William GODDARD
Rank: Private
Number: 31710
Unit: 1/5th Battalion SOUTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 9 April 1918
Age: 40
Cemetery: Vieille-Chapelle New Military Cemetery, Lacouture, Pas de Calais, France

William was born in Chinley but the Goddard family had farmed at Dove House Farm, Wybersley, High Lane for many years. He was the son of James and Mary Goddard. The 1901 Census indicates that Mary must have been James' second wife and her children from the previous marriage - John and Liza Clayton - were at home. There were also four adult Goddard children - Sarah (then 31), James (28), Samuel (20) and William (23). The three sons all helped their father work the farm.

Between 1901 and the Great War, James died and William and one of his brothers (probably James), became the farm's tenants. His service number suggests that he enlisted around 1916, at Warrington, possibly as a conscript. The number also suggests he joined one of the of the Regiment's "service battalions" - those formed for the duration of the War only. The 7th & 8th battalions were both disbanded in February 1918 with troops being dispersed to other units, including the 1/5th Battalion.

The German Army had launched an overwhelming assault on British forces in the area of the 1916 Somme battlefield. The troops had been forced into many miles of retreat. Further north, the front was quiet but it was generally recognised that this sector would bear the brunt of an expected second attack. In early April, all units were placed on alert.  The South Lancashires, along with the other two battalions of 166th Brigade,  were in reserve to the east of the French town of Bethune when the German artillery barrage finally opened at 4.15am on 9 April. The bombardment did not just fall on the front line, but the support positions and villages in the reserve areas all came under attack.

Fifteen minutes later, the brigade received orders to move forward to its designated battle positions. As they neared the front, it became clear that heavy close range fighting was underway and two companies of the South Lancashires were detached to assist the 164th Brigade. The other two Companies, "B" and "D", were sent to assist the 195th Brigade.

Heavy fighting continued all day, particularly around a position known as Mesplaux Farm and the Germans made determined attempts to break through but without success. The line was held and, by evening, the Germans faced a strongly held defensive position.

In spite of the desperate fighting, the South Lancashires had suffered few casualties. Only seven had been killed including William and another local man, George Worsencroft. William was one of five men to be killed when a shell landed amongst them. It is not known if George was also one of the party. Both men were originally buried close to where they were died and were moved to their final resting place after the Armistice when many very small front line burial areas were closed as the land was returned to civilian use.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission wrongly records William's rank as "Rifleman". This designation was never used by the Regiment. Further information about him can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

   
           
   
     
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