Godden, George Frederick (1879-1916)

Private George Frederick Godden, was a private in the 11th Battalion, Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment (Regimental Number: G/10279). He had enlisted in Chatham on 19th October 1915, age 37, his height was recorded as 5ft 5 inches and weighting a healthy 168lbs.  His postings were: Home, 19th October 1915 to 2nd May 1916; BEF, 3rd May 1916 to 15th September 1916.

The 11th (Lewisham) Battalion, The Royal West Kent Regiment was raised at Lewisham on the 5th of May 1915 by the Mayor and a local committee. They trained at Catford and joined 118th Brigade, 39th Division in July. In in October they transferred to 122nd Brigade, 41st Division. They moved to Aldershot for final training in January 1916 and proceeded to France on the 3rd of May, and the division concentrated between Hazebrouck and Bailleul.

In 1916 they were in action at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette 15-22 September.  Flers was captured on 15 September 1916 in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, when it was entered by the New Zealand and 41st Divisions behind tanks, the innovative new weapons that were used here for the first time and during this action. George Godden was killed in action, his death assumed on or after 15th September 1916. The village was lost during the German advance of March 1918 and retaken at the end of the following August by the 10th West Yorks and the 6th Dorsets of the 17th Division.

After his death, the battalion saw action in the Battle of the Transloy Ridges on the Somme. In 1917 they fought during the Battle of Messines, the Battle of Pilkem Ridge, and the Battle of the Menin Road and took part in the Operations on the Flanders coast. In November the Division was ordered to Italy, moving by train to Mantua. The Division took the front line near the River Piave, north west of Treviso. In February they were summoned back to France and departed from Campo San Piero, travelling by train to concentrate near Doullens and Mondicourt. On the 16th of March 1918 the 11th Battalion were disbanded in France with troops transferring to other units.

George Godden is buried at Bulls Road Cemetery,  Flers in the Department of the Somme, about 8 kilometres north-east of Albert.

The cemetery was begun on 19 September 1916 and was used by fighting units (mainly Australian) until March 1917. The 154 burials made during these months now form Plot I. Plot II, Row A, Graves 1-17 were added in September 1918 by the 17th Division burial officers. The rest of the cemetery consists of graves (mainly of September 1916, or August 1918) brought in after the Armistice from the fields between Flers and Longueval.


George Frederick Godden was born Cliffe at Hoo, Kent in April 1879.  He was the third son of Alfred and Harriet Amelia (nee Filmer) Godden, both natives of Cliffe who were recorded as having nine children between 1875 and 1894.   His father Alfred is recorded as a cement labourer/worker throughout this period and lived until 1934 when his death is recorded at  the age of 80. His mother, Harriett had her first child aged about 18 and her last when she was 41. She died aged 87 in 1940. George was single and living with at the family home by then in Borstal when he enlisted.

The family are recorded as living at 3 Reed Street, Cliffe in 1881, at Ivy Cottage, Chalk Street, Stone in 1891 and 19 Avenue Terrace, Borstal in 1901 Ten years later they were still resident at 19 Avenue Terrace, Borstal.  By 1901 George and his brother Ernest had joined their father working as cement labourers, although upon enlistment George is recorded as a general labourer, which may reflect the decline of the local cement industry.  The two cement works in Borstal, Booths and Borstal Manor had both closed by before the outbreak of the First World War.

The table below summarises his family:

The Family of George Frederick Godden
Parents Born Died
Alfred Godden 1854 1934
Harriet Amelia Godden 1853 1940
Siblings Born Died
John Henry Godden 1875 ?
Alfred William Godden 1877 1902
George Frederick Godden 1879 1916
Ernest Godden 1881 ?
Violet M Godden 1885 ?
Lewis Godden 1887 ?
Harry Godden 1891 In infancy?
Phoebe Godden 1892 ?
Alice Clara Godden 1894 ?


The 1911 census records only his father Alfred, brother Lewis (aged 23) and sister Alice Clara (16) as resident with George, (aged 32) in Avenue Terrace.  His mother, Harriett is now living in the household of his brother Ernest at 2 Primrose Cottages, Borstal in the 1911 census.

The census records suggests George had in total three sisters and five brothers, they also suggest Harry, one of  the two children born whilst they lived in Stone may have died in early childhood – he is present in 1901 but not by 1911. Whilst the remaining seven survived into adulthood and most likely moved out of the household as they became of working age and/or married.  George’s elder brother Alfred William however died aged only 24 in 1902.

Until its decline, the cement industry provided stable employment that seems to have resulted in George’s brothers being able to remain at the family home until their late teens or early twenties.  George’s sisters seem to have left home to go into service in the case of Violet Mary who in 1911 was a servant at 66 Croydon Road, Penge, whilst Phoebe was recorded as a nurse in the household of the Chaplin of the prison in Borstal.

Via Ancestry UK:
Census records – 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911
Births, Deaths & Marriage records
Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919
Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment websites
Janet & Richards Genealogy (http://janetandrichardsgenealogy.co.uk)
Stephen Pennington, Out of the Shadows (2015)


Research by:

Andy Brittan, 2016