion as an Honorary Colonel from 1905 through its reconstitution as the 4th (Territorial) Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment in 1908, reluctantly retiring only a few months before the declaration of war.

In 1914 he was fifty but applied to be reinstated. He had wanted to lead the 4th but was given command of the newly created 6th Battalion in October. He lead it through training and embarked for the Somme on 26th July 1915. Soldiers of the 6th included James Simpson and William Claypole of Cottingham, and Joe Goode of Gretton.

The battalion’s first tours of duty were relatively quiet, the main threats being mines though the Germans mounted a surprise trench raid on 29th December after which Lt Col. Ripley was mentioned in Despatches. In March he was wounded by a stray shell and evacuated to England to recover but returned to the battalion in June 1916 to lead his troops over the top.

Regulations stated that Commanding Officers and their 2nd-in-command were not to be deployed in the same attack. Lt. Col. Ripley therefore acted as Brigade Liaison Officer during the attack at Trones Wood in July but lead the battalion in the assault on Thiepval on 26th September.  A German shell exploded next to him, shattering his right arm which had to amputated at a base hospital. Lt. Col. Ripley was evacuated to London and was expected to recover but tetanus set in and he died of heart failure just three weeks later on 16th October.

He was buried in Cottingham churchyard. His name is on Cottingham War Memorial and there is also a window in his memory in St Sepulchre’s Church, Northampton. The many testimonials made by officers and men of the 6th Battalion showed that he was held in great esteem and affection.

He was survived by his wife Violet, their sons Joseph and Roderick and a daughter. Mrs Ripley outlived her children, dying in 1973 at the age of ninety six.