Private Arthur Goddard
R4/108968, Royal Army Service Corps who died on 1 June 1917
Arthur Goddard was the son of Thomas, a framework knitter and Emma (nee Challoner) Goddard. He was born in Oadby and baptised at St Peter’s Church on 3 September 1876 along with his two brothers. The family lived at Main Street which was the former name referring to the road running through the centre of the village, now The Parade, Leicester Road and London Road.
The 1891 census shows Arthur lodging in All Saint’s Place, Blackfriars Leicester and working as a groom. By 1901 he had left Leicestershire and was employed as a coachman for George Sinclair Smith, a retired sugar planter, at Coombe House, near Copplestone, Devon. There he met Annie Yeo, who was working as a housemaid. The couple married in 1903 and had two children, Doris born in 1903 and Lilian born in 1906. In 1911 Thomas was still working as a coachman and the family lived at Coombe Lodge on Mr Smith’s estate.
Coombe House, near Copplestone, Devon where Arthur and Annie Goddard were in service
Arthur’s service record has not survived so it is difficult to give an accurate account of his military career so it is therefore necessary to piece together his war service from other evidence. Arthur’s war service was probably all on home soil. Research has not yet uncovered his cause of death but we know that Arthur he died at Gilroes Hospital, Leicester on 1 June 1917.
His headstone lists him as a member of the Royal Army Service Corps. As a family man, in his late 30s at the outbreak of war, Arthur would have been at the upper age limit for enlistment. But his experience with horses made him an ideal candidate for the 53rd Remount Training Squadron. The Remount Squadrons of the Army Service Corps were responsible for the provisioning of horses and mules to all other army units.
Recruitment poster for the Army Remount Department
In 1914 the British army’s Remount Department comprised four depots in the UK handling around 25,000 animals. By 1917 this had increased to 870,000 animals and four additional depots had been established.
Some horses were donated or bought from Ireland, Australia or the Americas but in the early days of the war many were compulsorily purchased from all forms of service. The men of the 53rd Remount Squadron were also responsible for collecting the animals to be brought into service. Accompanied by a vet and often a constable they collected horses that were ‘loaned’ for the duration of the war. In reality a tiny fraction were returned to their owners
Men of 53rd Remounts collecting horses from a Leicester mineral water firm
The commandeering of horses from commercial enterprises became a problem for businesses who relied on their animals for haulage. Apologies and complaints abound in the local press of the time.
Delivery and hauliers’ horses were some of the first to be commandeered. (Leicester Mercury 7 August 1914)
The main Remount Depot for the Midlands was in Melton Mowbray but there were smaller units across the county where animals were stabled and trained. These were located close to good rail links and included Market Harborough and Oadby Racecourse. From the holding base at Oadby Racecourse the animals entrained on railway cattle trucks to be dispatched to France and Belgium.
The Oadby Soldiers and Sailors list of men who served in the Great War indicates that Arthur Goddard was billeted at the County Cricket Ground on Aylestone Road, Leicester.
Men of the 53rd Remount Squadron in a tug of war at the Tigers Ground (Leicester Illustrated Chronicle 9 June 1917).
One of the issues for the troops working at Oadby Racecourse was the lack of sanitation facilities. Although apparently an ideal location for the war horses, the Army and the Oadby Urban District Council had failed to account for the increased number of men who would be stationed at the racecourse. The base at Oadby Racecourse appears to have been hastily established as local newspaper reports indicate that the facilities for the men were rudimentary. The racecourse had previously only catered for day visitors so there was no proper running water and the state of the few available latrines deteriorated rapidly. In early 1917, continued complaints from the officers led to the Council Sanitation Inspector requesting the County Surveyor to ascertain whether the latrines could be linked to the main sewer immediately. This work was completed during the summer. Additionally, the slipper baths at Oadby Swimming Pool were opened for the troops on Saturday nights.
Men of the Remount Squadron (and other regiments) in the forge at Oadby Racecourse in 1916
Grooms and farriers at Oadby Racecourse May 1916
Private Arthur Goddard is Buried with Honour in Oadby Cemetery and remembered on the Oadby War Memorial.
Arthur Goddard’s grave in Oadby Cemetery
It seems likely that Arthur and his family moved back to Leicester at some point before or during the war, probably for Annie and the children to live with the wider Goddard family. A War Gratuity of £6 was sent to Annie on 23 October 1917 along with Arthur’s back pay of £2 19s 1d.
In 1922 Annie Goddard remarried widower Frederick Bennett, 13 years her senior, whose son Archibald Bennett had died in France in October 1916. Frederick’s first wife Sarah Ann (nee Mellowes) had died in 1921.
On the 1901 census the Goddards and Bennetts are listed as next door neighbours in Regent Street and both families were members of the Oadby Baptist Church. The couple moved into Frederick Bennett’s house at 38 Stoughton Road and were still living there in 1953 when Frederick died.
Private Arthur Goddard’s details from the Army Register of Soldiers Effects 1901-1929