Pte. Cecil Goodsell (1895 – 1916)
Cecil Goodsell was born in Hawkhurst during October 1895, the third of nine children to James Goodsell and his wife Harriett Saunders. His father was a farm bailiff meaning he was a middle-man between the landowner and the tenant farmer, acting as an agent for the former and making sure the latter ran the farm properly and paid the rent on time. If not, the bailiff had the power to evict the farmer. As such James moved around a bit and is enumerated in various places during the decennial census returns. In 1901 the family lived in Hale in the parish of Horsmonden, but by 1911 had moved to Goblands in Hadlow. Cecil had started work labouring on the farm, and within the next five years had relocated with his parents and siblings to Ford Farm in Wrotham Heath.
At the time of enlisting Cecil was based in South Fleet, and presumably working on a local farm in the area. He visited the recruitment office in St. Swithins Lane, London on 22 November 1915 and joined the 19th (Reserve) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. At the time he was recorded in an army medical as being 5’ 7” in height, weighing 128lbs and with good physical development. C/4677 Pte. Cecil Goodsell was passed fit for service and sent for training in Andover.
On 28 January 1916, Cecil was transferred to the 17th (Service) Battalion (British Empire League) King’s Royal Rifle Corps who were camped in Witley, Surrey, and part of the 117th Infantry Brigade. The entire battalion entrained a month later on 7 March at Milford and journeyed to Southampton where they sailed for France on board the SS Princess Victoria, arriving in Le Havre during the small hours of the following day. The brigade had concentrated in Steenbecque, however, the battalion eventually marched off towards Estaires and then Bac St. Maur where Cecil would have engaged in a period of further training which consisted of route marches, drill, and inspections. He was also likely assigned to one of the frequent working parties that were employed in strengthening parapets and improving communication trenches.
By the evening of 20 March the riflemen took over the line at Rue du Quesnoy, however, within a month, Cecil was taken out of the trenches suffering from scabies, which was a common affliction amongst men serving at the Front. He was admitted to the Scabies Hospital in Colonne before being transferred to No.4 Stationary Hospital in Arques to recover. He was eventually discharged back to duty on 15 April and rejoined his unit who had just served a short tour in the line at Cuinchy, and were based at Béthune.
At the end of April Cecil returned to the front line trenches, this time in the Festubert area, where the battalion remained until mid-July. At the time the Somme offensive started on 1 July, Cecil was in the line south of Richebourg known as Richmond Terrace. By 8 July the battalion had been holding the front line for 27 consecutive days, however, Cecil was killed three days earlier reputedly whilst putting up barbed wired.
Regrettably, the circumstances of Cecil’s death are unknown, and his body was buried in Le Touret Military Cemetery near Richebourg-L’Avoue, with his personal effects and medals (British War and Victory) subsequently sent to his mother, who by then was living in Crouch. His name was added to the Platt War Memorial in 2016.
Two years later Cecil’s older brother Jesse, who lived in Hadlow, was also killed in action.
Headstone photograph courtesy of Gary Neate