First World War Project

Thomas GOODWIN (of Oare)

b. 13th April 1884
d. 12th July 1915. Aged 31

Bandsman, Service Number T/1663
Company E, 1st/4th Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
Mhow New Cemetery (in a Military Centre in Madhya Pradesh)
Grave Ref: Plot U, Row 5, Grave 4
Died of Illness
(possibly typhoid)

Mhow New Cemetery in Madhya Pradesh, India

© British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA)

There are very few military records surviving for Thomas Goodwin. His connection with Oare evolves after the census of 1911. We know this from the surviving military records for his younger brother, Joseph John, who places their step-mother (Annie) in "3 Mariners, Oare" (referring to the public house of that name). In general, this family was associated mostly with agriculture and brick-making (our principal local industries). Thomas was the oldest of six children, George, Gertie M, Joseph John (who served and survived, see below), Jessie Rogers, and Charles Rupert - all five sons served but only Thomas died.

Thomas Goodwin's immediate family was strongly identified with Faversham (Davington - where he was born - and the Brents). The 1911 Census shows Thomas still living with his father (Thomas Edward) and stepmother (Annie) in the Brents Tavern, 44 Upper Brents, Faversham. His and his sibling's mother, Gertrude, had died on 18th January 1898. In earlier Census data, his father is registered as a brickfield worker. By 1911, Thomas had completed his apprenticeship as a plasterer (not a plumber as reported elsewhere).

So, what was Thomas's path to enrolling with The Buffs as a bandsman, which led to him serving in India where he died? Thomas was raised in a musical family and was a gifted cornet player and singer.

In a report in the South Eastern Gazette of 16th February 1909, it is not clear which "Thomas Goodwin" (father or son) was musically inclined but music certainly formed part of their family life:
"GREENSTREET. SOIRÉE. The annual soirée of the Associated Hockey, Tennis and Cricket Clubs was held in the Schools on Wednesday evening [10th February] and was a very successful affair. The company numbered 70 and the proceedings, which commenced at 8.30, lasted until one o'clock in the morning. A varied programme was gone through, consisting of all the popular round games which were interspersed with songs by Mr T. Goodwin (Faversham) and Mr O. Egan, Mr Arthur Hills, of Faversham, being at the piano. Dr Selby, the President, looked in during the evening and made a few remarks.

It might also be speculated from this newspaper extract that Thomas was keen on local sport. This might also explain why a Faversham man was invited to Greenstreet to perform at a soirée. The leader of this local band was a Preston man, Arthur Hills. Again demonstrating that the band was good enough to be sought in surrounding communities.

In the period before WW1, many men learned to play brass instruments through membership of the Salvation Army, but we don't know if this wing of the Goodwin family were Salvationists or not. From the literature of the time, it is clear that the skills of bandsmen were highly valued by military leaders in the maintenance of morale. Military bands often performed in surrounding towns and villages when stationed at home.

Before the First World War, bandsmen were habitually employed as stretcher bearers. But following the number of injuries and loss of life amongst stretcher bearers during the first Battle of the Somme, many Battalions withdrew bandsmen from the Front. Instead, they were used to support first aid stations, mortar batteries or other military duties. When other soldiers were drilled, bandsmen would often be further trained in first aid and other medical duties.

Circumstances of the death of Thomas Goodwin

Without surviving personal records the detailed fate of Thomas Goodwin is something of a mystery. We do know he enlisted at Margate.

At the outbreak of war, 1/4th Battalion Territorial Force was stationed at Canterbury as part of the Kent Brigade of Home Counties Division then moved to Dover and back to Canterbury. Two months later, on 30th November 1914, these Territorial Forces Embarked for India from Southampton where the Home Counties Division was broken up. This was the destination for Thomas. From his Effects, we see that Thomas's father received the minimum £3 War Gratuity that suggests Thomas enrolled less than 12 months before his death. This suggests that Thomas enlisted on or shortly before the outbreak of war.

We know Thomas "Died of Sickness" and his body was buried in Mhow New Cemetery the day after he died. We know that another man in his regiment, Bertie John Williams, died six days earlier from "appendicitis" and was buried alongside Thomas. However, contemporary medical documents (fn1) suggest that there were frequent misdiagnoses of enteric fever (typhoid) as "appendicitis", with catastrophic consequences for those who went under the surgeon's knife for an appendectomy. In both conditions, the patient experiences pain and rigidity in the abdomen. British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns confirm the cause of death for Thomas as "enteric" fever (typhoid) and that he was buried the next day (13th July).

Thomas was posthumously awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the Territorial Force War Medal (TFWM) for his service in India as part of the 6th Poona Division. (See Appendix 1)

Only members of the Territorial Force and Territorial Force Nursing Service were eligible for the Territorial Force War Medal provided they joined the Territorial Force on or before 30th September 1914 followed by service in an operational theatre overseas between 5th August 1914 and 11th September 1918. This would not be issued in addition to the 1914 Star or the 1914/15 Star. Roughly 34,000 Territorial Force War Medals were issued. Their Regimental Numbers were preceded by "T" or "TF" as is the case for Thomas Goodwin. It is from the ledger of those issued with this medal that we see the cause of death as "Died of Sickness".

Reported in the Faversham and North East Kent News of 24th July:

THANKS. Mr and Mrs T.E. Goodwin and Family wish to thank their friends for their sympathy with them in the bereavement they have suddenly sustained by the death, in India, of Bandsman Thomas Goodwin, of the 1/4th Battalion, the Buffs.
"Three Mariners", Oare, July 20th, 1915.

The same newspaper ran an obituary:-
His numberous friends at Faversham, and the many others who knew him will much regret to learn of the death in India of Bandsman Thomas Goodwin, of the 1/4th Battalion, The Buffs, son of Mr T.E. Goodwin, of the Three Mariners, Oare. On Tuesday in last week his friends received a cablegram informing them that he was dangerously ill with enteric, and then on Saturday came the sad news of his death, which occurred at Mhow, Bombay, on the 12th inst. Deceased was well known in Faversham and the neighbourhood by reason of his musical abilities. He was a good tenor vocalist and an excellent player of the cornet and was frequently heard at local concerts, being especially ready at all times to give his services in a good cause. For a time he was Bandmaster of the Faversham Town Band. He was 31 years of age and was the eldest of the five sons of Mr Goodwin serving in H.M. Forces. Of his four brothers, one other is in India, two are in the Kent Heavy Battery, and one is in the Surrey Rifles.

fn1: Randolf Winslow, M.D. of Baltimore in Annals of Surgery. 1915 Nov; 62(5): 534–538.

Five Soldier Brothers of Oare

Faversham and North East Kent News of 24th October reported:

FIVE SOLDIER BROTHERS. SONS OF MR T.E. GOODWIN, OF OARE. Mr Thomas E Goodwin, of "The Three Mariners," Oare, has now five sons serving either in the Army or the Territorials, the youngest, who is 18 years of age, having just recently joined. The following is a list of the brothers placed according to age:-

  • Thomas Goodwin, Bandsman in the 4th Battalion, the Buffs.
  • George Goodwin, Gunner in the Kent Heavy Battery.
  • Joseph John Goodwin, Gunner in the Kent Heavy Battery.
  • Jesse Rogers Goodwin, Driver in the Royal Field Artillery.
  • Charles Rupert Goodwin, Bugler in the Rifle Brigade.

The four elder ones – two of whom are about to go abroad – had their photographs taken together last weekend. Unfortunately, the youngest brother, who is in London, could not come down to complete the group. We hope they will come through safely should any of them be drafted to the Front.

The eldest son, Thomas Goodwin, has been a well known locally as a cornet player, and also as a singer.

Family Members who served and survived - Joseph John Goodwin (brother) - Home Service RGA

On 24th May 1912, Joseph John Goodwin was attested into the Home Counties Kent Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) Heavy Battery (Service Number 317083), initially for four years. His unit was 2/1 Battery (Sheerness - Eastern Coast Defences). At 19 years, he was a labourer working for Messrs Cremer & Co. (Brick makers), The Brents, Faversham. He may well have gained relevant experience through the heavy artillery volunteers, Oare Battery.

He stood 5 feet and 6 inches tall, chest measurement of 38 inches (expansion of 2 inches). His vision was "good", as was his physical development.

On 5th August 1914, at the outbreak of war, he was "embodied"; he was posted as a "gunner" on 16th November 1915 until 24th January 1916. On 25th January he was posted to the Administrative Centre until he was discharged on 17th March 1917 - "Liable for further service under the provisions of the Military Service Acts 1916". This was at 23 years and 10 months of age. So, his discharge during the war was in recognition of his length of service to date. He served his entire time (6 years and 302 days) at Home (Sheerness and Dover - where he was ultimately discharged). He named his mother (Annie - actually his step-mother) as his next of kin living at 3 Mariners, Oare, Faversham.

On discharge, his character was summarised as "fair" and having no special qualifications".

The Extended Goodwin Family

Draft Family Tree of the Goodwin family of Oare

Click on image to view larger draft family tree

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