Friday, 25 November 2011
I interviewed James Goodson on the 5th November 1988 at the Royal Star & Garter Home in Richmond-upon-Thames.
James was born in Bethnal Green, east London on the 26th December 1883. He joined the Royal Field Artillery on the 24th August 1902, signing up for three years with the colours and nine on the reserve. As he told me when I interviewed him, "When the First World War come, I had just twenty days to do on the reserve. My reserve service would have finished on the 24th August and I wouldn't have been liable to go. Instead, I was overseas in a few days."
James Goodson was a feisty character and didn't pull any punches during the few hours that I spent with him. Yesterday, on Twitter, IWM_Centenary (The Imperial War Museum) noted that on the 24th November 1918, in a speech at Wolverhampton, Lloyd George had asked, "What is our task? To make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in." Seeing this, I was reminded of James Goodson's response when I had asked him whether he felt that Britain was a land fit for heroes. This is what he said:
"When I finally left the army I went to my job where I'd been when I'd been called up, and the guvnor hadn't got time to give me a job. So that was my thoughts about that: "well done my good and faithful hero, here's a ticket to the workhouse for you." That was my thoughts then and it was the thoughts of a good many more boys who come home. They come home to nothing, that was the tragedy of it. That was the tragedy of the war as far as I was concerned. Men pawned their medals directly they got them, so much so that the government had to bring out an order: "No more medals to be pawned." So you know what they done? Sewed them on a waistcoat and pawned the waistcoat. That's how they got round that. They was the heroes. The country badly let them down. Badly."
James Goodson served throughout the war and went into Germany with the Army of Occupation, finally returning home in 1920. When I met him, he stood about five feet nothing in his socks, was as bright as a button, nobody's fool, and 104 years old. He died In April 1990 aged 106. The photo of James on his horse dates to around 1904.