Battalion Attached 12th Battalion Suffolk Regiment
Regiment Royal Army Medical Corps
Francis Hennessey Goss was born in the fourth quarter of 1890 in Leeds, the son of Joseph Goss, a rag merchant, and his wife, Sarah Goss (nee Hennessey). A few months later, on the 5th April 1891, a census of the UK was carried out and we find Francis living at 48, Ascot Street, Leeds with his mother and elder sister in the home of Francis' maternal grandparents, while his father seems to be at 86 Ascot Terrace on that night. Altogether Joseph and Sarah had seven children, but only 5 survived to 1911 - Mary Eileen Goss, born in 1890 in Leeds; Francis Hennessey Goss, born 1890 in Leeds; Aloysius Goss, born in 1891 in Leeds; Mary Cecilia Goss, born in late 1892 or early 1893 and died in 1893; Marie Cecilia Goss, born in 1895 in Collingham; and Marie Genevieve Goss, born in 1897 in Collingham. The family therefore must have moved from Leeds to Collingham between 1893 and 1895, and they lived at Hill House at the top of Jewitt Lane.
Eileen, Francis and Aloysius all attended the convent school in Clifford and, in 1901, are shown on the census as boarders at the school. By 1911 census, Francis is living at Hill House, Collingham and is listed as a medical student, while his brother Aloysius is a commercial student.
In 1912, Francis passed the First Examination for the degree of M.B., Ch.B. (Part 1) at the University of Leeds. A year later, in 1913, Francis' father Joseph died, but Francis' studies continued and in 1915 The Leeds Mercury reported that Francis Hennessey Goss had graduated as a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in the same ceremony as Augusta Umanski, the first woman graduate in medicine and surgery at Leeds University.
Immediately following his graduation, in January 1916, Francis' name appears in The Army List in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
Francis' detailed record of service in The Royal Army Medical Corps has not been found, but he was promoted with effect from the 1st July 1916 to the rank of Captain. At some point in the war, Francis became the Medical Officer attached to the 12th Battalion Suffolk Regiment and it was while with that Regiment that Francis found himself near Mory Copse around the 21th-25th March 1918, right in the path of the German onslaught as part of Operation Michael. This was a major German advance that caused chaos in the British front lines and drove the British back many miles. As Medical Officer Francis would have been very involved in treating and care for the wounded. The 12th Suffolk Regiment, along with other elements of the 40th and 34th Divisions put up obstinate defence but were eventually overpowered around Mory Copse. Their war diary paints a picture of the desperate fight of that time:
ACCOUNT OF ACTION 21ST/26TH MARCH 1918
21st March 2pm. The Battalion marched from HENDICOURT and proceeded to HAMELINCOURT thence cross country to MORT HOMME ROAD where Battalion Headquarters were established at 7pm and A, B & D Companies took positions in Corps Line and C Company in Reserve.
There were no casualties en route.
The 13th Yorkshire Regiment on our left but we could not get touch with them as the enemy was holding a stretch of trench between us. We were in touch with the H.L.I. (Highland Light Infantry) on our right.
Casualties were very frequent here but we inflicted losses to the enemy and captured several prisoners in trying to obtain touch with our left.
This situation was cleared up later by the 13th Yorks counter attacking.
During the night the enemy regained a footing in this trench.
22nd March 6am. The Commanding Officer Lt Col T. Eardley-Wilmot DSO took a platoon out of the front line to form a forward position and cover the gap on our left.
There was a very heavy ground mist and the enemy snipers had taken up good positions, and sniped the CO and the Artillery Liaison Officer who was with him, killing them both. There were also several casualties amongst the men.
The Adjutant, Capt A.M. Cross, MC, then took command.
We continued to suffer casualties from enemy MGs (machine guns) and also our own Artillery.
22nd 2pm. The enemy attacked, considerably to our left, but we could get no definite information as to the situation, and later found he was massing on our own front.
4pm. We opened L.G. (Lewis Gun) and Rifle fire upon him and got good results from the Artillery. His casualties were heavy here.
5pm. The left was weakening and we were under heavy enemy MG fire and at 5pm received information to the effect that enemy was attacking units on our right. Later we saw them (about 5.30pm) advancing and driving our troops back.
6pm. A heavy enemy Artillery barrage was put down on the MORT HOMME ROAD and a little later we were attacked in force. We sent up the SOS Signal and held him off,
and our Artillery put down a good barrage. By this time both our flanks were "In the Air". The enemy gained the trench on our right and left, and our forward
companies were ordered to fall back on the Army Line. The message was delivered, but am afraid it arrived too late as no Officer or OR (other rank) of
either of the 3 companies returned.
Meanwhile Battalion HQ and C Company retired to Army Line. Battalion HQ established in MORY COPSE. Patrols sent out, and suffered casualties.
About 9pm. The Second in Command arrived and took over, but had previously seen the enemy on MORY-ECOUST ROAD, 200 yards above L'ABBAYE and formed a block
at Road junction there of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and others under an officer.
Two companies Reserve Battalion, 20th Middlesex, were sent for and a line found from Army line in front of MORY COPSE to SUNKEN ROAD (about 9-10pm) behind MORY COPSE thence along SUNKEN ROAD to cross roads MORY. We got in touch with 2/6th Leicesters A note in the diary explains that there was no such unit and that the 2/4th Leicesters must be meant. The Army Line was held by the enemy on both our flanks. We had a MG Section on our left.
23rd March 11pm to 1am. The enemy attacked but we held him on our front. He worked round on our right, through MORY and up the Sunken Road also around MORY COPSE and up sunken road behind us on the left. Orders were issued to move back beyond sunken road and under very heavy MG and rifle fire from the front and both flanks this move was accomplished, and a trench running at right angles to the sunken road occupied, and the troops then faced both flanks. The MG Section also took up positions in this trench.
23rd 1-4 am. All touch had again been lost with other units, and as the enemy fire died down, the troops were marched in column of route - under cover of darkness - across country towards ERVILLERS then left to ERVILLERS-MORY ROAD, extended and advanced towards MORY with right on road.
Touch was again obtained with the 2/6th Leicesters (sic) who had retired with left on road
5-6am Rising ground was selected and the men dug in under enemy MG fire, no touch with our left and enemy occupying crest immediately in front of us and WEST of MORY.
6am - 8pm. Continuous MG fire and H.V. and heavy shrapnel on our positions all day, suffered considerable casualties.
Touch obtained with left during afternoon. Patrols out all night. Enemy evacuated crest in front of us.
11pm. E.A. bombed our positions dropping 7 bombs, no casualties.
24th March 5am-8pm. Night 23rd-24th comparatively quiet but enemy shelled our positions and sprayed us with MGs all day. All trenches and roads registered with HV and heavy shrapnel. Several casualties.
March 24th 10.30pm. SOS sent up on our left flank and very heavy Artillery and MG barrages opened by both sides. Enemy attacked on wide front on our left - MORY to ERVILLERS - and drove troops on our left through our position. We faced left and opened LG and rifle fire and held up the advance for some considerable time. He was too strong for us however and we retired on MORY ERVILLERS road and again held him up. Our casualties were very heavy and the enemy in greatly superior numbers, and under heavy fire we took up a position in front of ERVILLERS-BEGAGNIES road, which we held during the remainder of the night.
March 25th 5am to 12noon. Enemy clearly seen digging MG positions and snipers did good execution. Movement of enemy considerable all the morning.
Enemy attacked in force on wide front but did not reach our trench. He passed through on our right and the 4 Bde Guards retired, leaving our left flank open.
The troops occupying the position taken up as above consisted of men from 12th Suffolks, 20th Middlesex, 21st Middlesex and East Surreys, who had been reorganized and distributed in this system amongst 2/6 Leicesters, 10th and 11th East Yorkshire.
8pm. At 8pm this line was evacuated and the remnants of the Battalion marched to AYTTE where they spent the remainer of the night.
March 26th. 8am. Battalion marched to BIENVILLERS and took up an outpost position.
11.45pm. Battalion marched on HABARCQ and at 6am halted then marched to SUS St. Leger.
March 27th 6am. 22 Regimental Officers and the MO went into the fight and only the MO and 1 Regimental Officer returned to duty. The others all killed, wounded or missing.
For his part in these battles, Francis Goss was awarded the Military Cross. His citation reads:
The rest of Francis' military career is unclear - we do not know exactly when he was discharged from the Army.
By 1920, Francis Hennessey Goss was listed in the Medical Directory as living at 26, Corrig Avenue, Kignstown, Ireland. However on the 27th October 1922, Francis embarked on the SS Plassy in London and sailed to Port Said, Egypt. There he worked at the British Hospital in Port Said. He appears to have returned to the UK on the 15th October 1925, arriving on that day in London on the SS Ranpura from Port Said and giving his address in the UK as c/o Lloyds Bank in London. He was described as 35, with a profession of 'Medical' and a permanent residence of Egypt. Francis returned to Egypt on the 12th February 1926 sailing on the Oxfordshire from Liverpool to Port Said. By 1930, Francis is shown in the Medical Record as the Medical Inspector at Fung Province, Sudan, based at Sudan Medical Services, Roseires, Fung Province, Sudan, and he has the same entry in the 1935 Record. Francis then changed jobs again, and by 1940 (and again in 1942) he is shown as being the Senior Medical Inspector in the Sudan Medical Service in Khartoum, Sudan. During this time in Sudan, Francis made at least one further trip to the UK, arriving on the 19th August 1938 on the Strathnaver from Port Sudan.
We have been unable to trace Francis' return to Sudan, and have not found any further records to show where he lived in later life or where he died.
1911 Census. The National Archives. Class RG14 Piece 25962
War Diary of 12 Battalion Suffolk Regiment (WO95/2616/1) The National Archives.
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