1849–1913
illustration

Ju­ly 6, 1849, Arbroath, Scotland.

Ju­ly 9, 1913, Cologne, Germany.

Abney Park Ce­me­te­ry, London, Eng­land.

portrait
portrait

George was the son of Me­tho­dist missionaries Lan­celot Rail­ton and Mar­ga­ret Scott.

He was first Commissioner of the Sal­va­tion Army (SA), and second in command to its founder, Will­iam Booth.

George was educated at Wood­house Grove School in Leeds. After his parents died when he was 15, he found himself homeless and jobless. His old­er bro­ther, Laun­ce­lot, a Me­tho­dist minister, found him work in Lon­don with a shipping company, but not finding it to his liking, George went to Mo­roc­co in 1869 as a missionary. Being unsuccessful and finding himself stranded in Mo­roc­co, he worked his passage back to Bri­tain as a steward.

In 1870, he began to work in Stock­ton-on-Tees for an uncle who owned a shipping business, but preached the Gos­pel at every opportunity. In the same year Will­iam Booth met George’s brother Laun­ce­lot, who told him of George’s attempt to convert the Mo­roc­cans, adding that George was just the sort of person that Booth’s Chris­tian Mission was looking for. Two years later, in 1872, Booth received a letter from George, who had read the Chris­tian Mission’s How to Reach the Mass­es with the Gos­pel, and was so moved by it that he offered himself to the cause.

In October 1872, Rail­ton traveled to London to begin his work for the Chris­tian Mission (renamed the Sal­va­tion Army in 1878 at a meeting Rail­ton attended), and for some years he lived in the Booth household as Will­iam Booth’s secretary. He became acting editor of The Chris­tian Mission Magazine, and in September 1873 was appointed General Secretary to the Chris­tian Mission.

By 1880, Booth’s son Bram­well had matured and became his father’s secretary. Rail­ton, who since his youth had wanted to be a missionary, per­suad­ed Booth to send him to New York to begin the SA’s work there. He was well suited to such work, being a skilled linguist, dedicated, and hard working, and both he and his superiors felt more comfortable with him on the frontier than at headquarters.

With male officers being few in number, Rail­ton took Captain Em­ma West­brook and six other young women with the intention of training them for the work on the voyage to Amer­i­ca. On March 10, 1880 Rail­ton arrived at Cas­tle Gar­den, New York with his seven Hal­le­lu­jah Las­sies, and immediately set about preaching to New York­ers and joining with the unofficial work already begun by the Shir­ley family in Phil­a­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia.

He also began the work in New­ark, New Jer­sey, leaving two young women in charge there, while he set off for St. Lou­is, Miss­ou­ri, to begin preaching there, but there he was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, in New York the work had gone so well that by May there were 16 officers, 40 cadets, and 412 soldiers. By the end of 1880, 1,500 had been converted.

In January 1881, Rail­ton received orders from Will­iam Booth to return to Eng­land. Rail­ton protested that he was needed in Amer­i­ca, but Booth insisted he return home.

On January 1, 1885, Commissioner and Mrs. Rail­ton set sail for Na­tal, South Af­ri­ca, arriving there on March 8, with Rail­ton’s health declining. On May 6 they arrived at Pie­ter­mar­itz­burg, where the idea of the SA’s Red Shield Work for men in the forces came into being. On August 19, 1885 the couple set sail for Eng­land.

In 1886, Booth sent Rail­ton to Ger­ma­ny, where his preaching met with considerable hostility, and little progress was made. However. by 1890 Ger­ma­ny had a new Em­per­or, Wil­helm II, and Chan­cel­lor Bis­marck being retired, it was thought the situation would improve, and Rail­ton was officially appointed Ter­ri­tor­i­al Com­mand­er.

Later that year, he returned to Eng­land to conduct the fun­er­al of Ca­ther­ine Booth, The Army Mother. In 1893, as part of a tightening of restrictions by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, Rail­ton was expelled from the country.

In 1894 Rail­ton was sent to Spain, where he remained until recalled to Eng­land in the summer of 1895. Though by now his health was declining, he was called on to assist Bram­well Booth for whom he traveled the world, inspecting the work of the SA.

In 1899 Rail­ton set sail for South Af­ri­ca to negotiate with the political and military leaders before the launching of the Red Shield work amongst the troops. Although this was ini­tial­ly difficult, eventually he overcame all the problems and returned to Eng­land at the end of the Boer War in De­cem­ber 1900, where he remained until being sent to take charge of the work in France towards the end of 1901.

At the end of 1902, Rail­ton returned to work at SA headquarters until 1903, when he left for West Af­ri­ca to launch the work of the SA there. On his return in December 1903, his health had deteriorated greatly, and he was not seen in public again until the International Congress in June 1904.

In his later years, Rail­ton continued to travel widely, visiting many countries on behalf of the SA, including Ch­ina, Ja­pan and Rus­sia. While traveling to Le Locle, Switz­er­land, he had to change trains at Co­logne, Ger­ma­ny. Having a long wait for his connection he visited the quarters of the local SA officers.

Delayed by their hospitality and their prayers, he had little time to catch his train and ran up the stairs to the platform carrying his heavy bags. On reaching his seat, he collapsed and died of a heart attack.

  1. Hark, Hark, My Soul
  2. Mission War Song
  3. No Home on Earth Have I
  4. Shout Aloud Sal­va­tion
  5. Tell Me What to Do to Be Pure
  6. We Are Sweeping Through the Land
  7. Who’ll Fight for the Lord Everywhere?