Catastrophic injuries for Great War soldier
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.”
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