Pte Cecil Goodsell (1895 – 1916)

Cecil Goodsell was born in Hawkhurst on 14 October 1895, the third of nine children to James Goodsell and his wife, Harriett (née Saunders.) His father was a farm bailiff, meaning he was a middleman between the landowner and the tenant farmer – acting as an agent for the former and ensuring the latter ran the farm correctly and paid the rent on time. If not, the bailiff had the power to evict the farmer. As such, the family frequently moved around and, by the time Cecil was six, lived in Hale in the parish of Horsmonden before Tudely in 1909 (where Cecil and his two younger brothers, Frank and William, attended Capel Council School) and Goblands Farm in Hadlow by 1911. After leaving school, Cecil worked as a farm labourer and, before the war, lived with his parents and siblings at Ford Farm in Wrotham Heath.

On 22 November 1915, Cecil lived near Dartford in Southfleet and presumably worked on a local farm when he enlisted at the recruiting office in St. Swithin’s Lane, London. He joined the 19th (Reserve) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps and was recorded in a medical examination as being 5’ 7” in height, weighing 128lbs, with good physical development. The Army passed Cecil fit for service and sent him for training in Andover.

On 28 January 1916, Cecil transferred to the 17th (Service) Battalion (British Empire League) King’s Royal Rifle Corps. At the time, the battalion was camped in Witley, Surrey, and formed part of the 117th Infantry Brigade in the 39th Division. Towards the end of February, the Division departed for France with Cecil’s unit entraining at Milford on 7 March for Southampton, where they sailed for Le Havre on board the SS Princess Victoria. Upon arrival in the small hours of the following day, the battalion joined the brigade, concentrated in Steenbecque, before eventually marching off towards Estaires and then Bac St. Maur.

On the evening of 20 March, the riflemen took over the front line at Rue du Quesnoy. However, within a month, Cecil left the trenches suffering from scabies—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. Cecil was eventually discharged back to duty on 15 April and rejoined his unit at Béthune after they returned from a short tour in the trenches at Cuinchy.

At the end of April, Cecil was back in the front lines, this time in the Festubert area, and when the Somme offensive began on 1 July, based in trenches south of Richebourg, known as Richmond Terrace. On the night of 5/6 July, he formed part of a wiring party that ventured out into No Man’s Land. At the time, the Battalion War Diary mentions enemy snipers being active, and possibly Cecil was killed by one of these while carrying out the task. His body lay where it fell until 1920, when it was exhumed and reburied with military honours in Le Touret Military Cemetery near Richebourg-L’Avoue. Cecil’s personal effects and medals (British War and Victory) eventually found their way to his mother, who by 1918 had lost another son to the war and was living in Crouch.

Cecil’s name was added to the Platt War Memorial in 2016.

Headstone photograph courtesy of Gary Neate

Scott Wishart