The Burntwood & District War Memorial Project
Burntwood Family History
Researched and written by Pam TURNER
Bert GOZZARD was born in Chase Terrace Staffs in December 1893; he was one of 11 children born to James Long GOZZARD and Matilda MURCOTT.
JAMES LONG GOZZARD = MATILDA MURCOTT
1864 - 1939 1861 - 1934
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RHODA ELIZA JAMES WILLIAM MAUD BERT ERNEST GILBERT ALICE MAUD BERNARD FANNY HARATIO EVELINE
James Long GOZZARD was born in Wilnecote in Warwickshire and came to live in Chase Terrace prior to 1871 where the census shows him residing at Two Oaks Slade with his parents James and Eliza he was listed as aged 7 and his father was recorded as a Miner.
The new mining village known by 1870 as Chase Terracewas developed in the area north of Cannock Road and west of Rugeley Road.
Two Oaks Inn in the road called High Street existed by 1868 and building land near the Inn was advertised in 1868 and 1870. Two Oaks Slade in 1871 was described as part of Chase Terrace including Rugeley Road, Sankey's Farm and Cottages, Biddulph Pool
and the Lodge Inn. The population of this area in 1871 was given as 1356 persons.
(*1) Map of Wilnecote (*2) Map of Chase Terrace
WILNECOTE AND CHASE TERRACE CIRCA 1870'S
Wilnecote is a township near Tamworth whose population by 1870 had increased due to the opening of Coal Mines. Obviously Coal Mining is the link between the two areas and one would assume that is why the GOZZARD’s moved to Chase Terrace.
In 1881 when the census was taken James Long GOZZARD was living with his married sister and brother-in-law Fanny and Horatio LEES and their family in Princes Street, Chase Terrace, later known as Princess Street. James was listed as aged 17 and a Coal Miner. By this year Chase Terrace had expanded quite considerably and the population was nearing 2000.
On May 25th 1885 James Long GOZZARD got married to Matilda MURCOTT at St Anne's Church, Chasetown, Matilda was the daughter of a Daniel and Matilda MURCOTT nee WINDRIDGE who had come to live in the Chase area via Whilton in Northants and Atherstone in
Warwickshire. Matilda's father, Daniel was originally a Boatman but became a miner after his move to Staffordshire. Matilda prior to her marriage had worked as a domestic servant at White House Farm, Swinfen.
(*3) St Anne’s Church, Chasetown – Circa 1872
After their marriage James and Matilda set up home in Chorley, which is where their first child Rhoda was born. Rhoda was christened on the 30th August 1885 at St Bartholomew's Church, Farewell. In 1886 James and Matilda had their 2nd daughter Eliza followed by their first son James William in 1888 who was baptised at St Anne's Church, Chasetown.
(*4) Extract from the 1891 Census - James William is on another page
In 1891 the census shows James and Matilda and their three children living in Princess Street Chase Terrace, shortly after this the couple had another daughter Maud and two years later in 1893 they had Bert who was their 5th child and 2nd son.
BERT'S EARLY LIFE
Bert was born in Chase Terrace at the end of December 1893 and was baptised 4 weeks later on the 28th January 1894 at the Carmel New Connection Methodist Chapel in Chapel Street, Chase Terrace.
C1-0155 Baptised: 28 Jan 1894 - Date of Birth: c. Dec 1893
Burt child of James and Matilda GOZZARD,
of Chase Terrace,.
Minister: James Hopley - Notes: Aged 4 weeks
The Carmel Methodist Chapel was completed in 1883, although baptisms had been happening there from as early as 1879. Also baptised at this chapel was Bert's older sister Maud in 1891, his younger brother Ernest Gilbert born in 1895 and younger sister Alice
Maud born in 1897. Alice was probably given her 2nd name of Maud in memory of her older sister who had died in 1896 aged 4 years, however, Alice Maud also died young, sadly she only lived a few months, with her death occurring at the start of 1898. Both Maud and Alice Maud were buried at St Anne's Church.
The Carmel New Connection Chapel later became know as the Carmel Methodist Church and was closed in 1964 and then demolished.
In 1899 Matilda GOZZARD gave birth to another son who was called Bernard and at the start of 1901 another daughter was born who was called Fanny, both of whom were baptised at St Anne's Chasetown. Just after Fanny's birth the 1901 census was taken and the GOZZARD family was recorded living in Princess Street, Bert was listed as aged 7. Rhoda the eldest child was not living in Chase Terrace in this year, she was working as a domestic servant in Aston.
(*5) Extract from the 1901 Census
In 1901 Bert's father James was still listed as a Coal Hewer, however in Kelly's Directory of 1896 and 1904 he was recorded as a Shopkeeper in Princess Street. In the following 5 years Bert was presented with another two younger siblings, Horatio born in 1904 and
Eveline in 1906 making up the 11 children born into the GOZZARD family. Both Horatio and Eveline were baptised at St Anne's Church.
Sometime during the next 7 years Bert and his family moved to live in Queen Street, Chasetown, which is where the census of 1911 shows them residing. Bert's three eldest siblings were no longer living with the family; Rhoda was living as a domestic servant in Handsworth, James appeared to have moved to Nottingham, and Eliza was working as a servant in the Bar at the Swan Hotel, Lichfield.
(*6) Extract from the 1911 Census
In 1910 Kelly's Staffordshire Directory shows Bert's father was also a Cycle agent as well as being a coal Miner.
In 1911 Bert was listed on the census as aged 17 and a Coal Miner Driver he was employed at the No3 Pit also known as the "Preference" or the" Plant". This pit was sunk in 1859 south of the Cannock Road near the parish boundary with Norton Canes, it evidently began production in 1861 and was one of numerous pits owned by the Cannock Chase Colliery Co. By 1907 No 3 Pit had been supplied with electricity and also it was in this year that No3 pit together with no 5 employed 684 underground workers and 322 above ground. It would probably have been around this time that Bert started his working life at the age of 13/14.
(*7) map showing pits
(*8) Pit Driver
A Coal Miner Driver was usually a boy or youth employed to drive the horse pulling the carts in and out of the pit; they were sometimes referred to as a "hossman"
BERT IN WW1
(*9) Royal Welsh Fusiliers
WWI started in June 1914 and at the beginning of the following September Bert left his home in Queen Street and enlisted with the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers at Walsall. The 2nd Battalion of the RWF was a regular battalion of one of the oldest regiments of the army and Bert was given the rank of Private 14042. Following his enlistment Bert then underwent 3 months training after which he entered the theatre of war on the 4th December 1914 and was sent to France.
By December 1914 the 2nd RWF had formed part of the 19th Infantry brigade and 6th division and were positioned in trenches on the Armentieres front, also they were one of the units actually at the front on Christmas Day. The unit was occupying a sector north of Houplines near to Frenlinghein and it is here that the 2nd RWF took part in the now famous Christmas Truce.
(*10) Map of Armentieres
6th Division at Frenlinghein and Houplines consisted of:
6th Brigade (1st Leicestershire, 1st Buffs)
17th Brigade (2nd Leinster, 3rd Rifle Brigade, Queens Westminster Rifles, 1st North Staffordshire)
19th Brigade (2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Scottish Rifles)
It is reported that a private from the RWF put up a board on Christmas Morning with “A Merry Christmas” written on it. The German soldiers responded by shouting: “Don’t shoot! We don’t want to fight today.” this was followed by 2 soldiers from either side meeting and shaking hands in no man's land. Although some of the officers of the RWF tried to prevent the fraternisation the remainder of the battalion followed suit. It was also noted that the German lines were very near to a brewery and that a barrel of beer was presented to the RWF Captain and he, in turn reciprocated by sending for a plum pudding which was then given to the German officer in return.
Being part of the 2nd RWF in December 1914 indicates that Bert would have witnessed the Christmas Truce and quite possibly took an active part, but of course this cannot be confirmed. Also it was around this time as 1914 was coming to a close that Bert would have celebrated his 21st Birthday although I doubt the day would have passed any different to other days and it certainly wouldn't have been pleasant or enjoyable.
(*11) Soldiers in trenches
(*12) 21st Key
In November and December 1914 the weather on the western front was appalling and the trenches were knee deep in mud and water, many men were shot through the parapets because they would not stand up. By the beginning of 1915 the weather conditions had improved thus allowing much better movement in the trenches.
The 1st few months of 1915 were uneventful ones for all units apart from the 12th March when the North Staffs Regiment who were part of 17th brigade took part in a minor operation resulting in the capture of L'Epinette. Also on the 15th March the 16th brigade moved up to Vlamertinghe but returned next day. Although there was no heavy fighting at this time there were numerous trench casualties due to shellfire and sniping from the enemy. Up until April the division had existed with virtually no ammunition however that was rectified on the 24th with extra supplies being allocated. During the month of May the division continued to hold a quiet but very extended front, including a little mining and counter-mining on the Frenlinghein and Le Touquet Fronts.
By the end of the spring of 1915 on the 27th May the 6th division was relieved by the 27th division and then moved northwards to join the VI Corps. The RWF did not go with the 6th, they were transferred to the 27th division on the 31st May but sadly as the following reports show by this time Bert was no longer a part of the RWF, for him, the war was over.
(*13) Bert’s death recorded
CHASETOWN SOLDIER DIES OF WOUNDS
On the 4th June 1915 an article was put in the Lichfield Mercury, which reported that Bert's parents James and Matilda GOZZARD had
received notification that Bert had died from wounds. This information had come via another soldier of the RWF called Arthur MILLWARD who had written home to his friend in Heath Hayes and asked him to let James and Matilda know. Upon receiving this information James GOZZARD wired the War office for confirmation to which he received a reply stating that Bert's name had not appeared on any casualty lists. The War Office also asked for details as to the source of the information, which James duly sent. Finally on Wednesday 2nd June 1915 James and Matilda had confirmation from the War Office that indeed Bert had died from wounds.
One can only imagine how distressing it must have been for the GOZZARD family firstly being informed about Bert from a third party to then being told that he wasn't on a casualty list to finally getting the confirmation of his death with no apparent details about how he had died. The following week on the 11th June 1915 another article appeared in the Lichfield Mercury, headed up "Pte GOZZARD’s Death" which proceeded to tell the story of how James and Matilda had finally learnt the circumstances surrounding Bert's death. Arthur MILLWARD described as Bert's "Chum" had written to the family offering to do his best to explain to them the cause of how Bert had died, his letter went as such:
I will do my best to explain to you the cause of Bert's death, which occurred on May 20th. It happened to be the day we were
to be relieved. Bert and I were conversing late in the afternoon, as we generally do, that being the time for us to get a little rest. After he left me at 4pm I had been on duty an hour when there happened to be a German aeroplane flying over our lines, and we had orders to fire on it and try and fetch it down. We heard an explosion a little higher up from where Bert was staying, and a minute later someone told me about Bert and several others being wounded by a rifle grenade, and I went to see if it was so. I found Bert having
his wounds dressed by an officer, and spoke to him and he said "It’s all right, Arthur; I'm all right". After speaking to him for a few minutes I found that it was worse than was expected, so I stood on one side ready if he should want me, while the officer finished dressing his wounds. They then took him away to the ambulance. It was not until next morning that I heard from the Company that he died at nine o'clock, but I can say and others can say, that he was a very brave chap, and his section all miss him, as he was the life of the place, always joking. They, one and all, wish me to tell you that they would like to express their sympathy and regret. They seem lost without him. Believe me, I feel lost without Bert. He and I were like brothers.
(*14) Extract from the Lichfield Mercury 4/6/1915
Reading Arthur MILLWARD's letter must have given James and Matilda some comfort knowing that their son had been a popular chap
in his unit and that Arthur had been with him offering support prior to his death. There does not appear to be any mention of the War Office explaining Bert's death to the GOZZARD family and so Arthur writing his letter to them could have also been a great help, but
in equal terms their distress would have been heightened knowing that Bert was killed on the very day he was due to be relieved.
At the start of the war, the Germans were very much in front in terms of grenade development, they had 70,000 hand grenades in readiness along with 106,000 rifle grenades.
Grenades either hand or rifle driven were detonated in one of two ways, they could be detonated on impact or via a timed fuse. Rifle grenades were attached to a rod and placed down the barrel of the rifle or placed in a cup attached to the barrel, and were then launched by the blast of a blank cartridge. Such grenades were never popular and were thought inaccurate. The Germans stopped using rifle grenades in 1916.
(*15) German Rifle Grenade
Although there were two articles about Bert in the Lichfield Mercury there was no photograph of him.
From the research I have done it appears that rank and file soldier’s photographs were not really included in Lichfield Mercury articles until later on into the war, the early war years photographs appeared to be limited to officers and soldiers from families of note.
After his death Bert was buried at the Churchyard extension in the village of Equinghem-Lys, which is situated about 1.5K west of Armentieres. This village was originally occupied by German forces but was taken by the allies on 16th October 1914 and remained in their hands until 10 April 1918 when it was evacuated during the great German Offensive. It was retaken 5 months later in September. From October 1914 to January 1915 burials were in the churchyard itself, but from April 1915 the extension was begun and used by units and field ambulances until April 1918. The original churchyard burials were moved to the extension in 1925 and the extension now contains 558 commonwealth burials, eight unidentified, 130 German burials and one unidentified Russian serviceman.
Bert is buried in grave no 4 in PLOT I, Row B and would have been one of the first burials in the churchyard extension.
(*16) Equingheim – Lys Cemetery Extension
At the end of the war Bert was awarded three medals for his services, the Victory, British and "15" Star, these would have been automatically sent to his family.
(*17) Bert’s Medal Card
||(*18) Victory Medal
||(*19) British War Medal
||(*20) 1915 Star Medal
After the war ended back in Queen Street, Chasetown, James and Matilda GOZZARD and their family must have been still coming to terms with the loss of Bert, but would have received some consolation in the knowledge that his name was recorded on four local memorials to the fallen soldiers.
Bert’s name is recorded on the wall plaque at St Anne's, Chasetown dedicated to the memory of men from No3 Pit, and Monument in Chasetown Memorial Park dedicated to Chasetown Men.
Bert’s name is also recorded Monument in Chase Terrace High Street and plaque in Chase Terrace Methodist Church, Princess Street dedicated to the men of Chase Terrace and Boney Hay.
Although Bert and his family were living in Chasetown at the time of the war, it is obvious that they still had very strong connections with Chase Terrace where the family had lived for a good number of years and also where Bert was born and this I think explains why he was recorded on Memorials in both areas.
Bert's "Chum" Arthur was born in Hednesford in 1887; he was the son of a George Millward who was a Coal Miner originally from Tipton. In 1901 Arthur was aged 14 and living with his family at Hill Top, Hednesford and he was employed as a Colliery Banksman. In 1905 Arthur enlisted with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and by 1911 was stationed at Quetta, which at that time was in India but now forms part of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. As a seasoned soldier I have no doubt that Arthur took young Bert under his wing. As both young men came from the Chase area and had a history in Mining, it is quite probable that they would have had many things in common helping to form their friendship and bond. Arthur entered into WW1 on September 1st 1914 a little before Bert, and was discharged on 15th August 1916 due to sustained wounds, for which he received the Silver War Badge.
A few months after Bert died in 1915 his sister Rhoda got married followed two years later by sister Eliza. Bert's brother Bernard got married in 1924 followed by sister Fanny in the same year and youngest sister Eveline got married in 1931. All the marriages took place at St Anne's, Chasetown apart from Eliza who married at St Joseph’s RC Church. Bert's parents James and Matilda Gozzard continued to live the rest of their lives in Chasetown until 1934 when Matilda passed away aged 73 and 1939 when James passed away aged 74. Some of Bert's siblings moved away from the Chase to live in Nottinghamshire. Fanny who got married in 1924 sadly died in 1929 after the birth of her 2nd child.
Today we remember Bert as a brave young man who sadly lost his life at a time when it should have just been starting. In 1915 Bert had only just turned 21 and should have been looking forward to forging his own path in life, it is possible he may have had a sweetheart who was waiting for him back in Chasetown; however, we shall never know. Bert has no direct descendants but there are descendants from his siblings who have taken a keen interest in his story and so his memory will live on.
Burntwood Family History Group