It’s now November. The explosion of all things Christmas is about to begin. For me November 1st to the 11th is dedicated to remembering. My Grandad, Charles Henry Gooder fought in WW2 as a flight engineer bombing German U-boats in the north sea in the Royal Air Force. Hearing his stories in the later years of his life gave me a new perspective on the man he was as a soldier, a husband, a father and grandfather. Every year I have remembered for him and his contribution during the war.
Last year at this time (after watching War Junk on the History Channel) I became obsessed with finding out what happened to Grandad’s uncle and namesake Charles Henry Gott. His name had been mentioned to me over the years always proceeded with the ‘he was killed in the great war’. I wanted to see his picture, to honour his memory as he had died so young.
With the help of a wonderful lady at the museum in Horsforth England, as well as a war historian kind enough to return my email (with a crapload of information), and my own google searches, this is what I found:
Charles Henry Gott enlisted in October 1915 and was posted to the 1st Lifeguards. In 1916 he was transferred to the Household Battalion which was an infantry battalion formed from the reserves of the Household Cavalry regiment. The Household Battalion spent their entire existence on the western front as part of the 4th Infantry Division, 10th Brigade. Charles was a trooper, just another young soldier, no high rank. He was nearly 24 when he enlisted, and barely 25 when he arrived at the front.
May 3,1917 was a truly awful day for the British. The offensive on the 3rd and 4th of May, during the Battle of Arras was meant to force the Germans further east. This objective failed, they made no significant advances and the attack was called off after heavy casualties.
Quotes from the historian regarding the events on May 3 and 4th, 1917.
“On the front of the Household Battalion a German machine gun behind a wall held its fire till the line came level with it and then swept it in enfilade with devastating effect. A few men of this battalion and of the Irish Fusiliers reached the first objective, 500 yards east of the Roeux – Gavrelle road.”
“The confusion caused by the darkness; the speed with which the German artillery opened fire; the manner in which it concentrated upon the British infantry, almost neglecting the artillery; the intensity of its fire, the heaviest that many an experienced soldier had ever witnessed, seemingly unchecked by British counter-battery fire and lasting almost without slackening for fifteen hours; the readiness with which the German infantry yielded to the first assault and the energy of its counter-attack; and, it must be added, the bewilderment of the British infantry on finding itself in the open and its inability to withstand any resolute counter-attack.”
This is the battle where Charles Henry Gott, my great-great uncle was killed. His war record lists him as missing on 3-May-1917. Later his record is updated with ‘presumed dead’.
His remains may be buried in the grave of an unknown soldier or still be out on the battlefield. The Third Battle of the Scarpe, as the fighting over 3rd and 4th May was named, was an unmitigated disaster for the British Army which suffered nearly 6,000 men killed for little material gain.
Charles Henry Gott served less than 2 years for the British Army, he was just shy of 26 when he was killed in action. He was a foot soldier in the trenches on the front, no high rank. His name is on a plaque at the Arras Memorial in France, the Cenotaph in Horsforth, as well as plaques at his family church and service club. He is honoured. His story is much like many other young men that didn’t make it home.
Before he enlisted he worked as a cloth miller. He was 5’ 9” and weighed 140 lbs. His parents were William & Rhoda Gott, he had an older brother and sister, George & Bertha, and two younger sisters, Rhoda (my great grandmother) and Gladys.
Here is his picture.
I needed to see his face once his story started to reveal itself to me. With the help of Susan at the Horsforth Museum the face of Charles Henry Gott landed in my inbox. I am forever grateful for her kindness and readiness to help from so far away.
This Remembrance Day I will honour my Grandad, Charles Henry Gooder as I do every year, but the moment of silence will be for Trooper C.H. Gott who fell silent on the battlefield in France on the 3rd of May 1917. His sacrifice will not be in vain.