Cat­a­strophic in­juries for Great War sol­dier

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS - By JOHN WORK­MAN

IF we could fea­ture ev­ery sol­dier from the Black Coun­try who died in the Great War it would be our hon­our to do so. But be­ing able to high­light just a few re­minds us of the many who paid the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice.

Chris Ped­ley would like to re­mem­ber his great un­cle Robert Gon­der­ton who is buried in the church­yard at St Mark’s in Pen­snett. Of course he never knew this man who was his grand­mother Ann’s brother, but his story is one of many we have re­ceived from Bu­gle read­ers since the com­mem­o­ra­tions of the First World be­gan in Au­gust 2014. Robert was within days of know­ing about the Armistice but his in­juries from fight­ing in France and Bel­gium were so hor­ren­dous he sadly died on Oc­to­ber 27. His death cer­tifi­cate tells us the cause of death was for sev­eral rea­sons: “Gun­shot wound in the right thigh, gas, gan­grene am­pu­ta­tion and fi­nally shock.”

Con­jec­ture

This young man was aged just 23 and hailed from Com­mon­side in Pen­snett. He was a Pri­vate in the 46th Bat­tal­ion Ma­chine Gun Corps which had been formed on Fe­bru­ary 28, 1918, from the Ma­chine Gun Com­pa­nies of 46th (North Mid­land) Di­vi­sion. It is con­jec­ture to de­ter­mine where he re­ceived his wounds, per­haps he was­gassed in a pre­vi­ous en­counter, but the 46th MG Corps saw ac­tion at the Bat­tle of St Quentin Canal that be­gan on Septem­ber 29 and con­tin­ued un­til Oc­to­ber 10, so it is more than likely this is where Robert Gon­der­ton was wounded.

His oc­cu­pa­tion be­fore join­ing the army was a hewer in a coal mine for which he would have spent sev­eral years learn­ing the ropes down the pit and ac­quir­ing his knowl­edge by ex­pe­ri­ence, be­com­ing an ap­pren­tice hewer be­fore grad­u­at­ing to the job of hewer. A hewer was the miner who loos­ened the rocks at the coal face, so Robert must have been phys­i­cally strong to carry out this job day in, day out.

But the rav­ages of war fi­nally took their toll and he was trans­ported back to Eng­land and taken to the Col­le­giate Cres­cent Mil­i­tary Hospi­tal in Sh­effield where he suc­cumbed to his wounds on Sun­day Oc­to­ber 27, 1918.

While the Al­lied pow­ers and Ger­many were sign­ing the de­tails of the Armistice, Black Coun­try sol­dier Robert Gon­der­ton was buried in St Mark’s church­yard, Pen­snett.

Pri­vate Robert Gon­der­ton’s grave at St Mark’s Church

A Black Coun­try field filled with the pop­pies of Re­mem­brance. In­set: Part of Pri­vate Gon­der­ton’s death cer­tifi­cate

Res­cu­ing the wounded off the bat­tle­field

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