Rank: Private G/23616
Regiment: 7th Battalion, Queens Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), formerly 32627, Middlesex Regiment
Died: 12 October 1917
Beer Memorial Cross, St Michael's Church Tablet, Beer
Other Memorial: Tyne Cot Memorial [Google]
PDF Download: WOODGATE John Henry
John Henry Woodgate was born in Beer in 1878. His father, Albert, was a fisherman, while his mother Mary was a lacemaker. Both were born in Beer. At the time of the 1881 census the family lived in Cemetery Lane, Beer.
John enlisted at Mill Hill, Middlesex, while living in Kensal Rise in London with his wife Edith. He had been working as a tailor. He originally joined the local regiment, the Middlesex Regiment, but was later transferred to the Queens Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). This sometimes happened when a unit suffered heavy casualties and needed urgent replacements. Men would then be transferred from a unit still in training to provide replacements for battle casualties.
The 7th Royal West Kent Regiment was a ‘Service battalion’, composed of volunteers who responded to Kitchener’s recruiting campaign at the outbreak of war, and who agreed to serve for the duration of the conflict.
The battalion was sent to France in 1915, and arrived in Le Havre on 27 July as part of the 55th Brigade in 18th (Eastern) Division. The battalion took part in the battle of the Somme in 1916, including the fighting on the disastrous first day of the battle, 1 July.
By October 1917 the battalion was in the Ypres salient in Belgium, and on 10 October they relieved the 6th Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment in the front line near Poelcapelle, ready to make an attack two days later.
The battalion war diary entry for 12 October 1917 describes what happened:
"At 5:25 AM on 12th October, the barrage opened. Some of the 'heavies' were dropping short and fell behind 'B' Company on the right of the line, and amongst 'A' Company on the left, causing casualties in the latter company. Before our barrage started to move forward, the enemy barrage came down in front of the line on which the leading companies were formed up. The enemy barrage was slight, and when our barrage lifted and the Battalion advanced, few casualties were caused by it. The battalion had many casualties from machine gun and rifle fire when advancing up to the line originally held."
The diary goes on to explain that the British barrage lifted early and moved forward too far, leaving the battalion and those alongside it exposed to German fire. It continues:
"The heavy losses which occurred among officers and NCOs were due to efforts to gain ground by fire and movement after the barrage had thus been lost. The mud and water was so bad that to move rapidly from shell hole to shell hole was out of the question. Rifles also got covered with mud and even after they had been cleaned it was difficult to keep them in action for more than a few rounds without cleaning out the breech again, since the men's hands were plastered with mud and each time a fresh clip was put in some mud inevitably went in with it."
In the period from 10 to 13 October, the battalion’s casualties were given in the war diary as:
Officers: 14; NCOs: 57; Rank & File: 240.
John Woodgate was among those killed on 12 October. His body was not identified, and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the missing, which holds the names of 35,000 men who were killed in the Ypres salient and who have no known grave.
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