Name: William Herbert Goodrick
Service No: 46295
Date of Death: 22/03/1918
Regiment/Service: Leicestershire Regiment 6th Bn
Panel Reference:Panel 29 and 30.Memorial: Pozieres Memorial
Additional Information: son of Richard and Jessie Goodrick, of 38 Murchison St, Scarborough.
Paul Allen writes:
By the onset of darkness of the first day of their ‘Kaiserschlacht’, although they had not achieved all of their objectives, the Germans had good reason to be reasonably pleased with themselves. On the British Fifth Army’s front the German infantry had overrun the Forward Zone, and in many places were across, or well inside the Battle Zone. In the south, from La Fere to the Somme Canal, the Battle Zone was already in their hands, and III Corps was making plans to withdraw overnight to a line some 2 miles behind the Battle Zone, located at the Crozat Canal, in the area known as the Rear Zone. The cost of the first day had been high. The Germans had suffered over 40,000 casualties and had inflicted nearly as many on the British who had lost over 38,000 men, of which 28,000 had been made prisoners of war by nightfall.
At 10.50 pm that night British General Headquarters had released a communiqué to the British Press. The ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday, 22 March 1918 reported:
‘Great German offensive
‘Biggest operations of the war
‘At about 8 this morning after an intense bombardment of both high explosive and gas shells on forward positions and back areas a powerful infantry attack was launched by the enemy by the enemy on a front of over fifty miles, extending from the River Oise, in the neighbourhood of Le Fere, to the Sensee, about Croiselles.
‘Hostile artillery demonstrations have taken place on a wide front north of La Bassée Canal and in the Ypres Sector. The attack, which for some time past was known to be in course of preparation, has been pressed with the greatest vigour and determination throughout the day.
‘In the course of the fighting the enemy broke through our outpost positions and succeeded in penetrating into our battle positions in certain parts of the front.
‘The attack was delivered in large masses, and have been extremely costly to the hostile troops engaged, whose losses have been exceptionally heavy.
‘Severe fighting continues along the whole front … ’
In some places, especially around the village of Epehy, the Germans had indeed come up against some stout resistance, and whilst those back home were reading the largely distorted accounts of the battle in their newspapers that evening a number of men were still waging a ferocious war of attrition against their opponents.
Immediately to the south of 6th Division, the defence of the British line was taken over by VII Corps of Sir Hubert Gough’s Fifth Army. Beginning at the southern end of the so-called ‘Flesquières Salient’, this sector of the front was held by (from north to south) 9th (Scottish), 21st, and 16th (Irish) Divisions. On the first day of the offensive it was the men of the South African Infantry Brigade who had borne the brunt of the German Second Army’s attack on 9th Scottish. Holding Gauche Wood, the men of the 2 South Africans held on to their positions until about mid-day when the 40 surviving members of the unit which had gone into action with a strength of around 130 officers and men, were finally been pushed out of the wood.
South of the South Africans the line was held by Major General D ‘Soarer’ Campbell’s 21st Division, which was responsible for the defence of ‘Chapel Hill’ on the left, ‘Vaucelette Farm’ in the middle, and the village of Epehy on the right. The capture of this sector was considered of vital importance to the Germans because it was through there that they intended to drive the southern arm of the Flesquières Salient.
At Chapel Hill, 1st Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment also put up a fierce resistance to the German hordes, and with the help of reinforcements from the neighbouring South Africans managed to hold on to the majority of their most important hill. At Vaucelette Farm, however, standing in a valley between Chapel Hill and Epehy, it was a different tale, and although the farm’s garrison from the 12th/13th Battalion the Northumberland Fusiliers had managed to hold on to their positions for 2 hours, until they were finally ejected by the Germans, also at around mid-day, with the assistance of trench mortars.
Standing between Cambrai and Peronne, and some 15 kilometres to the north of St Quentin, the defence of the tiny village of Epehy was the responsibility of 21st Division’s 110 (Leicestershire) Brigade, which consisted of three battalions: the 6th, 7th, and 8th of the Leicestershire Regiment.
On the morning of the attack, the left hand section of 110 Brigade’s sector (Pezieres to Epehy village) of the line was held by 7th Battalion, and on the right by 8th Battalion, whilst 6th Battalion was held in reserve to the west of Ephey in positions known as the ‘Yellow Line’. An hour before dawn the Leicesters’ front line positions were evacuated as planned thus minimising the risk of the defenders being surrounded and cut off and the number of casualties suffered in the preliminary bombardment. The two front line battalions then took up positions in the ‘Red Line’, a series of concrete blockhouses which had been dotted round the village, where they awaited the arrival of the enemy. They hadn’t long to wait. Lance Corporal Sydney North (7th Leicesters) tells:
‘The fog became less dense; the sun broke through and almost at once the fog cleared, revealing an amazing sight. The foremost of the enemy infantry, completely disorganised by the fog, were trying to get sorted out. Not far behind them came several platoons of infantry moving in solid blocks, four men abreast. Behind them were groups of cavalry coming on at walking pace and further behind, about 600 yards away, were horse-drawn general service wagons and horse-drawn ambulances. It was like a panorama on a huge canvas and we simply could not believe it….
‘The Germans were moving forward as if they expected no opposition. We opened fire. The Lewis Guns got busy and the enemy groups scattered. They had very little cover and no chance of survival … after a while nothing was moving throughout the whole visible front except for a few riderless horses, terrified by the shooting. We could here the screams of stricken horses; I was glad when they eventually galloped away from the scene. We watched, but there was no sign of any further attack and we wondered what had been going on on our right flank.
‘Looking to our right, we could see Jerry troops steadily making their way into territory we had been told was held by the 16th (Irish) Division. About half a mile to our right, we could see the Germans moving forward in single file and many were already well behind us. It was not yet midday. Jerry was moving as if there was no opposition and we reckoned we were in real trouble on the flank …’ 
The Leicesters were indeed ‘in real trouble’, and by mid-day they were embroiled in a ferocious fight for life which had lasted throughout the remainder of the day. The War Diary of the 7th Leicesters reports:
‘During the whole of the day the enemy made many futile attacks from NE of Fir Tree Support and Red Line, attempting to bomb down the latter from Squash Trench which he had entered early in the attack. The defence of Fir Support was conducted by 2nd Lieut (William Samuel) Wright with about 20 men against numerous bombing attacks in one of which flamethrowers were used but these were stopped on our wire by rifle fire and the cylinders, catching alight, the enemy were burnt with their own weapons. Good work was done by the whole of this platoon and particularly by Private (Thomas) Hickin who on 2 or 3 occasions walked along the parapet firing a Lewis Gun from his hip at the enemy concentrating in the trenches in the flanks. Private Hickin was eventually killed in making one of these attack … ’ 
Soon after the start of the battle Lt Col William Norman Stewart’s 6th Battalion of the Leicesters moved forward in support of their comrades in 7th and 8th Battalions, the three formations holding onto their positions until the afternoon of 21 March when the Germans finally secured possession of the ‘Red Line’, and broke through the 7th Leicesters’ positions in the village of the Pezieres, only to be driven out again by the Battalion’s reserve company aided by 2 tanks, which had both done sterling service until they ran out of petrol, at which point they were disabled by artillery fire.
By dusk the battle at Epehy had descended into a vicious street fight, the ruined houses and lanes lined with trenches providing cover for snipers of friend and foe alike. With the approach of night the enemy’s infantry attacks had slackened whereas the enemy’s artillery bombardment of the village was intensified to prevent the pushing forward of urgently needed reinforcements and supplies to the, by now, beleaguered garrison.
The second day of the ‘Kaiserschlacht’ dawned much the same as the previous day, with a thick fog. Ever watchful for the appearance of an enemy attack, there had been little sleep for the meagre garrison of the trenches in and around Ephey during the night 21 March, consisting of a mixed bag of cooks, typists, bandsmen, and anyone else who could hold a rifle now amongst those preparing for a last-ditch stand in a partially completed line of trenches known as the ‘Brown Line’. Hopelessly outnumbered the ‘Tommies’ must have realised that the end was almost upon them as they once again awaited the arrival of the enemy. Soon after dawn the enemy began a heavy bombardment of the Leicesters’ positions, which was inevitably followed by a series of infantry attacks, once again driven off. However, at 9 am the enemy captured three of the Leicester’s posts on the south-eastern edge of Epehy from where they had advanced through the ruined village.
The gallant stand at Epehy went on until around mid-day on 22 March, when the surviving members of the three battalions of Leicesters were ordered to make a fighting withdrawal to Longavesnes, the 6th and 8th Battalions slipping away through the village of Saulcourt, whilst Captain Vanner and the remnants of 7th Battalion blew up two bridges over a railway cutting just north of Peiziere in the hope of further delaying their pursuing foe.
Having delayed the German advance for over 36 hours the Leicesters’ gallant action at Epehy had obviously been a thorn in the side of the German advance and was described in one German history as a ‘flood breaker’. The 3 battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment had acquitted themselves admirably during 21 (and 22) March 1918. Middlebrook says of their action at Epehy, ‘Few regiments had upheld their reputations so well on this day … ’ 
Although the 3 battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment lived to fight another day, the price paid for their indomitable stand had been expensive, and by 30 March it was found that the Leicestershire Brigade had lost 31 officers and 1,200 men, killed, wounded, and missing. Many of the latter were subsequently found to have been taken prisoner during this period; nevertheless, a great many of them were to remain ‘missing’ forever. Amongst them was 19-year-old 46295 Private William Herbert Goodrick.
Belonging to ‘B’ Company of 6th Battalion, the Leicestershire Regiment, William was born during 1898 in the ‘bottom end’ of Scarborough at 69 Eastborough, and was the eighth of 9 children of Jessie and Richard Goodrick, who was employed as a postman. A pupil of St Mary’s Parish School and Friarage Council School, by the outbreak of war William was employed as an errand boy in the South Street shop of local grocers and wine merchants William C Land & Co., still only aged 15 and obviously considered too young for military service. However, by the autumn of 1917, shortly before celebrating his 19th birthday, William Goodrick enlisted into the army at Scarborough’s Castle Road Court House. 
Although one would have expected a Yorkshireman to serve in a local regiment, by late 1917 heavy casualties and an acute shortage of recruits had dictated that men like Goodrick, and the throngs of young men (many underage) who joined the army at this stage in the war had little say in the matter of which unit they had served with, thus, by the onset of winter, Goodrick found himself posted to the Leicestershire Regimental Depot at Wigston Barracks (also known as ‘Glen Parva Barracks’), which had been located in Saffron Road, South Wigston*.
Whilst William Goodrick underwent (with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion) his basic course of infantry training at Leicester, the remnants of the 6th (Service) Battalion were moving from the Ypres Sector (having recently suffered heavy casualties in the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele) to the Cambrai sector where they were intended as reinforcements to help stem the German counter attack of 30 December 1917. Nevertheless, by the time that the division’s various units were in place, the repeated German attacks had petered out and the Battalion spent the remainder of what many would recall as the worst winter in living memory improving the defences of the Epehy district. This was a task which involved digging new emplacements and trenches in front of the village and assisting the Royal Engineers within the village itself with the construction of a series of concrete blockhouses, emplacements, and observation posts which, unknowingly, were to play a very important part in the battle of 21 – 22 March 1918.
At the beginning of January 1918 Private Goodrick was included in a draft of 18- and 19-year-old replacements destined for France to fill the ranks of the depleted 3 battalions of Leicesters.
In the same draft as Goodrick was 18-years-old 41367 Private Frank Pothecary, who would later recall his impressions of their first few days of life at the front:
‘The [6th] battalion was in the line at Epehy and we was at Saulcourt and we had to go up each evening as carrying parties and go out to repair the barbed wire which was very frightening at first. Our officer said ‘don’t worry, if you are going to get it, you wont know anything about it’ and that took some of the fear away … we lived in a deep dugout with two entrances (about thirty steps down). We had to pass through a gas prevention chamber half way down. The beds were wire netting racks, three tiers high, and the only light was a few candles. It was always hot and stuffy. At the top of the steps there was always a gas guard who would beat on a hanging shell case when there was gas about. He would also use a spinning rattle.
‘We had to go down to the front line every day and repair damage and do anything which needed doing, digging latrines etc (never a dull moment). We had three days of this and then the front line. Here we lived in slits cut in the front [beneath] the parapet, and covered with a groundsheet. Food came up in big containers from the field kitchens carried on stretcher type wooden frames, ‘no fires in the line’. At dusk, we had ‘stand to’ and then it was ‘two hours on, four hours off’ to stand on the fire step all night, which was a cold and dreary job. Sometimes great rats run just in front of you and put the wind up you. At dawn everyone ‘stands to’ after which we would have a foot inspection and whale oil would be issued to rub on the feet to prevent frostbite … ’ 
(Unlike Private Goodrick, Frank Pothecary survived the German Spring Offensive and the remainder of the war).
Due to the immense disruption caused during the Spring Offensive little is known of the fate of many of the Leicesters who went missing during the initial stages of the operation, whether their remains were buried by the Germans and the graves lost during the remainder of the war, or whether they simply were blown to bits by shellfire is not known. The Goodricks, like most families during the war, never found out what had really happened to their son and had only been told by the War Office, many weeks after the event, that he had been reported as missing in action, a report which had eventually been amended to ‘missing believed killed in action’, probably on the 22ND of March 1918.
Another Scarborough casualty possessing no known grave, the name of Private William Herbert Goodrick (incorrectly recorded by the CWGC as Herbert William) like those of many comrades who were reported missing during the Spring of 1918 was included on the Pozieres Memorial to the Missing along with the names of over 14,000 fellow missing casualties who had fallen in the Somme sector of France from 21 March to 7 August 1918. William’s name can be found amongst the names of the missing of the Leicestershire Regiment who are commemorated on Panels 29 and 30 of the Memorial, along with that of the gallant 25264 Private Thomas Hickin.
As well as the Oliver’s Mount Memorial, Private Goodrick’s name is commemorated in Scarborough’s Dean Road Cemetery (Section B, Row 18, Grave 3), on a gravestone which also includes the names of his parents: Jessie Goodrick, who died at her home at 5 Henrietta Court, St Thomas Street, on Sunday, 16 August 1931 at the age of 67 years; and a Scarborough postman for over 30 years, Richard Goodrick, who passed away at 38 Murchison Street on Wednesday, 22 October 1941.
William’s elder brother, Arthur Edward Goodrick, served during the war with the Royal Field Artillery and survived, together with his sister Edith Mary Goodrick who served as a Sister and Staff Nurse.
 The Kaiser’s Battle; Martin Middlebrook; Penguin, 1978.
 War Diary of the 7th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment; Leicestershire Records Office; 21/318, Wigston. Quoted from page 217 of Matthew Richardson’s ‘The Tigers’; Pen & Sword Books, 2000.
 At the time of the 1901 Census of Scarborough’s population the Goodricks resided at 69 Eastborough, the family consisting of Richard, 38 years of age, employed as a postman, Jessie, 37 years, Edith Mary (18), Jane Beatrice (16), Alfred (14), Thomas (12), John Richard (10), Alice (7), Robert Edward (4), William (2), and Jessie, aged 5 months. All were born in Scarborough.
 Manuscript recollections, F E Pothecary; Liddle Collections, University of Leeds; courtesy of Richardson’s ‘The Tigers’.
* Editor’s note: by this stage of the war, with conscription, new locally-recruited men were not placed in local regiments. The growth of the New Army Pals battalions had meant, when they suffered severe losses in action (such as on the Somme), that there was a significant impact on small localities in terms of bereavements. Recruiting was subsequently altered and new enlistments could find themselves in any regiment including, for example, Scots units.