Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cartwright, George (1894–1978)

by Anthony Staunton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

George Cartwright (1894-1978), by Moore Studios

George Cartwright (1894-1978), by Moore Studios

Australian War Memorial, P02939.044

George Cartwright (1894-1978), soldier, was born on 9 December 1894 at South Kensington, London, son of William Edward Cartwright, coach trimmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Stracey. Migrating alone to Australia in 1912, George took a job as a labourer on a sheep station in the Elsmore district, near Inverell, New South Wales. On 16 December 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and became an original member of the 33rd Battalion, formed in February 1916 as part of the new 3rd Division. In May he embarked for England where the division trained before moving to France in November. Cartwright was wounded in action on 9 June 1917 at Messines, Belgium, but remained on duty. He was one of 271 officers and soldiers from the battalion who were victims of the Germans' concentrated gas-attack at Villers-Bretonneux, France, on 17 April 1918. After being hospitalized, he rejoined his unit in June.

On 31 August 1918 the Australian Corps assaulted the enemy's formidable position at Mont St Quentin, overlooking Péronne. The 33rd Battalion attacked south-west of Bouchavesnes at 5.40 a.m. Lacking adequate artillery support at the outset, the leading troops were stopped by machine-gun fire from a post at the corner of Road Wood. Without hesitation, Private Cartwright stood up and walked towards the gun, firing his rifle from the shoulder: he shot the gunner and two who tried to replace him. Cartwright then threw a bomb at the post and, covered by the explosion, rushed forward, capturing the gun and nine German soldiers. Cheering loudly, the Australians renewed their advance. Cartwright was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 30 September, during the attack on the Hindenburg line, he was wounded in the head and left arm, and evacuated to England. Having received his V.C. from King George V, he returned to Australia and was discharged from the A.I.F. on 16 May 1919.

Cartwright lived in Sydney and worked as a motor mechanic. On 25 June 1921 he married Elsie Broker at St Stephen's Anglican Church, Chatswood; they were to have two children before being divorced. He served in the Militia's 4th-3rd Battalion and was commissioned on 25 February 1932. Mobilized for full-time service on 5 March 1940, he was promoted captain (1942) and performed training and amenities duties in Australia. Cartwright was placed on the Retired List on 11 May 1946. He found employment as an assistant-cashier and married Evelyn Mary Short on 4 September 1948 in the Congregational Church, Pitt Street, Sydney.

In 1956 Cartwright visited London for the V.C. centenary celebrations; he returned there for biennial reunions of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. He was a quiet, unassuming man, 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall, with black hair and a dark complexion. Survived by his wife, and by the son of his first marriage, he died on 2 February 1978 at Gordon and was cremated. His widow presented his V.C. and other medals to the Imperial War Museum, London. He is commemorated in the New South Wales Garden of Remembrance, Rookwood.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1937)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963) and second ed revised and condensed by J. Williams and A. Staunton (Canb, 1986)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Aug, Nov 1968
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 1956, 15 Feb 1969, 5 June 1970, 8 July 1972, 16 Feb 1978.

Citation details

Anthony Staunton, 'Cartwright, George (1894–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cartwright-george-9703/text17129, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 23 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

George Cartwright (1894-1978), by Moore Studios

George Cartwright (1894-1978), by Moore Studios

Australian War Memorial, P02939.044