RFA West Lancs Bdes
681813 BDR. J. T. GODWIN. R.F.A.
John Thomas Godwin was born in November 1894 in Liscard, Wallasey, Cheshire, and baptised at Liscard St Mary’s on 28 November. His father was Thomas Godwin (b. 1853 in New Brigthon), a stoker in the borough council gas works. His mother was Annie Chelmick (b. 1862 in Clun, Shropshire). Thomas and Annie were married in 1882 and they had 11 children, though they lost one in infancy. The children were: George Edward (b. 1883), Edith (b. 1885), William (b. 1886), Thomas (b. 1888), Ellen (b. 1890), Mary Jane (b. 1893), then John Thomas, then Philip Henry (b. 1896), Annie (b. 1899), Agnes (b. 1901) and finally Charles Alfred (b. 1905). In 1911, Thomas and Annie and six of their children were living at 11 Tower Street, Liscard. John Thomas (aged 16) was working as an errand boy for a grocer.
John Thomas probably signed up in 1915, though he may have done some service in the Territorials before that. He joined the Royal Field Artillery, was assigned service number 1152 (later changed to 681813) and posted to “D” Battery of 276 Brigade. At some point, John was promoted to Bombardier. 276 Brigade formed part of 55th (West Lancashire) Division. John landed with his Division in France on 29 September 1915. 55th Division fought at Guillemont and Ginchy (on the Somme) in September 1916, suffering severe losses especially at Guillemont. They also fought at Flers-Courcelette and Morval later that month, and then in October 1916 they were moved to the Ypres Salient, at the time a relatively quieter part of the front. Although there were no major engagements in early 1917, there was constant harassment, shelling and raids.
681813 Bdr J T Godwin
photo kindly supplied by Wayne Finch
1917: Third Battle of Ypres
From 55th Divisional History: "The objective of what was called the Third Battle of Ypres was the capture of the enemy's Gheluvelt-Langemark system... The weather during the whole of June and during the greater part of July had been ideal for campaigning purposes. Unfortunately, on Sunday 29 July a particularly heavy thunderstorm filled up the shell holes and turned roads and tracks into a morass. The succeeding days were dull and hazy, making the completion of the artillery preparation peculiarly difficult and typical Flanders weather conditions prevailed on the morning of the 31st - the moment chosen for the attack. Low lying clouds which made aerial observation and cooperation as difficult as could be imagined; a dampness of atmosphere, threatening rain at any moment; a half sodden ground, greasy and depressing; such was the luck of the weather at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when the barrage opened. Not since the war began had so intense a barrage been put down, and of its wonderful effectiveness all ranks in the line bore eloquent testimony."
55th Division spent the period from 7 August to 12 September either at rest or in training. The weather throughout August had been appalling but in early September, as the Division prepared to return to the front, it became fine and dry. They took up their position in the line on 15 September, in almost exactly the same place they had left back in August. As they prepared to enter the line, between Frezenberg and St Julien, the various sections of the Division were constantly harassed by enemy fire. John died of wounds at Mendinghem on 14 September 1917. He was 22 years old.
Service No: 681813
Date of Death: 14/09/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty, 276th Bde.
Grave Reference: VII. C. 27.
Cemetery: MENDINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY
John’s brother William also fought and died in the War.
63063 PTE. W. GODWIN. LANCS.FUS.
William Godwin was born in Liscard in December 1886 and baptised at Liscard St Mary’s on 11 December. In 1910, he married Maggie Thompson (b. 1886 in Prescot) and in 1913 they had a daughter, Elsie. The family lived at 5 Fair View Avenue, Liscard, and William worked for a bakery as a van man.
William probably enlisted in 1916. He joined the Lancashire Fusiliers and was assigned service number 63063 and posted to 16th Battalion. He was at some point transferred to the Labour Corps, with service number 43966, but the records seem to imply that he was back with the Fusiliers at the time of his death. He was reported missing, presumed dead, near Arras, on 3 July 1918. He was 31 years old.
Lancashire Fusiliers 16th (Service) Battalion (2nd Salford) came under orders of 96th Brigade, 32nd Division. I don’t know the exact circumstances of William’s death, but in the summer of 1918 32nd Division were preparing to engage in the 100 Days Offensive, which would begin on 8 August. So there was no specific battle action at the time of William’s death; the fact that he was missing, presumed dead, and also that he has no grave, may indicate that he was involved in a raid on an enemy trench and failed to make it back.
Service No: 63063
Date of Death: 03/07/1918
Regiment/Service: Lancashire Fusiliers, 16th Bn.
Grave Reference: Bay 5.
Cemetery: ARRAS MEMORIAL