PEOPLE IN PORTSMOUTH

 

Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

ROBERT LEWIS GOOCH
 
On September 7th 1918 The Portsmouth Evening News carried this notice "GOOCH. In loving memory of Robert Lewis, Corp. R.M.L.I., eldest beloved son of Ellen and Robert Gooch, Union Tavern, Point, who died of wounds in hospital in France on Aug. 25th, aged 20 years. Loved by all. One of the best. From his mum, dad, brothers and sister and his sweetheart, May." His death was also remembered in the October 1918 edition of the St. Thomas's Parish Magazine.
 
All of which makes it slightly odd that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have no record of anyone fitting the known facts. A search of their archives however, shows that Robert Lewis Gooch is indeed recorded, but as Gooch PL. As if this error were not enough the 1911 census makes tracing Robert even more of a problem by including the wrong name - Robert Nathan Gooch. As this was one version of his father's name it would seem that Robert Nathan snr. simply forgot that his son's name was not quite the same as his own, perhaps an easy mistake for someone who repeatedly changed his own name from Robert Nathan to Nathan Robert Gooch.
 
Robert Lewis's father appears in the 1871 census as Nathan Robert, the son of Lewis and Lucy Gooch of Lexden, near Colchester. He was the fifth born of six children. None of the them appear in the 1881 or 1891 censuses which suggests that Lewis may have been a mariner and was posted abroad taking his family with him. By the time of the 1901 census Nathan Robert, a sailmaker, had married Ellen Louisa Burridge, daughter of Charles and Ellen Burridge, in Portsmouth, after which they lived at 4 Blenheim Terrace, close to St. Paul's Square in Southsea. With them were four children, Nellie (b. 1894), Mabel (b. 1896), Robert Lewis (b. 1897) and Lily (b. 1900).
 
By 1911 Robert Nathan, as he had then become, was working as the Toll Collector on the Floating Bridge between Old Portsmouth and Gosport. The job probably wasn't very well paid but had the added bonus of including accommodation - Floating Bridge House at Point. The two eldest children do not seem to have accompanied them to the new abode but there was no shortage of children as four more had been born, Charles (b. 1901), Ernest (b. 1905), Dorothy (b. 1907 and Alice (b. 1909).
 
At the outbreak of the Great War Robert Lewis was 16 years of age and therefore not eligible to enlist, but he could have done so when he reached 18 towards the end of 1915. When he did enlist he joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry which suggests he may previously have been a cadet. The details of his wartime experience are not known but by 1918 he was already a corporal. He died in August that year and was buried in the Bucquoy Communal Cemetery Extension which was made by the Royal Naval Division burial officer around the beginning of September.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
 
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website lists Corporal PL Gooch (PLY/16852), Royal Marine Light Infantry, date of death, 25/08/1918. He is buried at Bucquoy Communal Cemetery Extension, Grave Ref B.10.
 
Robert Gooch is remembered on the Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral WW1 Memorial and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War', Section X.
 
Tim Backhouse
October 2014