Sunday, 15 September 2013

Rifleman John Goldsworthy 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles

Carrickfergus is Remembering today: Rifleman John Goldsworthy - 17727 - A Coy 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles - Born Irish Gate 1897, Killed in Action in France 15th September 1917 aged 20.

John was the son of John and Margaret Goldsworthy of Irish Quarter South, Carrickfergus – he was brother to Thomas, Henry, Edith, Margaret, Ethel and Doris.  Prior to the war John worked with his father as a labourer to a bricklayer in the town.  The entire family where members of St Nicholas Church of Ireland.

John enlisted with “A Coy” 12th Battalion RIR in 1915, he was killed in action in France on 14th September 1917 aged 20 and buried at Hermies British Cemetery.

We are privileged to have 2 letters written to his parents in the weeks after his death from his commanding officer Captain Adamson and his Sergeant Herbert Hamilton, both letter speak volumes for the character of this young man. 

“Dear Mr and Mrs Goldsworthy – It is with feelings of deepest sympathy that I have to write to inform you of the death of your son in action yesterday, (14/9/17).  I have known him since the very early days when the Division was formed, he then being in my platoon, and I always looked on him as one of my smartest and best soldiers.  He was always most cheerful, bright and willing so I can readily understand how heavy this blow is to you both.  You can, however, look back with melancholy pleasure to the fact that he volunteered to defend the best ideals of our homeland against a cruel and tyrannous enemy.  I had just made him one of my ordlies.  I am asked by all the officers, N.C.O’s and men of the company to tender you their most sincere sympathy.”  - Signed Captain T.S. Adamson

Sergeant Herbert ‘Bertie’ Hamilton writing home furnishes some particulars of the way in which Rifleman Goldsworthy met his death.  He writes “I am very sorry to say John Goldsworthy has been killed.  He was asleep in a small dug-out with another chap when a trench mortar fell between his dug-out and one two of our officers were in.  The officers escaped but are shell shocked and were buried in muck.  The other chap with John was not buried so deep and he was got out in time but is badly bruised.  John was dead when he was got out.  I think it was suffocation and shock that killed him, it must have been instantaneous.  Everything was done to get him dug out at once, but alas he was dead with got out.  Poor chap, very sorry I was to look at him, not a mark on him.  It has upset us all for we all thought him the best of company.”  Sergeant Hamilton was also a Carrickfergus man, within 3 months he too would be killed at the front. 


  1. Civil Marriage
    Date of Marriage 3 Nov 1893
    Groom Name John GOLDSWORTHY
    Bride Name Maggie HILDITCH
    Church Woodburn Presbyterian Church
    Parish Carrickfergus
    Civil District Larne
    County Antrim

  2. John actually enlisted in B company in September 1914. He was previously a member of Woodburn Company, 3rd (Carrickfergus) Battalion, Central Antrim Regiment UVF, of which his father John (Jack) was Lieutenant Quartermaster. John worked with his father Jack, who was a stonemason in the town, until he enrolled as an apprentice with Robert Craig Engineers in York Street Belfast in 1913.
    He was badly wounded in the attack of the 12th Royal Irish Rifles north of the Ancre on 1st July 1916, in the half of B company which attacked to the right of 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers towards the Railway Sap and marsh. He returned to France in May 1917 and was in a dugout which was hit by one of three German trench mortars at 7am on 14th September 1917. The two officers who escpaed lightly were Capt Adamson (who doesn't mention it in is letter above) and Lieutenant William Nassau Johnston, grandson of the 19th Century Ornage hero and south Belfast MP William Johnston of Ballykilbeg. Johnston was badly shellshocked and was discharged from the Army in January 1918.
    John's elder brother Thomas was killed in the sinking of the SS Fircrest north west of the Hebrides on 25th August 1940 by U 124

    1. Thank you so much for this information, I have updated John's story and will make sure it is includes in the book. How do you happen to have so much information on this?