Recently Linda was contacted regarding one of her ancestors who had fought and died in the First World War. James Frost . This led to us driving to France and Belgium which she has just blogged about here Linda’s Blog.
However whilst we were in the area we also visited Ypres (Ieper) where my Great Grandfather had been stationed for a time before his posting to the Somme where on November 4th 1916 he lost his life.
Herbert Goulding was my paternal Grandmother’s Father. He had been born in the Barracks of the Lancashire Fusiliers at Bury and joined up as a boy soldier. He had seen action in the Boer War and spent 21 years in the Army gaining the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.
After leaving the army his family settled in Barrow in Furness but within 14 months of civilian life he had reenlisted at the start of the Great War. He was shipped out to France initially stationed around the Belgian town of Ypres.
Ypres endured particularly heavy fighting. At the end of the war nothing remained standing. The Ypres of today is rebuilt as it once had been and looks like it was from the Middle ages, except every building is not yet 100 years old.
The war diaries show that Herbert Goulding was on the western front at Sanctuary Hill of Christmas day 1915 and that he was relieved on the evening. The unique thing about Sanctuary Hill is that it was time capsuled by the landowners at the end of the war, preserved as a museum. The trenches are as they were, as are the craters from artillery fire. The archaeological finds are stacked up somewhat unceremoniously and the splintered and dead trees are strapped in position as they were when the Armistice was called.
My Great Grandfather wasn’t a young lad who signed up with the notion of a good time abroad, sold the spin of the recruitment officers, believing they would be home for Christmas, he was a career soldier who had seen it all before. I wonder what he must have thought at the constant stream of cannon fodder and the ever pervading stench of death, mud and destruction.
I can’t put into words my emotions as I walked the trenches, knowing he had walked them, imagining how he must have felt to be on the Front Line on Christmas Day, with his young family miles away in another land, another world almost, whilst trying to look after soldiers who were little more than children themselves. RIP RSM Herbert Goulding, thank you for your life.