As was common with many Russian immigrants at that time, Gershon Shavitzky had a variety of spellings of his name including Savitsky, later Savitt, and Gerchon, and Girchon to latterly George.
Though Gershon Shavitsky has quite a large collection of documents associated with him, we don’t know a huge amount about his life. He was born in Russia in 1894 and worked as a carpenter. We know this information from his service record displayed below.
This service record also lists his full address as ‘Alexandria, Egypt.’ The service record shows Gershon enlisted at Whitehall on 21st December 1916, aged 22. What led Gershon to move from Russia, to Egypt and finally to London is unclear.
Gershon served in multiple regiments. As described on his service record, he was a Private in the City of London Regiment, Royal West Surrey Regiment and the Labour Corps.
Gershon seemingly served with the Zion Mule Corps. Above is a photograph from the Jewish Military Museum archive (found at the Jewish Museum), showing Gershon (front row right) with this regiment. However this service is not listed on his service record.
Shavitsky served in France from 18th March 1917 until 4th November 1917. His casualty record lists his religion as ‘Jew.’ This record also shows us on 30th October Gershon received a gun shot wound on his left shoulder from enemy fire. This led him to be evacuated to England.
Gershon was photographed at Brighton Hospital in 1917 where he was treated for a gunshot wound. The blue uniform he wore is the uniform of injured and recovering soldiers.
He was treated in a hospital in Boulogne before sent to York Place Military Hospital in Brighton. It is unclear how long Gershon spent in Brighton. His discharge notice described him as ‘a honest soldier [and a] hardworking man’.
At some point, Gershon relocated to Nottingham, where he was eventually discharged in May 1918. These documents list him as no longer physically able to serve. It is likely he would have received a war pension.
Gershon’s character certificate above describes him as ‘an honest soldier’ and a ‘hardworking man.’
It is unclear what Gershon did after the war. His discharge documents list his address as 234 Shaftesbury Avenue, London.
It seems he changed his name from Gershon Shavitsky to George Savitt as shown here in the image below. At this point in 1930, he was 46 and living in Old Compton Street, London.
Despite this, and so many documents and photographs remaining of this individual, his later life is still unclear to us.