Rank: Able Seaman
Number: R/2862
Unit: Anson Battalion ROYAL NAVAL DIVISION
Date of Death: 6 November 1917
Age: 19
Cemetery: Passchendaele New British Cemetery, Belgium

James and Annie Goodison were living in a “two up, two down” house at 1 Divi (sp?) Street, Heaton Moor, when the 1901 Census was taken. They had three children – Joseph (then 8), Elizabeth (6) and James (born on 27 February 1898). Annie died in 1909 and, at some point, James moved the family home to 2 Posnett Street.

Nothing is known of James’ early life until he enlisted into the army on 13 May 1916. He was originally assigned to the 2/1st Cheshire Yeomanry – a Territorial cavalry unit. After initial training, and when he became 18 and eligible for overseas service, he was transferred to the Royal Naval Division on 20 June 1917. The Division had been formed just after War was declared in August 1914. It was initially comprised of Royal Marines and naval reservists for whom no ship could be found at the time. It spent the rest of the War fighting on land, much as any other Division of the Army, but it retained its naval traditions and ranks. James would have had to undertake some retraining to prepare him for the new customs and it was not until 30 August that he joined the Anson Battalion on active service in Belgium.

The Third Battle of Ypres (often known as Passchendaele) had been underway since 31 July and James will have quickly found himself in the thick of the fighting. Towards the end of October, the Battalion was in action near the village of Poelcapelle and had then withdrawn to Dambre Camp near Brielen to reorganise.

On the 5th, they again moved to the front line and started to relieve the Hood Battalion from 5.30pm. The relief was not completed until the early hours of the 6th. The Battalion’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, takes up the story “Delay was due in the initial stage to the Hood Battalion not being in readiness and later to the great difficulty experienced in relieving the garrison at Vapour Farm owing to the intense darkness and the almost impossible condition of the ground.”

At 6am, on the 6th, the Canadians on the right of Anson undertook a small scale attack towards the village of Paschendaele. “As a result, the Battalion suffered a heavy shelling by the enemy, our casualties approximately 50 – of these some 8 – 10 were caused by shells from our own guns.”

It cannot be known if James was killed by German shelling or the “friendly fire” of British shells falling short but, at the end of the day, he was posted as being missing. He had probably been killed and buried by an explosion. The Cemetery where he is now buried was not created until after the Armistice so it seems likely that his body was not discovered until then, when the battlefields were cleared before a return to civilian use.

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