Topic: GW - Biographies
The old man of the AIF, George Paul
George Paul, 1918
3664 Corporal George Paul and the AIF
The story of 3664 Cpl George Paul's enlistment in the AIF makes fascinating reading. At 69, he became one of the oldest recruit to see service in the AIF.
Here is the article from the Sydney Mail, 7 August 1918 at p. 34:
Enlisted at 69.
There are few soldiers or the A.I.F. possessing long a record of soldiering as Corporal George Paul, now living at Wallaballah, a little township two miles from Quirindi. He must have surely been born under the planet of Mars, for he has fought in all the principal British campaigns during the last half century. Corporal Paul served first in the Ashanti war in 1873-4, under Sir Garnet Wolseley, and afterwards in the Zulu War of 1874, under Lord Chelmsford, father of the one-time popular Governor of New South Wales, and Queensland, and now Viceroy of India. He fought again at Tel-el-Kebir under Sir Garnet Wolseley, in 1882, and went twice to the Boer War of 1899-02, under Sir Ian Hamilton and Lord Methuen. He holds the Ashanti, Zulu. Egyptian, and King's and Queen's South African medals. Finally, and most remarkable of all, he enlisted in the A.I.F., and fought in France with the Tunnellers. He was then 69 years of age and how he came to he enlisted, both for the Boer War and the present war is a long story. It turned that when a man is keen enough, or when fighting is still the blood, nothing will stop him. It is all open secret, locally, that his official age was a year younger when he enlisted in the Boer War than when he joined the A.I.F. When the first 'March to Freedom’ arrived at Quirindi last May, the veteran Corporal was there to meet it, and instantly he picked up the step, and marched into town with the boys, keen on joining up again. With all his half-century of soldiering, the years lie lightly upon him, and with his easy carriage, alertness, and bronze face, "old George" would pass easily amongst strangers as a man of fifty. The story of his life deal with adventure and events, which, together, make up some of the most stirring chapters in the history of the expansion and consolidation of the British Empire. Our illustration shows Corporal Paul in his A.I.F. uniform. What an example for young Australians who have not answered the call.
The story was repeated again in the R.S.S.I.L.A. Official Year Book [Coronation Issue], 1937 which gave a brief vignette about the man similar to that in the Sydney Mail article shown above. Since the R.S.S.I.L.A. Official Year Book was published in 1937, and given the year was when George Paul died, the story was more of an obituary.
George Paul had his baptism registered on 15 February 1848 at the parish of Dornoch, Sutherland so we can assume he was born somewhere around that time. His father was James Paul [b. 1832] and mother known as Kate. We know from NSW Certificate No. 15984 that George Paul died at Quirindi in 1937, making him 89 at the time.
While nothing about him prior to 1900 can be verified, there is nothing in his story that leads to doubt about accepting his history of service. Once he commences service in Australia, then he is picked up by the official records.
The first official record of service we have is that 1123 Trooper George Paul enlisted in the Bushies, the New South Wales Imperial Bushmen. Here are his details from Murray:
Service number: 1123
Unit: NSW IMPERIAL BUSHMEN
Conflict: South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
Source: Murray page number - 104
He was allocated to the last formed NSW squadron, F Squadron. Here is his name and rank recorded on the list published in the Sydney Mail, 7 April 1900 at p. 79. George Paul's name is underlined in red.
The Sydney Mail, 28 April 1900 at p. 984 published a photograph of all the men from F company taken the day before they departed. 1123 Trooper George Paul is circled in red.
Paul embarked from Sydney on the Armenian, 23 April 1900. He spent over a year in South Africa taking part in many of the key engagements of the war.
He arrived back in Sydney on the Orient landing at Cowper Wharf, 15 July 1901. A cartoon series of the landing published in the Sydney Mail, 27 July 1901, p. 217.
Paul was awarded the Queen's South African Medal with 5 bars - Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Rhodesia and South Africa 1901. There is a bit of a question as to whether he arrived as a Sergeant or Lieutenant.
Paul's next period of service reflected some form of senior rank as he enlisted as 23 Sergeant George Paul, 1st Australian Commonwealth Horse (NSW), A Squadron. Here is his Murray entry from the AWM:
Service number: 23
Unit: 1BN AUST CMNWLTH HORSE (NSW)
Conflict: South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
Source: Murray page number - 169
Since this was a Commonwealth formation, his Attestation Papers can be accessed through the NAA.
Again the Sydney Mail was on the job. In the edition of 8 February 1902, at p. 344, they published a picture of the 1st Australian Commonwealth Horse (NSW), A Squadron where we see Sgt Paul seated with his men. He is circled in red.
1st Australian Commonwealth Horse (NSW), A Squadron
[From: Sydney Mail, 8 February 1902, p. 344.]
Paul embarked from Sydney on the Custodian, 18 February 1902. By the time they arrived and prepared for action, the war was coming to a close. Peace broke out on 2 June 1902.
George Paul returned from South Africa on 11 August 1902.
After that, we lose touch with him although it appears that he might have married somewhere along the way. His attestation papers mention a wife Mary Ann but there is no record of this marriage in NSW.
During the Great War, while the "Freedom March" passed by his town, he began the march again and enlisted as a soldier. When he joined up his previous military service was recognised and was made Acting Sergeant but on active service was promoted to Corporal. Here he is in uniform, 3664 Cpl George Paul, No 4 Tunnelling Company prior to embarkation.
A brief military biography of George Paul from The AIF Project:
|Place of birth||Dornoch, Scotland|
|Address||Wallabadah, New South Wales|
|Age at embarkation||48|
|Next of kin||Wife, Mrs Mary Paul, Wallabadah, New South Wales|
|Previous military service||Served in the Ashanti War, 1873-4; Zulu War, 1874; Tel el Kebir, 1882; Boer War, 1899-1902.|
|Enlistment date||19 October 1915|
|Date of enlistment from Nominal Roll||18 October 1915|
|Rank on enlistment||2nd Corporal|
|Unit name||Tunnelling Company 4, Headquarters 1|
|AWM Embarkation Roll number||16/10/1|
|Embarkation details||Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A69 Warilda on 22 May 1916|
|Rank from Nominal Roll||2nd Corporal|
|Unit from Nominal Roll||4th Tunnelling Company|
|Fate||Returned to Australia 17 March 1917|
|Discharge date||14 June 1917|
|Other details|| |
War service: Western Front
Embarked Sydney, 22 May 1916; disembarked Plymouth, England, 18 July 1916.
Proceeded overseas to France, 15 October 1916.
Admitted to 26th General Hospital, Etaples, 6 December 1916 (debility); transferred to England,13 December 1916, and admitted to Dover Hospital; discharged to No 1 Command Depot, Perham Downs, 16 December 1916.
Marched out to No 2 command Depot, Weymouth, 20 November 1916.
Commenced return to Australia from Plymouth on board HT 'Beltana' for discharge (senility), 17 February 1917; arrived Sydney, 15 May 1917; discharged (medically unfit), 14 June 1917.Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal
|Miscellaneous details||Real age: 69|
|Date of death||1937|
|Sources||NAA: B2455, PAUL George|
Sydney 'Mail', 7 August 1918.
Paul embarked from Sydney on the HMAT A69 "Warilda", 22 May 1916 and arrived at Plymouth on 18 July 1916. From there he went to France on 16 October 1916 ending up at the base at Etaples. Once there, after 2 months, on 6 December 1916, he was admitted to hospital at Etaples with debility. From that moment he was on his way back to Australia, first to Tidworth, then Weymouth, and finally Plymouth where he boarded the Beltana on 17 February 1917 for a trip back to Australia. It looks like the military authorities finally tumbled to the fact that George was not 48 but a tad bit older. When Paul reached Sydney, on 14 June 1917, he received a medical discharge on the grounds of senility.
This is indeed one of those good stories, which occasionally we come across and makes it a sheer joy to research.
Citation: Great War, Military Biographies, The old man of the AIF, George Paul