George Frederick Reed and his family were living in Edward Street, East Orange, when the First World War began. George was employed as a locomotive engine driver with the Orange Railway Station. He was also a member of Orange Rifle Club.
Born in Brixton, England, in 1883, George emigrated to Australia as a young man. In 1902 he married Hilda Maude Beahan in Wallerawang. George and Hilda had four children: Nilda (born in 1902), Clarence (1908), George (1914), and Leslie (1916).
George enlisted in January 1917 and proceeded to army camp for training. On 19 January the Leader reported:
The cock-a-doodle-doing of the railway whistles on Wednesday night was not owing to the death of the Kaiser, but simply as a send-off to Driver George Reed, who left on the last mail to join his battalion, en route to where the lid has been lifted from Europe.
George embarked for overseas service from Melbourne in May 1917. He disembarked in Plymouth on 19 July 1917 and was marched in to the 4th Railway Section, Australian Railway Operating Division, at Bordon.
In early October 1917 George proceeded to France to serve on the Western Front. On 1 January 1918 he was promoted to Corporal.
Corporal George Reed survived the war unscathed. On 11 November 1918 – the day peace was declared – he proceeded to England on two weeks’ furlough. George rejoined his unit on France on 25 November.
On 22 February 1919 George was admitted to hospital in Dunkirk, dangerously ill with bronchial pneumonia. He survived for thirteen more days, succumbing to his illness on 7 March 1919.
George Frederick Reed is commemorated on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 26 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Capt CF Reed”, presumably George. It was donated by Mrs M Reed. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
George Frederick Reed died almost four months after the armistice was signed. He is believed to be the last WWI serviceman from the Orange district to die as a direct result of the First World War. A multitude of other servicemen and women, however, would bear physical and psychological scars which would plague them and their families for the rest of their days.