George Yorke (1923 – 2016)
This is the tribute to George given at his funeral by his wife Jo
George was a son of the Wirral. Born in 1923 to a consultant surgeon in Liverpool, his childhood was privileged and happy with an older brother and younger sister.
At the outset of World War II he was sent to the Royal Naval college in Dartmouth to be trained as an officer.
He took part in the Arctic convoys to deliver essential supplies to our Soviet allies. Winston Churchill described these convoys as “the worst journey ever made”. Seventy years later he was awarded the Arctic Star and then in 2014, the Russian government awarded him the Ushakov medal (pictured, right).
Later, his ship, HMS Manchester, was torpedoed in the Mediterranean. Fortunately he was rescued and taken prisoner of war by Vichy French in North Africa. His brother John, an RAF pilot, was killed in action just before the war ended.
George abandoned his naval career in peacetime and studied law. He became a solicitor for British Gas.
He was an avid reader of the great classics, loved the theatre and saw all Shakespeare’s plays more than once. He quoted freely from the plays and sonnets and other favourite authors.
He was a talented pianist and enjoyed outings to concerts and operas.
George’s passion for wild life and Lepidoptera inspired him to set up butterfly reserves in Hampshire – notably Yew Hill and Magdalen Hill, hosting David Attenborough at some events. He was affectionately nicknamed “Mr Butterfly”.
George lived in Shawford in the same house since the Queen came to the throne. His garden was created to attract butterflies and moths of several species. By his own volition George became an adopted son of Wessex.
To quote Shakespeare,
“His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’”
That was George.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Branch of Butterfly Conservation report that George Yorke, “an energetic and hugely effective chairman of the branch in the 1990s and early 2000s, … played a major role in the very successful evolution of the branch, and in particular in the development and subsequent expansion of the Magdalen Hill Down reserve.”