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Driver J. Gooch, of Birkenhead 2 months 2 weeks ago #85732

  • BereniceUK
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In the course of describing his return home from South Africa, and an interview with him on his time on active service, there's not one specific mention in the article of which unit he served with.

RETURN OF FIREMAN GOOCH.
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THE BRIGADE'S WELCOME TO COLLEAGUE.
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HE RELATES HIS EXPERIENCES.
....After over two years' service in South Africa, Fireman J. Gooch returned to Birkenhead on Saturday. And a right royal welcome was accorded him by the members of the Fire Brigade. They escorted him to the station when he went to the front, and similarly they met him at Woodside and brought him to his old headquarters. He was due to arrive a little after noon, and Superintendent Smith and four of Gooch's more intimate colleagues mounted the hose carriage and drove to the station. Many people speculated on the nature and object of the turnout, because the average speed at which the horses were driven plainly indicated that the carriage was not en route to a fire, besides which a huge flag lay across the carriage. By the time the station was reached it had leaked out among a few of the public that a member of the brigade was returning from the war, and quite a flutter of excitement prevailed in the station precincts. Whether or not work with flying columns and in baffling the Boers had given Gooch the art of making himself invisible is problematical, but innocently enough his slim tactics on Saturday created at first a little consternation and dismay. Fairly punctual, the Chester train came in the station, but the familiar face of Gooch was not to be seen. The Superintendent and his men paraded the whole length of the platform, but still no sign of the fireman-campaigner, and, considering that the next Chester train was not due in for another hour, it was natural that a feeling of disappointment began to creep over the deputation of welcome. In fact the chief and his men were making their way back to the hose carriage, when, just at the entrance to the station, who should appear but the eagerly-expected one, and with smiling face and outstretched hand he seemed delightfully oblivious to the anxiety he had caused. But with the object of the turnout attained all was well, and once more the hose carriage—this time with an extra passenger—rattled through the streets, and as it neared the Fire Station the boom of many fog-signals filled the air, and on the flagstaff above the station buildings fluttered a red ensign, while quite a display of bunting adorned Vincent-street, where Gooch resides.
....And now a little about the fireman who has returned. Gooch, who was on the army reserve list when called up, has seen his full share of campaigning, serving under Generals Buller, Clery, French, and Bruce Hamilton. He has been fortunate enough to come through the various affrays without personal injury, and the only time he was incapacitated was when he was laid up with enteric. Two years in South Africa has wrought no detrimental effect upon his appearance; on the contrary, he looks the picture of perfect good health.
....Incidents of the war, especially of its earlier stages, and the experiences of those who have come in contact with them, are by this [time] somewhat trite reading. Consequently, when an "Advertiser" representative had a chat with Driver Gooch, the stale details of a soldier's life were avoided for both interviewer and interviewed. Driver Gooch has had considerable experience in farm-burning, especially with Brigadier General Gilbert Hamilton, when commencing in May, 1900, extensive operations were conducted in the vicinity of Standerton and in the Western Transvaal. Brigadier General Gilbert Hamilton's command was composed of a section of Q Battery, one pom-pom, two guns of the 64th, East Lancashire Regiment, 13th Hussars, and the 5th Dragoon Guards. The column was one of the biggest engaged in the work of farm destruction. Night marches and rapid movements were characteristic of the column, and several times they surprised De La Rey and Kemp's commandoes, on one occasion capturing two or three hundred remounts and about thirty prisoners. Against Potgeiter they were successful in bagging a very large number of cattle. Not only was the column engaged with columns under Colonels Allenby, Hickey, and Williams in the region of the Magaliesberg just prior to Colonel Kekewich's hard fighting, but they took part in General Walter Kitchener's converging operations against Botha. At Rorke's Drift they had the opportunity of visiting the historic place, where former British soldiers in the Zulu war wrote down another page of heroism. Incessant campaigning had its effect on the column, for when the men ultimately went to Pretoria their personal condition was such that Lord Kitchener rested them and ordered that every individual to be fumigated.
....The warmest corner Driver Gooch ever found himself in was while bringing General French's convoy from Ermele to Standerton on January 16th, 1901. They were then under the command of Colonel Colville. The convoy was a huge one, and for three days they were surrounded by Boers, who made desperate attempts to capture the convoy.
....It was after Ladysmith was relieved that the column in which Gooch was serving joined General Buller, and his estimate of the most-discussed officer of the British army is extremely interesting. "No finer gentleman or better soldier ever donned uniform," was Driver Gooch's terse but expressive comment.
....The subject of the concentration camps naturally came up for discussion between Driver Gooch and our representative. All the talk, he remarked, about abusing women and ill-treating children was mere moonshine. "We need to laugh at the absurd statements in the English papers," he said. When farms were burnt the women and children were placed in bullock waggons and treated with the greatest respect. Often enough, when the soldiers had to be placed on half-rations, the women and children had their full complement of food; in fact, it was in order that this should be so that the soldiers had to be placed on reduced rations.
...."In the concentration camps themselves," said Gooch, "the families were placed in bell tents. You know what bell tents are like. Well, we have been huddled twelve or thirteen in one tent, and glad, too, of the shelter; but there are never more than one or two women with children placed in each tent in the camp. Galvanised iron cookhouses were constructed for them, and the sites for the camps were arranged near a river or spruit. I must say that the Boer women showed grat fortitude when their farms were burnt down, but there was never any animosity between them and their captors."
....Asked for his opinion regarding the duration of the war, Driver Gooch said it was impossible for him to fix any period, so curious was the present state of affairs in South Africa. There was no determined, solid resistance, refugees were returning up country, mines were re-opening, and the war was dribbling out.
....Driver Gooch's term on the reserve list is up this year, and he will then have been 13 years at his country's call. He reported himself to the Watch Committee on Monday, and will resume his duties in the more confined area of a municipality on Saturday.
Birkenhead Advertiser, Wednesday 26th February 1902
The following user(s) said Thank You: Moranthorse1, Smethwick

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Driver J. Gooch, of Birkenhead 2 months 1 week ago #85756

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A Fireman Gooch made three appearances in the Birkenhead News during the Boer War. The first regarding his send-off in January 1900, when he was driven to the railway station on a “horse hose carriage” refers to him as Joseph Gooch “formerly of the Army Service Corps”. The second when he sent another letter home, dated 17th June 1900, to his former work comrades refers to him as W. J. Gooch attached to the “64th Battery of the RFA”. The final one is regarding his home coming in February 1902 when his train is late arriving, and he is then conveyed to the fire station in the “hose carriage” – his unit is not mentioned in this report.

Armed with this information Find My Past coughs up a very faint and in places hard to read set of service records for Driver 9361 Joseph Gooch. They show Joseph enlisted in the Army Service Corps on the 16th May 1890 at Wrexham aged 21 years and 1 month. After exactly 3 years of home service he was discharged to the Army Reserve. This is unusual and checking his attestation paper the usual seven of active service followed by five in the Army Reserve have been crossed out and overwritten by three and nine years.

On 1st January 1900 Joseph was recalled to the colours and on 6th April 1900 embarked for South Africa. His return from South Africa began on 21st January 1902 and he was finally discharged from the army on 15th March 1902. At the time of his discharge his rank is given as Driver and the service records do not mention any secondment to the RFA. Otherwise, the dates given on his service records tally with the mentions in the Birkenhead News.

Joseph’s service records give his mother as his next of kin when he enlisted – her details were: Mrs Margaret Gooch, 35 Crane Street, Chester. His marriage is also recorded to spinster Mary Stretch on 28th May 1896 at Chester Register Office.

Driver 9361 J Gooch is listed on two medal rolls. First a QSA Medal Roll drawn up at “Standerton, Transvaal” on 15th August 1901 and entitled “Army Service Corps Attached 64th Battery Royal Field Artillery”. This shows he was awarded 3 clasps – “Orange Free State”, “Transvaal” & “Laing’s Nek”. The second is a KSA Medal Roll drawn up at “Woolwich Dockyard” on 7th February 1903, entitled "Army Service Corps" and shows he was awarded both clasps.

The 1911 Census shows a Joseph & Mary Gooch, who have been married for 14 years, living at Lower Bebington on the southern edge of Birkenhead with a 5 year old daughter. On the return he gave his occupation as “Rigger” working for a “Ship Builder” and added “Army Pensioner”. However, at 43 he is at least two years too old according to his service records and again his stated birthplace of “Chester” does not tally with the service records which say “Connah’s Quay” which is just over the border in NE Wales. If they are one and the same, it would appear he was widowed by the start of WW2 and died in 1947.

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Driver J. Gooch, of Birkenhead 2 months 1 week ago #85757

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Fantastic! Really great work there, Smethwick, many thanks.

The best bet for Gooch's birth would seem to be a Joseph Gooch, born 2nd quarter of 1867 in the Great Boughton registration district, which was renamed as Chester in 1870. His death was in the Wirral district, 1st quarter of 1847, aged 79, which would match the birth date above.

The mention of his being attached to the 64th Battery R.F.A. could tally with the 64th Battery being part of the column that Gooch seems to have been in - "Brigadier General Gilbert Hamilton's command was composed of a section of Q Battery, one pom-pom, two guns of the 64th, East Lancashire Regiment, 13th Hussars, and the 5th Dragoon Guards." Perhaps a brief attachment only?

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