An officer of The Buffs -another story from the first day of the Somme

Edouard Herbert Allan Goss, 1877 – 1916

Temporary Lieutenant, 7th Battalion, The Buffs East Kent Regiment

In this second post on Sevenoaks men killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, I focus on one of the three officers from the town killed that day.

Edouard H A Goss was born in Burma on 13th June 1877, the son of Louis Allan Goss, Inspector of Schools in Burma and his wife, Marie Leonie Goss.

The 1891 census shows Edouard living at 4, Oak Field Grove, Bristol, with his mother, and siblings: Leo, Clement, Cecil and Marie. Aged four, Marie, is the only one not to have been born in Burma. Edouard’s mother was born on the French Colony of the Isle of Bourbon in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, now known as Reunion Island

Edouard was educated at Clifton College 1889 to 1895 and lived in Bristol until around 1901, leaving for Burma in 1902 where he worked in the Burma Forest Service, and was a member of the Burma Bombay Trading Association. He returned to the UK in November 1905 and by 1911 was resident at 20 Brookside, Cambridge with his parents and sister, Marie, while working as an assistant in the timber business.

His application for a temporary commission, dated 17th November 1914, showed that he could ride and had served for approximately five years with the volunteer rifles. He applied to serve with any Kentish unit. The officer who interviewed him at Maidstone wrote that “He is 37 years of age but should make a very good officer” He gave his present address for correspondence as Fig Farm, Sevenoaks, which he had run for some time. On joining up he passsed responsibility to a manager and thereafter stationed himself at the Royal Oak Hotel in Sevenoaks when on leave.

He was gazetted Second Lieutenant in December 1914 and was stationed at Purfleet for some time before being posted to France in October 1915. He was later Mentioned in Despatches. He was last on leave in May 1916, returning to the Front on 16th May.

Edouard was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Some service records survive and show that he was killed instantly by a shell. His friend, Captain Kenchington, later recorded the incident.

“REPORT BY CAPTAIN A.G. KENCHINGTON “B COMPANY”
ON OPERATIONS OF 1st July 1916

1. TWO PLATOONS DETAILED TO TAKE CRATER AREA

Before “Y” day I had collected and stored in No 10 sap necessary bombs and apparatus. I had put notice-boards directing runners to this point at the end of all saps trenches in the crater area.

At Zero (07.30), the three sections of each platoon advanced as arranged round to flanks and the other two sections with snipers went over the craters which were very muddy.

The left hand party entered the enemy trenches with only one casualty, the platoon commander Lieut E.H.A.Goss who was killed instantly by a shell. This platoon found the rear portion of the crater area quite knocked out of recognition, and soon overcame two
bombing parties and three or four snipers who opposed them”.

In the book Historical Records of the Buffs 1914-1919 by RSH Moody, published in 1922 it says

The Carnoy mine craters took six hours to clear, and six hours very heavy fighting it was, carried out under 2nd Lt Tatam whose excellent work was rewarded by a M.C. C Company was soon called away to aid the East Surreys, as were later two platoons of A Company. In fact, these two platoons of A, together with one of C Company, under Lts Dyson and Budds respectively, reached the final objective and held that part of it allotted to the East Surrey Regiment until relieved by other troops. Again it became necessary about noon to send up half of D Company to make good part of the final objective of the 7th Queen’s. This was done successfully, but the company lost its commander Capt GT Neame, during the operation.

There is no doubt that during the whole operation, which was carried out more or less as planned, our troops encountered far more oppostion than was anticipated; particularly was this the case at the craters, to attack which only two platoons were originally assigned, a number of men quite inadequate. The whole position, indeed, proved to be a very strong one, consisting of four lines.

The batttalion lost the following casualties on this day:

Killed:

Capt G T Neame, Lts P G Norbury and E H A Goss and 2nd Lt J F Baddeley and 48 other ranks.

Edouard Goss was initially buried on the Carnoy Montauban Road but after the war his body was exhumed and reinterred in Danzig Alley British cemetery, Mametz, East of Albert, France.

In a brief obituary, the Sevenoaks Chronicle recorded that

He was very highly respected by all who knew him, embodying as he did, the finest qualities of a typical English gentleman.

He is remembered on the Bombay Burma Trading Corporation Memorial, in the cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Rangoon, Myanmar. He is also remembered on the Riverhead memorial as well as the nearby Sevenoaks War Memorial at The Vine.

William Guy Cronk – a recent medal sale

Last week someone was kind enough to leave a comment on this site about William Guy Cronk, one of the early casualties of the war from Sevenoaks. William’s medals, along with his memorial plaque and a letter addressed to him, had just been sold at an auction in Hampshire. Listed in the catalogue with a guide price of a couple of hundred pounds, the plaque and trio eventually sold for £1650 after some determined telephone bidding. Initially I was annoyed that I hadn’t seen the medals were up for sale but was consoled by the fact that they were sold for a price way above my medal purchasing budget.

As William is listed on the Sevenoaks War Memorial he is mentioned in my book. He was born on 26th April 1893 and was the only child of William Henry Cronk (1848-1921), a land agent, and his wife Winifred Ruth nee Kidd (1872-1956). The 1901 census shows the family living on Sevenoaks High Street but by 1911 they have moved to Northamptonshire, living with five servants, from parlour maid to coachman and groom. In his obituary the family home is given as Suffolk Place, Sevenoaks.

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Second Lieutenant William Guy Cronk

William was educated privately in Westgate on Sea, before going to Eton and then to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. According to the Bond of Sacrifice, he enjoyed hunting, polo, cricket and tennis. After graduation he choose to enlist with the East Kent Regiment, The Buffs, and was attached to the King’s Royal Rifles. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in March 1914 and left immediately for the Front after completing his training on the last day of that September.

William was killed in action 2 miles east of Zonnebeke near Ypres, on 26 October 1914 whilst leading his platoon in an attack on the German trenches. He was on attachment to 1 Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps at the time.

According to the War Diary

“2/Lt Cronk (Buff S.R Attached) was killed on the right. – apparently he was under the impression that the Germans were retiring out of their trenches and rushed forward with part of his platoon. The Germans allowed them to get well out onto the open and then opened a very heavy fire. Almost all of this party were either killed or wounded.”

The battalion suffered 13 killed and 34 wounded – most from D Company (Cronk was D Coy). He was the only officer killed. Two others were wounded.

William was the first fatality to be featured in detail by the Sevenoaks Chronicle, with a photo included in the obituary. The paper recorded that his friend, the Rev. Herbert Fleming, whom he had first met at the Military Academy where Fleming was then Chaplain, wrote to his parents:

“He has died leading his men like the gallant lad he was, without fear and pain”.

He wrote that he had quickly gained the trust and affection of his men, being always thoughtful of them and the best young officer they had.

“This was said before they knew I was his friend. I cannot grieve for him, as no one could desire a greater death or a better epitaph, but for you I do grieve and pray to God to comfort you. I expect to march again tomorrow, and may not be able to kneel by his grave, as he is in another brigade, but I will do if I can”.

William Cronk is remembered on the Menin Gate and in his former parish church of St Nicholas,  with a memorial plaque. When his father died in 1921, he was buried in the churchyard at St Nicholas and William was also remembered on the gravestone.

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Memorials to William Cronk inside St Nicholas as well on the family grave in the churchyard

 

I would be very pleased to hear from any family members – the Cronks had a long history in Seal and Sevenoaks and other family members are also buried at St Nicholas – and from the person who bought the medals!

UPDATE: Paul, the bidder who bought the medals successfully has got in touch and kindly shared a photograph of them.

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