Goodson, Joseph, 205, Police Constable.

Guardsman 5706 Grenadier Guards Killed In Action.

Paul Watts with thanks to Mick Hall

Joseph Goodson Death Announcement
Herts Police Historical Society

Early Life.

Joseph Goodson was born on the 4th October 1877 in Great (Much) Hadham and he was baptised on the 9th December 1877 at Much Hadham.

His father, Henry an agricultural labourer, was born about 1835 in Little Hadham. Henry married Emily Perry, born in 1836 at Bishops Stortford, on the 28th November 1858 in Bishops Stortford and they had a son Henry William Goodson in 1860. Sadly, Emily died in 1861 aged 25 years.

Henry remarried in 1862 again at Bishops Stortford to Elizabeth Warwick, who was born in 1836 at Little Hadham. Sadly, Elizabeth died in March 1876 aged 40 at Little Hadham.

Henry married again in September 1876 at Bishops Stortford to Eliza Perry, who was born in 1845 at Little Hallingbury. Eliza already had five children: Charles born 1860, William born 1863, Edward born 1864, Alexander born 1869 and Mary Ann born 1870. Henry and Eliza had just the one child which was Joseph.

They lived in Much Hadham and in the census returns of 1881 and 1891 Joseph was shown first as a scholar and then, like his father, as an agricultural labourer.

Early Army Service.

On 8th August1895 Joseph enlisted as Private 4875 in the Militia the 3rd Battalion, Essex Regiment. He supplied the following details: He said he was born in Much Hadham, Bishops Stortford and at the time of his enlistment he was living in Stanstead Parish, Bishops Stortford. He gave his age as 17 years 11 months and his trade as labourer. He was not an apprentice and he was employed by a Mr. Knight of Bishops Stortford. He was single and had no children. He had never been sentenced to prison and had no previous Military Service.

He was physically examined at Warley on 9th August 1895 and found to be fit for the Militia. He was described as appearing to be age 17 years 6 months, 5 feet 9 ½ inches tall, weight 128 lbs, minimum chest 34 inches expansion maximum 36 inches, with a fresh complexion, blue eyes, brown hair and had a scar on his upper lip. He gave his religion as Church of England.

His Record of Service shows that he had 49 day’s drill on enlistment but nothing else until on 13th February 1896 he transferred to the Grenadier Guards.

His Grenadier Guards Service Record confirms that on 13th February 1896 he enlisted as Private 5706. He signed up for Short Service of 3 years in the Colors and 9 in the reserve. He supplied the following detailed information: He confirmed he was a British subject born in Great Hadham, Bishops Stortford and that his age was now 18 years 4 months. He was still an unapprenticed labourer and had not lived away from his father’s home in the last 3 years. He was still unmarried and still had never been sentenced to prison. He declared that he had previously served in the Army, the 3rd Essex Regiment.

He was medically examined in London and his description was again recorded. The only differences to when he joined the Militia were that his age was now physically equivalent to 19 years, he had put on 5 lbs and that he had distinctive moles on his right arm and abdomen. He gave his father Henry of Great Hadham as his next of kin.

From 13th February 1896 until 27th September 1897 he served at ‘Home’ initially in the 3rd Battalion. However, by 28th September 1897, when he was posted to Gibraltar, he had been transferred to the 1st Battalion. On 13th February 1898, two years after enlisting, he was granted his first Good Conduct pay rise.

On 28th April 1898, he wrote out and signed a declaration that he accepted to come under the conditions of the new Regulations as to the grant of Messing Allowance.

Egypt And The Sudan.

He remained in Gibraltar until 18th July 1898 when with the rest of the Battalion he was sent to Egypt. He then took part in what was called the Nile Expedition and was subsequently awarded the 1898 Queens Sudan Medal and the Khedives Medal (although not shown on his record he would have been eligible for the Khartoum Clasp).

He returned ‘Home’ on 8th October 1898 and continued to serve until 13th July 1899 whereupon he was placed in the 1st Class Army Reserve.

It is probable that even before he went onto the reserve he would have been on leave and may well have been appointed as a Constable in the Hertford County Constabulary before that date.

Police Service.

His Police Service Record has not survived and his date of appointment is not known however, it is known that he was Constable 205 stationed in E Division at Hitchin.


Joseph’s marriage certificate shows that on 11th September 1899 at St. Mary’s Church Hitchin, Joseph Goodson a Constable and bachelor age 22 living in Hitchin, whose father Henry Goodson was a Gardener, married Elizabeth Constance Goodrum a spinster age 23 from Richmond Surrey, whose father was George Abraham Goodrum a Stone Mason.

Recall To The Army And The Boer War.

Joseph’s Army Service Record shows though that his fledgling Police career, and his marriage, were cut short as on 9th October 1899 as he was ‘Recalled to Army Service under Special Army Order of 7th October 1899’ and posted as a Private in the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards. His wife Elizabeth was now recorded as his next of kin and she had apparently returned to the family home at 12, Lorne Cottages, Albert Road, Richmond, Surrey.

On 21st October 1899, Joseph was sent to South Africa to take part in the South African Campaign or Second Boer War. On the 13th November 1899 he was appointed as a Lance Corporal.

The final entry shown on his Service Record is for the 23rd November 1899 when he was recorded as having been killed in action at Belmont. He was later posthumously awarded the South African medal and Clasp for Belmont.

Joseph’s name appeared in the casualty list published in the London Evening Standard on Monday 27th November 1899.

Joseph was buried in the military cemetery at Hopetown on the Orange River. His remains were later reinterred in West End Cemetery, Kimberley and his name appears on a memorial there.

Police General Order 27 of the 27th November 1899 announced Joseph’s death as follows: The Chief Constable regrets to announce the death in action at Belmont, South Africa on Thursday 23rd November of Private J. Goodson 1st Btn. Grenadier Guards, Police Constable 205 in this force. Signed: Henry Daniell Lt. Colonel Chief Constable of Herts.

Assistance For War Widows.

(Abridged) Published in The Scotsman on Saturday 2nd December 1899 under the headline The Daily Telegraph And The Scotsman Shilling Fund For Our Soldier’s Widows And Orphans: The Daly Telegraph of yesterday says: Several most interesting cases of widows, as a rule with children, are occupying the attention of the administration department of this fund. Their claims arise from the battles in which Lord Methuen has been engaged. We are still waiting for the relief of Ladysmith to bring the Natal casualty list to date. It must also be recollected that the regiments under Sir George White were sent from India, and, in some instances, the widows created by fatalities to their husbands are still at Allahabad, and cannot be assisted by the Daily Telegraph until their return to this country.

The fund is enabling the widow of Private T. Chadwick, of the 1st Battalion Scottish Rifles, who died at Cape Town a few days ago, to open a Post Office Savings Bank account, and the initial stage of assistance was taken yesterday in another instance, that of Mrs. Elizabeth Goodson, the widow of Private Joseph Goodson, killed at Belmont, on the 23rd  inst. He was a reservist in the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards, under Lord Methuen, and the claim of his widow is recommended to us by the Rev. H.C. Squires, M.A., Holy Trinity Vicarage, Richmond. This gentleman remarks: “This case is an especially distressing one. The young couple were only married on September 2 last; when the husband had secured what was apparently permanent employment with very good chances of promotion. The young widow has no means of support and no one to whom she can look for assistance, her own mother being a widow in indigent circumstances.” This applicant has received relief from no other fund.

Today’s Daily Telegraph states that the fund now stands at 1,311,543 Shillings, of which £1226.11s was received yesterday. The next list of subscriptions received at the offices of The Scotsman will be published on Monday.

There are two other documents which exist, one a letter dated 10th January 1906 in which Elizabeth Goodson gives her address as 1, Burrator Villas, Durrington, Salisbury, Wiltshire, and confirms that she was married to Joseph, and the second a receipt, dated 12th January 1906, for one medal and one clasp for the South Africa Campaign issued to 5706 Private J Goodson which is signed by Elizabeth and gives the same address.

Joseph and Elizabeth had no children and by early 1901 Elizabeth had in fact remarried to a James Flynn. According to the 1911 census they were still living in Durrington and had three children. James was an Army Canteen Manager.

An Extract From The Diary Of Grenadier Guardsman George Frederick Watts.

George Watts was three years older than Joseph Goodson and had already been in the Grenadier Guards for four years before Joseph enlisted. They were both in the 1st Battalion, both went to Gibraltar at the same time and then on to Egypt and the Sudan War. They returned home together but whereas Joseph was transferred to the reserve in February 1899 George Watts did so in the May.

Whilst Joseph joined the Hertford County Constabulary George Watts joined the London Dock Police (he was later to serve 25 years in the Metropolitan Police). Both men were recalled to the Colours on the same date and both joined the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards and both travelled to South Africa at the same time.

Joseph is not mentioned by name in George Watts’ diary but there is a chance they could have known each other. In South Africa, the roll of the 3rd Battalion shows that George Watts was in number one company whilst Joseph was in number three.

From the diary Joseph Goodson and George Watts sailed from Southampton on 21st October 1899 aboard the SS Goorkhar travelling via Gibraltar (where they collected the rest of the Regiment) and Tenerife before arriving at Cape Town on 15th November. They then travelled ‘up country’ by train.

The extract begins:

20th November 1899: Marched out in force to find the Boers but came in all right we are dyeing all our kits khaki colour and making all bright things so as they won’t shine.

21st November 1899: Reveille at 3 a.m. and marched off at 4 a.m. went about 12 miles and arrived at Split Farm and camped for the night.


22nd November 1899: Marched to Belmont Station and camped for the night the Boers are on the hills in front of us, we can see their fires are told we shall have to take their position at the point of the bayonet in the morning not much sleep.

23rd November 1899: Reveille at 3 a.m. told not to make a noise the Brigade marched off in the dark just afterwards and arrived at the railway and then advanced in fighting order Grenadiers leading and my company on the right we came in sight of Gun Hill and advanced steadily for about 1 hour and came within about 500 yards of the hill when the enemy opened a hot fire on us they were firing for all they was worth 2 or 3 of our chaps dropped but none of my company (No. 1) until we got to 100 yards of the hill and then we got the order to charge we had our bayonets already fixed my chum Brian O’Bierne was the first killed shot through the head and then nearly all the company was hit before we got to the top David St. John and Corporal Frazer were both shot together on the top of the hill they were lying on top of each other dead I took a Boer blanket and covered them over, the enemy cleared out and dived into some more kopjes opposite we never had enough mounted men to catch them so we just put a few shells into them, our adjutant was shot by a Boer who holding a white flag in his hand we lost 2 officers and 24 NCO’s and men killed and about 150 wounded I and about a dozen more after it was over stopped and collected the dead and bandaged some of the wounded. I bandaged Lieutenant Leslie who was shot in the thigh but it was not much good for he died the same night we went back to the old camp and joined our companies the RAMC brought the dead and sent the wounded to hospital everyone was excited in camp about the fight the officers killed were Lieutenants Fryer, Blundell and Leslie. The Colonel was wounded and ½ dozen more officers including Lieutenant Travers of my company. Private Ball and myself carried the dead to the grave and all hands turned out for the funeral the dead all turned black and smelled very bad, lying in the sun too long I smelt the stink for several days afterwards we turned in for sleep at dark.

24th November 1899: Parade and addressed by General Lord Methuen he said we had done well and made a good speech marched off at 3 p.m. and went about 5 miles and camped for the night.

This page was added on 20/08/2020.

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