Godsal, Alfred Edmund

Alfred Edmund Godsal was born in 1884. He was baptised on the 20th December that year in the parish of Sturminster Marshall in Dorset. He was the son of Philip Thomas and Ellen Henrietta Godsal. Philip Godsal was listed as a former Lieutenant in the 52nd light Infantry. Their abode was Eton.

In the census of 1891 the family was recorded living in Slough Buckinghamshire. There were 4 servants. Philip T Godsal 41, was head of the household and was listed as Major and Acting Adjutant to 4th Eton College Colchester Battalion Oxfordshire Light Infantry. His wife Ellen H was 39. The listed children were Charlotte E 2 and Thomas W 3 months. Alfred Edmund Godsall who would have been about 7 and his brothers Walter Hugh Godsal who would have been about 8 and Philip who would have been about 11 were not listed.  Possibly they were away at school. We know from a newspaper report that Alfred Edmund was educated at A. J. de Winton’s, Slough.

The census of 1901 fiound the family at Is y Coed. Philip T Godsal was 49 and was the High Sherrif of Flintshire. Ellen H was 49. Their listed children  were Philip 21 a Lieutenant in the Militia. Dorothy Grace was 14, Charlotte E was 12, Margaret L was 8. There were 10 servants. The 1901 census includes Walter Hugh Godsal as an 18 year old student at Sandhurst Royal Military College.  We don’t know exactly where his brother Alfred Edmund was but we know that he commenced his Naval training at about that time at HMS Britannia.

The Navy List of 1908 (15th March) accessible on  records Alfred Edmund Godsal as a Lieutenant.

The 1911 census lists Alfred Edmund aged 26 with the Royal Navy in China and the East Indies as Lieutenant aboard HMS Monmouth.

 The Llangollen Advertiser on 24th May 1918  published the following account of his life.

Commander Godsal’s Career

Commander Alfred Edmund Godsal RN, was the fourth son of Major and Mrs Godsal of Isycoed Park, Whitchurch. Born in 1884 he was educated at A J de Winton’s Slough and from thence passed high into HMS Britannia from which he passed with five firsts and in the language of the fleet, he was a ‘Five wonner’. His first ship was the ‘Hannibel’ in which the senior midshipman was the son of Mr Robinson of Frankton. Commander Godsal had completed over 17 years in the Navy and had spent commissions in The West Indies, China and Mediterranean seas in the ‘Hague,’ ‘Monmouth,’ and ‘Irrisistible’ respectively before taking the torpedo course at Portsmouth and the advanced course of Wireless telegraphy at Chatham. While serving in the ‘Monmouth’ on the China Station he commanded the despatch boat ‘Kinsha’. His chief service was in the ‘Centurion’ to which he was appointed as Torpedo Lieutenant in November 1912 and he remained in her after his promotion to Commander last midsummer. He left the ‘Centurion’ to serve under his old old captain, now Vice Admiral Sir Roger Keys. He volunteered for service in the attempt made on  Zeebrugge and in ‘Brilliant’ he was the leader of the Ostend operations which through no fault of his were not successful. He came through this trying ordeal with  a slight wound and again volunteered for the second attempt on Ostend. He was given the command of ‘Vindictive’. The French Croix de Guerre ha sbeen conferred upon Commander Godsal and had he lived it is understood he would have been promoted to Captain and have had the DSO awarded him. 

(NB. His Commonwealth War Grave Certificate states that he was awarded the DSO. See link at foot of page)

In the same edition of the Llangollen Advertiser as above, there was a detailed account of the events that resulted in his death as he played his part in the blockading of the Port of Ostend.

The Story of Ostend. How Commander Godsal Fell

The Admiralty, on Tuesday issued an official account of the exploit, in the course of which it was described how Commander Godsal who was in Command of ‘The Vindictive’ in her hazardous venture to block the fairway of Ostend Harbour, met his death. 

The guns found her at once.She was hit every few seconds after she entered, her scarred hull broken afresh in a score of places and her decks and upper works swept. The machine gun on the end of the western pier had been put out of action by the motor boat’s torpedo but from other machine guns at the inshore ends of the pier from a position on the front and from machine guns apparently firing over the eastern pier , their converged upon her a hail of lead. The after control was demolished by a shell which killed all its occupants, including sun Lieutenant Angus Machlachlan who was in command of it. Upper and lower bridges and chart room were swept by bullets and Commander Godsal RN ordered his officers to go with him to the conning tower. They observed through the observation slit in the steel wall of the conning tower that the eastern pier was breached some 200 yards from its seaward end and as though at some tome a ship had been in collision with it. They saw the front of the town silhouted again and again in the light of the guns that blazed at them. The night was a patchwork of fire and darkness. Immediately after passing the breach in the pier, Commander Godsal left the conning tower and went out on deck, the better to watch the ship’s movements. he chose his position and called in through the slit of the conning tower his order to starboard the helm. The Vindictive responded, she laid her battered nose to the eastern pier and prepared to swing her 320 ft length across the channel. Commander Godsal’s Death  It was at that moment that a shell from the shore batteries struck the conning tower. Lieut Alleyne and Lieut V A Crutchly were still within. Lieut Alleyne was stunned by the shock. Lieut Crutchly shouted hrough the slit to the commander and receiving no answer rang the port engine full speed astern to help in swinging the ship. By this time she was lying at an angle of about 40 deg to the pier and seemed to be hard and fast so that it was impossible to bring her farther round.After working the engines for some minutes to no effect, Lieut Crutchley gave an order to clear the engine room and abandon ship according to the programme previously laid down. Engineer Lieut William A Bury who was last to leave the engine room, blew the main charges by the switch installed aft. Lieut Crutchly blew the auxilliary  charges in the forward 6 in magazine from the conning tower. Those on board felt the old ship stirring as the explosive tore the bottom mates and the bulk heads from her. She sank about 6 feet and lay on the bottom of the channel. Her work was done. It is to be presumed that Commander Godsal was killed by the shell which struck the conning tower. Lieut Crutchley searching the ship before he  left her failed to find the body of sub Lieut Machlachlan in that wilderness of splintered wood and shattered steel. In the previous attempt to block the port, Commander Godsal had commanded ‘The Brilliant’ and together with all the officers of that ship and ‘the Titus’ had volunteered at once for a further operation. 

Alfred Edmund Godsal left a will. The England and Wales National Probate Calendar – Index of wills and Administration accessible on ‘Ancestry’ includes the following entry. ‘Godsal Alfred Edmund of Isycoed Park Whitchurch Shropshire commander RN died 10th May 1918 at sea. Administration (with will) London 15th July to Dorothy Birchenough (wife of Richard Peacock Birchenough) Effects £3822..0s.. 6d

(Dorothy Birchenough was his sister nee  Dorothy G Godsal)

There is an index card for Alfred Edmund Godsal in The Flintshire Roll of Honour in The County Record office in Hawarden. The address given is Isycoed Park Whitchurch. It confirms that Alfred Edmund was  Commander of the ship ‘Vindictive’ and that he had served since 19th December 1900. It says he was killed in action and was ‘buried by the enemy in the German cemetery on Ostend’. It was signed py P J Godsal.

His brother Walter Hugh Godsal was also killed in the war and is named on the Isycoed Memorial. He has his own page on this website.

Mold man Walter Whitley was a crew member on the Vindictive. He also lost his life and is named on Mold’s memorial


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