The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Walter and Bert

Many of Walter's letters talk about the relationship between Walter and his brother Bert. Once the family was separated and the boys sent to Sheffield, Bert represented family to Walter. With father John in the workhouse infirmary, mother Annie and brother Fred in Folkestone, Harry off who-knows-where, and little sister Annie in Whitley Bay (or was she??), the "two Goslings" had to fend for themselves where family ties were concerned.

The only picture we have of Bert is this one taken in India before the devastating sunstroke and the family split-up. And the earliest photo we have of Walter is this one taken in 1912 at age 22. Wonder if they ever had a picture taken together? It's a pity we don't have it.

Early in our correspondence, Walter gives his first account of Bert's death to me:

Yes Mary, when you mention World War I. Fancy being now 65 years ago, and yet I can remember many things that happened. I laid in hospital having been brought home from France in 1915. I went to Clopton War Hospital near Stratford on Avon. I picked up the morning’s paper to read the casualty list which was issued each day. It was on the 9th May 1915, that I read of my poor brother Bert had been killed in action. I was 25 years old at the time and Bert was 26 years old. He was a Lance Corporal in the Black Watch. His regiment went straight to France from Meerut in India, the Meerut Division. I was very sad for weeks over reading the news. We had been great pals at school in Sheffield as school boys. It happened at the Battle of Aubers Ridge in Festubert. Poor Bert! So if he had lived he would now be 90 years of age. The flower of Youth was squandered away of the all the participants. And still they are remembered after all these years despite another war has taken place, not counting all the little side shows around the British Empire (as it then was) which is no more. I thought I would recount this incident to you Mary, although it was hard to do so.

Walter mentions Bert's death no fewer than six times in his letters to me, more than any other single incident of his life. What happens when half of a two-against-the-world partnership dies? Walter was deprived of growing old with his dear brother, of being uncle to Bert's children, of countless conversations and reminescences. After all they'd been through together, he felt the loss of Bert keenly throughout his life.
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posted by MaryB @ 11:15 AM  


  • At 3:47 PM , Blogger Walker said...

    That's strange - in the last few days I have posted [on Charlie's Blog] a photograph from a postcard of the Black Watch marching back to camp during the First World War.

    This is doubly strange because the day before I had found the postcard in my late Aunt's postcard album, Margaret - the cashier from my office - had said that her grandfather had been in the Black Watch during the First World War.

  • At 4:05 PM , Blogger MaryB said...

    Where do I find your Charlie's Blog? I'd love to see the postcard.

  • At 1:58 PM , Blogger Walker said...

    I'm inviting you to join Charlie's Blog Mary .... I've invited you once before so perhaps it didn't get through the first time.

    It's restricted to Friends [and Friends of Friends] - you would be welcome to join.

    Let me know if it doesn't get through.

  • At 8:25 PM , Blogger MaryB said...

    I got through this time (I could never figure out how to change the email address, so the email is for my work email). Saw the postcard - amazing!

  • At 3:03 AM , Blogger Walker said...

    I hope you will chip in on Charlie's Blog - if you want - Mary. It would be nice to get a different take on things.

    There are some other postcards on the site plus old photographs of Wildgooses but none of Walter's flock.

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