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George Donovan

Pte George Donovan, Canadian Forces


George Donovan is a mystery man - he appears on three local memorials: Newbury's Town War Memorial, the Speenhamland Shrine in St Nicolas' Church, Newbury and the long lost memorial to the former pupils of Speenhamland School.


The first two memorials show him as G Donovan, the school memorial adding some more information: Pte George Donovan, Canadian Forces.


George Donovan's name on Newbury War Memorial

George Donovan's name on Newbury War Memorial (right) - click to enlarge.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the deaths of two George Donovans on 1916 and 1919 both of whom were serving in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). However, both give their birthplace as being in Canada and both enlisted in Canada. It is possible that a boy born in Canada could have been in Newbury for a period, during which he went to Speenhamland School, after which he returned to Canada, but it doesn't seem very likely.


There were eight more George Donovans serving in the CEF, only one of these claimed to be born in England (in London). However, these all seem to have survived the war.


There is also no sign of George in Newbury - none of the censuses of 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 record any Donovans in the town. The closest possibility is a seven-year-old boy in Reading Workhouse in 1901 - both the Canadian George Donovans recorded by the CWGC would have been seven in 1901.


The final clue, or red herring, is a record of a passenger called George Donovan, aged 13 on board a ship from Liverpool, bound for Montreal in May 1912. He is listed along with over 150 other children, including Edgar Donovan, age 14 - very possibly a brother. A great many orphans and abandoned children were sent out to Canada by childrens' societies, this appears to be a group of such children. Could this be a lad from Newbury?


This is a puzzle without enough clues for a solution - if anyone reading this story happens to know more about George Donovan, please contact us.

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 Died this day:
28 November 1918
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