Lieutenant George Archer-Shee's short but eventful life is best summarised in the Rev. F. Irwin's A Memorial of the Part Taken by Stonyhurst Men in the Great War:
'The death of this young Officer, so well known and popular at Stonyhurst, caused deep regret to his many College friends. Our sympathy is intensified by the recollection of the very trying ordeal he had to pass through some years ago as a Boy Cadet at Osborne, where he was mistakenly accused and dismissed on a charge of petty theft. During the legal proceedings that followed, it will be remembered that the College authorities, who knew him well, and were convinced of his innocence, sent representatives to give evidence in court as to the high character he had always borne as a boy at Stonyhurst.
The details of the trial - the cause célèbre of the year - and the subsequent debates on it in Parliament are so well known that we need not recall them here. They resulted in what every newspaper in the country described as a 'complete vindication of his character'. He received an ample apology from Mr. Mckenna, then First Lord of the Admiralty, and was awarded £7000 damages.
After leaving Osborne he was welcomed back to Stonyhurst, where he remained till of age to enter the Army. It is pleasant to recall the fact that not only did his schoolfellows at Stonyhurst believe him guiltless of the charge, but that his fellow Cadets at Osborne were unanimously in his favour.
The newspapers, in recording his death, one and all concurred in tributes of special sympathy.
The Daily Mail, under the heading 'Romance of a Hero', concluded with the words, 'Driven from the Navy by injustice, Lieutenant Archer-Shee has won fame and honour in the Army, and - he has served his country well'.
The following notice is from The Times:
'Lieutenant George Archer-Shee, 1st Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment, who was killed near Ypres on 31 October, aged 19 years, was the younger son of the late Martin Archer-Shee and Mrs. Archer-Shee, of Woodchester, Gloucester. He joined the Royal Naval College, Osborne in 1908, but was removed in circumstances which afterwards formed the subject of legal proceedings in the King's Bench, the result of which was the complete vindication of his character.
Colonel Ovens, C.M.G., the Officer Commanding the 1st Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment, writes of him to his mother:
'He was a most promising young Officer, and in the short time he was in the 1st Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment, he earned the love and respect of both Officers and men, and by his bravery and example contributed largely to the success of the Battalion in the action near Ypres'.
Although the evidence of his death on 31 October , at Klein Zillebeke, near Ypres, was confirmed later, his relatives and friends had been kept in suspense as to his fate from October to May, during which period his name had been officially posted as "missing".
By all accounts received from his brother Officers and the men of his Regiment, he had borne himself with special gallantry throughout the fighting in which he took part'.
His death at Gheluvelt is thus described in a letter from an Officer of the 1st Battalion, the South Staffordshire Regiment, at Ypres, to Major Archer-Shee (dated 14.1.1915):
'It seems that during the retirement of the Division he was in charge of a Platoon in an exposed portion of the line; other units of other corps, it seems, had received orders to retire, but the order had not reached him. Someone, it is said, pointed out to him that the units on each side of him were retiring; he replied that he did not care what they did, but no one of his men was to retire till he gave them the orders to do so and so they held on against great odds.
Later a message seems to have reached him, for he gave the order to the men to retire as best they could. He, it is said, was the last to retire, and a man, since killed, reported that he looked around and saw him lying face downwards on the ground, motionless, as though killed instantly, his head towards the enemy. He earned the highest opinions of his brother Officers and his loss is most keenly felt by all who knew him.
He was such a charming and interesting young fellow and had seen such a lot of the world for his years that he was a most pleasant companion at all times and made many friends'.'