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- Student Stories
Art by George Weekes
Len Weekes was Pembroke College’s legendary JCR bartender and Lodge Porter until his retirement in February 2012. Several years ago, the College library hosted an exhibition of small drawings and paintings that had been done by his grandfather, George Weekes, while on active service during WWI. These give an immediate insight into the experiences that George had and we have included them in our centenary commemoration. We have also included several pictures that George did during peace-time. The pictures are arranged in three galleries: Wartime; Peacetime; and About George.
George Henry Beckford Weekes was born in Rochester, Kent, in 1875 one of nine children of George and Lily Weekes. All three of his brothers also survived WWI and are mentioned in his letters from the front.
The census indicates that he was raised in the main by his Grandfather George Ellis Weekes, a Shipwright at Woolwich Dockyards, and this may explain his interest in ships and the river which is a regular theme in his peace-time drawings. Like his father, he was an electrician by trade but he was also a keen musician, specialising in the banjo, and he eventually became professional.
In 1904, he married Ida May Dann, then moved to Oxford from Croydon, South London, and volunteered to join the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry in 1914.
Unfortunately, George’s service records were among those destroyed by enemy action during WWII. However, some documents were retained by his family, including two documents that came to light when his son, Jim, died. One was a newspaper and the other an undated pass with permission to proceed to Poperinghe, near Ypres. The Pass states that George was in the Entrenching Battalions attached to the 2nd Army. The newspaper, dated 5th September 1916, shows a picture of a soldier asleep in the trenches near Thiepval and, according to Jim, this was his father. George was transferred to Italy during the latter part of the war, wounded and taken prisoner of war by the Austro-Hungarian Army.
After the war, George moved to Torquay to be near his family. His grandson, John, recalls that finding him there was easy - he was either playing the piano in the Yacht Pub or painting pictures for the holiday makers in Brixham. One day in high seas, he saw a small yacht in trouble in Torbay. At the age of 70, he rowed out and saved the occupants which earned him a few pints in the Yacht and distinction in the newspaper!
George Weekes died of cancer in 1954.
With thanks to Len and John Weekes.