Shropshire Star

Tributes paid as 'Mr Wrekin' George Evans dies aged 97

War veteran, peace campaigner, councillor, teacher and author George Evans, who in the minds of many was both “Mr Wrekin” and “Mr Wellington”, has died aged 97.

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War veteran and peace campaigner George Evans has died aged 97

Wellington born and bred, whenever asked if he had lived in Wellington all his life he would reply “Not yet”.

His life was changed as a soldier fighting in the front line during the bloody Normandy campaign and seeing the horrors of Belsen, and he became a pacifist.

One of his proud achievements was setting up a Peace Garden in Wellington in 2012.

Wellington mayor Pat Fairclough said: "He did so much for Wellington and the peace garden sums up George's attitude towards life, with an emphasis on peace."

As a young soldier.

And Ross Vickers, former chairman of the town's civic society, of which George was life president, said: "George was a very lovable person and honest, and would help anybody. He was very determined in his ways, especially in his fight for peace.

"George was the founder of Wellington Civic Society. It was his idea and he was very passionate about its work and aims, to look after the past, influence the present, and protect the future."

Allan Frost, a founder of Wellington History Group, said: "We all have our own memories of George and his personal tales of Wellington and The Wrekin Hill over many years as a school teacher and urban district councillor."

Among many roles George was president of the All Friends Around The Wrekin group, and had served on the modern Wellington Town Council, and also on the old Wellington Urban District Council, which he joined in 1954 and became chairman in 1961. He served as a UDC councillor for nine years in all.

George, on the left, with moustache and tie, watches as the famous broadcaster Kenneth Horne tries out an unusual form of transport in Tan Bank, Wellington. The occasion was the launching of a cycling proficiency scheme in the 1950s – George was at the time chairman of the road safety committee of Wellington Urban District Council.

Later that decade he became warden of the school camp at Arthog on the Welsh coast, which has been visited by countless Shropshire schoolchildren.

He worked with a young Jeremy Corbyn on the Shropshire Committee Against Racialism, as it was called.

A stalwart champion of Wellington, he fought a long and largely successful battle to retain the town's independent identity after it was swallowed up by Telford.

He refused to give his address as “Wellington, Telford”, and would prefer to give it as “Wellington, The Wrekin.”

With bride Naomi on their wedding day.

He had written many books on his home town, its history, people, and architecture, and The Wrekin, about which he was also an expert.

In recent years George's peace campaigning saw him make international headlines when he was dropped from reading the traditional poem in remembrance of the fallen at the remembrance parade in Wellington after he had read a self-written anti-war poem the previous year which finished with the line: "Isn't war stupid."

A Bren gunner, he had embarked for Normandy on June 25, 1944, the day after his 21st birthday.

Initially he was with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, until his unit suffered such severe casualties that it was broken up and he was posted to serve in the Herefordshire Regiment.

George Evans takes a seat in Wellington church yard after a Remembrance Service

In later life he raised eyebrows by telling how, during fighting around Caen and surrounded by death and disgusted by the slaughter, he had a battlefield conversion.

He made a secret pact with God along the lines that if he promised not to kill anybody, would God let him live? Thereafter he fired over the heads of the enemy, rather than to kill.

After the war he went into teaching, initially at the National School in Dawley, and later at the Princes Street School and Orleton Park School in Wellington. When in his 70s, he became a Quaker.

He met his wife Naomi Hurdley, as she was then, at Sankey’s Ballroom in about 1948. They married at Christ Church, Wellington, on August 12, 1950.

She died in 2010.

George is survived by two sons.