Stanley Goodland – an unexpected soldier

Before August 1914 the role of the Territorial Army had been limited to Home Defence, but the alarming scale and rapidity of the German invasion of Belgium and Northern France, and the lengthening casualty lists, provoked drastic changes in the raising and deployment of manpower. Territorial soldiers were encouraged to volunteer for overseas service, the presumption being this would be garrison duties in Malta, Gibralta or India, relieving the regular forces to come back to the western front.

The 1/5 Somersets began their annual camp at Bulford, Salisbury Plain in July 1914. Harold and Stanley both attended, Harold was already commissioned as a Captain and Stanley was appointed Second Lieutenant on July 30th. He was ten years older than many of the other subalterns, who delighted in calling him ‘Uncle’, then and for the rest of their lives.

On August 30th, the commanding officer, Lt-Col EF Cooke-Hurle, paraded the battalion and conveyed the War Office request for overseas service. All the officers stepped forward and 650 of the 950 other ranks, but now there was an urgent need for new recruits to replace those going abroad. On September 1st, the officers were sent to their home regions of Somerset with instructions to return to Salisbury Plain on September 5th with the necessary number of recruits.

Stanley was sent to the Minehead area, and after a tour of local villages on September 2nd, Stanley followed Lord St. Audries’ introductory address by speaking to the ‘large attendance’ at the Auction Field, Williton. Twenty nine men enlisted that day, further rallies gained more recruits, so that when Stanley returned on September 5th to Salisbury Plain he had more than double the number of recruits he had been commissioned to find.

Over the next few weeks, Stanley’s letters tell of the intensive training the Territorial battalion required, the rumours about postings, and the 48 hour embarkation leave granted to all ranks when the destination of the 1/5 Somersets was known.

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Engaged in War

This blog is going to be based on the letters that my grandfather, Edward Stanley Goodland (Stanley) wrote to his fiance, Elsie Hyde (my grandmother) during the first world war. Stanley was not a soldier on the western front, rather he was in India, Palestine and then Egypt. He was not a regular enlisted soldier, but a Territorial Army soldier, a volunteer and as such should have been sent home before the enlisted men. He wasn’t, not returning til late 1919, he also never got any home leave in the five years he was away.

I will publish a selection of the letters on the days that he wrote them – the first is dated 4th September 1914.

A bit of background then – to how my mother and uncle found the letters, and then to Stanley himself.

When Elsie Goodland died in 1979, my mother and uncle found a Marshall and Snelgrove dress box full of letters, each in its original envelope,  that she had received from Stanley and clearly treasured. Elsie was 25 in 1914, Stanley was 30. They both came from families of 6 children, Elsie bought up in Hale, near Altrincham in Cheshire. Stanley was born in Taunton, the son of Charles Goodland and Son, coal and builders’ merchants.

Elsie and Stanley met through the United Reform church, Elsie and Stanley’s sister, Greta were schoolfellows at Channing House, Highgate, London. School holiday visits led to Greta marrying Elsie’s brother Leslie on June 16th 1914, Stanley and Elsie announced their engagement on the evening of that day, but didn’t marry until September 1920. Elsie was at this time working as a nanny to a family in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire.

Stanley, as the younger son, did not go into the family coal business, but went to London as an apprentice to the Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company of Regent Street. When he returned to Taunton in 1908, he joined his uncle’s firm of Franklin and Hare as a partner, so it became Franklin, Hare & Goodland with premises on The Parade, Taunton and a branch in Minehead.

Family holiday at Birchington, Kent
Familiy holidays in Birchington, Kent. Stanley at the back, left to right, Tongey, my mother Ann, my uncle David and Elsie. (Tongey came as a Nanny and never left)