Charles Goodman

northumberland fusiliers badgePrivate, 69757, 12/13th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (previously 48098, South Staffordshire Regiment), died 27th-29th May 1918, aged 18.

Born at Crowle in 1900, Charles was the eldest son of Charles John and Emma Goodman. His mother was from Pontefract and his father from Northampton. When Charles was born the family lived at Godnow Bridge but they had moved to Medge Hall by 1911. Charles Snr was an engine driver then later foreman for the Peat Moss Litter Company at Medge Hall and Charles Jnr also worked there prior to enlisting.

According to his record on the Soldiers Who Died in the Great War Roll, Charles enlisted in the army at Lichfield post 1915. This is unlikely to be the place he actually enlisted but is most likely from where he transferred from the Training Reserve Brigade to the regular army. Throughout most of the war the legal age to enlist was 18 and to fight in action overseas 19. But on 10 April 1918, following the losses in the German Spring Offensive the Military Services Act allowed soldiers aged 18 years and 6 months to be sent overseas as long as they had received six months training. So it is likely that Charles enlisted in late 1917 and was on of the thousands of young recruits hurriedly sent out to France in April 1918 to reinforce a unit who had taken heavy casualties in the Spring Offensive.

The unit Charles joined, the 12/13th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers had originally been two separate battalions but due to losses through casualties they were amalgamated in August 1917. The were heavily involved in the Spring Offensive, participating in the Battle of St Quentin, the Second Battle of Kemmel and the Battle of Messines. Now due a rest and take time to train their new reinforcements, on 5th May the 12/13th Northumberland Fusiliers were one of the British units transferred away from Belgium to a quieter section of the front line in northern France.

The area they went to was close to the River Aisne between Loivre and of Berry-au-Bac, north-west of Rheims. It was quite a change from the mud, rain and devastation of Flanders and the Somme and the soldiers could hardy believe their eyes; ‘The countryside basked contentedly in the blazing sunshine. Trim villages nestled in quiet hollows beside lazy streams, and tired eyes were refreshed by the sight of rolling hills, clad with great woods golden with laburnum blossom; by the soft greenery of lush meadow and shrubby vineyards and fields of growing corn.’

Shortly after 1.00am on 27th May this peace and tranquillity was shattered by a massive German artillery bombardment. High explosive and gas shells rained down for around three hours and was then followed by a full-scale infantry attack as the German army launched into Operation Blücher, the third phase of their Spring Offensive. In the following action, known as the Battle of the Aisne, the Germans made a huge gain against the stunned British and French defenders, advancing 10 miles on the first day alone as the Allied troops hurriedly tried to stage rearguard actions to stop them.

Detailed information on the exact role of the 12/13th Northumberland Fusiliers in the Battle of the Aisne is necessarily scarce. During the initial attack they put on gas masks and held position on the front line for at time before retreating towards Cormicy. They staged a rearguard action throughout the afternoon, then fell back to high ground near the Ferme de l’Epinette, north-east of Pevy. Here they put up stiff resistance over several hours on the 28th May before being forced back towards the River Vesle late in the afternoon.

The next day, 29th May, they fell back again around Hill 202, close to Treslon. At 2.00pm the German’s attacked the hill but were repulsed several times. From Hill 202 the remnants of the battalion withdrew to Mery-Premecy, where they were relived.

It is uncertain where and how Charles Goodman lost his life in the Battle on the Aisne, but he was posted missing after the first day’s action around Berry-au-Bac. If he was not killed in action then he died of his wounds shortly afterwards as Charles was buried by the German Army, as an unknown British soldier, in the Moscu German Military Cemetery close to where this action took place. When his body was exhumed for reburial in 1920, Charles was properly identified and he now lies in the Moscu French Military Cemetery (since renamed Berry-au-Bac French National Cemetery).

Charles is also commemorated on Thorne War Memorial. In 2013 his Victory Medal sold on ebay for £22.