Rifleman Henry Godson, 7th Battalion, Rifle Brigade was killed in action on 26th August 1917. Born in Hampton-in-Arden in 1892, Henry had moved to Birmingham by 1901 and volunteered for the Army on 29th August 1914, less than a month after the outbreak of war.
Henry Godson was the fourth of the fifth children of his father’s second marriage. William Godson, a general labourer, had first married Fanny Hemmings in 1869 and they had five daughters (Fanny, Ada, Caroline, Elizabeth and Sarah) before Fanny died in 1879. William then married Matilda Jenkins in 1880, and they had one daughter (Matilda, born and died 1883) and four sons: John (1886-1911), Joseph (1887-1901), Henry (1892-1917); and George (1896-1969).
Henry’s parents both died before he came of age. His mother, Matilda, died in 1898 when Henry was just six years old. His father William then died in 1910. At the time of the 1911 census, 19-year-old Henry was out of work and was boarding in Birmingham. In 1912, he married Gladys Jane Pugh at St Matthew’s Church, and they had a daughter, Catherine Agnes, born in May 1914. Henry became a warehouseman, working for the Self-Sealing Rubber Company Ltd, Ryland Street, Birmingham.
On the outbreak of war, Henry volunteered for the Army, enlisting on 29th August 1914 and going to France in May 1915. He was awarded the Military Medal for an act of gallantry on 9th April 1917, and was also awarded leave in England the following month. Returning to France, he was killed in action three months later.
His only son, Henry Thomas, was born posthumously on 28th February 1918. Henry’s widow remarried in 1920 and it seems that the son from her first marriage was brought up by his father’s brother, George, and his wife Agnes, with whom Henry Thomas was living in 1939. George also served in the First World War, being recorded as a Guardsman (no. 22033) with 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards at the time of his brother’s death. Henry Thomas Godson died in 1993, aged 75.
Rifleman Henry Godson has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Having moved away from his birthplace of Hampton-in-Arden, he is not commemorated on the village memorial, although he is listed in the Book of Remembrance at Birmingham’s Hall of Memory.
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Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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