Gunner John GOODWIN

Royal Field Artillery
"A" Battery, 174th (2/2nd London) Brigade
Service Number:
Date of Death:
22 December 1918 - Died (Home)
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:

Personal History:

John was born at Dane Bridge, Heaton, Leek, Staffordshire, in the September quarter 1876 (1881 Census RG 11/2741). He was the son of Thomas (Joiner) and Helena (née Thompson) Goodwin (died December quarter 1893) who later moved to 35 Bath Street, Buxton (1891 Census RG 12/2778). He had two elder brothers, Thomas and Seth, two older sisters, Letty and Nellie, and three younger sisters, Alice, Ann T. and Eva G.
At the time of the 1901 Census (RG 13/3270) John was still living with his father at the same address, along with two of his younger sisters, employed as "Mason's labourer", but in the December quarter 1901 he married Mabel Annie Wilcock, and in 1911 (Census RG 14/21242) they were living at 1 Albert Cottage, London Road, Buxton, with their three sons, John, Sidney and Harold. A daughter, Edith A., was born in 1912.

Military History:
John's Medal Index Card gives no date for when he entered the War, which would suggest that it was after 1915, as he was not eligible for The 1914-15 Star Medal. Also, his Service Records have not survived. However, from his Service Number it seems that John reported to Citadel, Plymouth, No. 3 Depot, between the 29th March - 20 April 1917.

His 174th Battery was part of the 174th (2/2nd London) Brigade of the 58th (London) Division. On the 31st August 1914 the War Office issued instructions for all units of the Territorial Force to form a reserve unit. The men who had agreed to serve overseas were separated from the rest. Those left as 'home service only' were formed into 'second line' units, which would be this reserve.

In 1916 the 174th Battery were part of the 39th (Deptford) Divisional Artillery, initially formed at Deptford on the 19th May 1915, and comprised of four batteries, each manning 18 pdr. [8.2 kgs.] guns, plus an ammunition column. The Brigade embarked for France on the 3rd March, 1916. "A" Battery remained as such until disbandment in 1919. After disembarkation, units proceeded to rest camps at Le Havre to await trains to carry them to a concentration area some 25 miles [40 kms.] behind the British front line, before moving on to Éstaires on the 9th March.

During 1917 the Division took part in pursuing the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (17th -28th March); The Battle of Bullecourt (4th - 17th May). From John's Service Number, however, it would seem that he would not have joined his Battery until later in 1917, perhaps as a reinforcement in time for several phases of the Third Battles of Ypres - e.g. The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge (20th -25th September); The Battle of Polygon Wood (26th - 27th September) and The Second Battle of Passchendaele (26th October - 10th November).

At 4.30 a.m. on the 21st March 1918 the Germans launched a huge bombardment and barrage in front of the Fifth Army, of which the 39th Division formed a part, and by 10 o'clock the enemy had attacked in a thick mist on a front of about fifty miles [80 kms.].
"From the opening of the bombardment the Divisional Artillery were " standing to," in reserve, and at 2 o'clock in the afternoon were ordered to reinforce the line, the enemy having succeeded in forcing back out forward positions. On the 22nd the attack continued, and at 9 o'clock the 174th Brigade were ordered to withdraw, but, with the exception of " D " Battery, they were unable to get gun limbers to the gun positions, and therefore remained in action until the Infantry had withdrawn behind the guns, firing at such targets as it was possible to see."

In April, however, the German advance was petering out and the History reads:
"About 5 a.m. on the 7th an intense barrage was commenced in co-operation with an attack made by the Australians, causing considerable casualties to the enemy in addition to the capture of about 150 prisoners. The 174th Brigade having been heavily shelled moved to new positions on the 8th, and on the 9th April the enemy once again shelled all communications and approaches to the battery positions with considerable effect, enemy infantry attacking about six in the evening, but the very heavy concentration of artillery fire brought to bear on the attack smashed it up.

Before dawn on the 11th a most violent bombardment again opened up on the battery areas, a considerable number of gas shells being fired, and the enemy once more renewed the attack. Severe fighting continued all day, batteries being able to employ a good deal of observed tire, causing much loss to the enemy's infantry."

In 1918 the Division participate in the First and Second Battles of the Somme (March - August 1918); The Battle of Epehy (18th September) and final advance in Artois (2nd October - 11th November).

However, as the Division remained in France after the Armistice until March 1919, at some stage John must have returned home to his family in Buxton, where he died on the 22nd December 1918. Without his Service Papers his cause of death can be only speculation, however, his name is included in the Appendix to the 'Short History' suggesting the cause of death to be either pneumonia or from the influenza epidemic rife at the time.

John died at his home or in a local hospital and was buried in Buxton Cemetery. As the above photograph shows, his Grave is not in the main CWGC block and at the time this photo was taken (2014) was looking in need of cleaning and maintenance.

· "A short history of the 39th (Deptford) Divisional Artillery 1915-1918" - By H. W. Wiebkin, M.C. (Late R.F.A.) [London, 1923]
· I am grateful to "kevrow", via the Great War Forum, for advice regarding John's Service Number.

Commemorated on:
Link to CWGC Record
John Goodwin's Grave