Eastleach War Memorial – John Arthur Goschen

John Arthur Goschen was born on 18th August 1918 in London, the son of Major General Arthur Alec Goschen CB DSO DL of the Royal Horse Artillery and his wife, Marjorie Mary, who married in 1908 in Naas, County Kildare. It was interesting that John arrived near the end of the Great War when he was to take part in the Second World War with such distinction. In the 1911 census, Marjorie was living at 27, Lennox Gardens in Chelsea. Captain Arthur Goschen was serving in Egypt with the RHA.  John had four siblings. They grew up with their father often serving abroad but when he retired in the thirties the family settled in Eastleach at Macaroni Downs Farm. Mollie married Alan Richardson and lived at Southrop Manor for many years so John is also remembered in Southrop. Geoffrey distinguished himself in the RHA and also won the Military Cross in WW2. Diana became the school mistress at Eastleach and is fondly remembered by those she taught. John went to Eton where he was captain of his house, already showing his leadership qualities. On leaving Eton, in January 1937 he passed into the “Shop” at Woolwich, the equivalent of Sandhurst, for training officers who were to join the Royal Artillery. He was commissioned in August 1938, having received the Sword of Honour from Lord Ironside.

John was posted to a Field Regiment in the 2nd Division at Aldershot and went to France in September 1939. By March 1940, he had been posted to the Royal Horse Artillery in which both his father and brother had served with distinction. In May 1940 he was involved in a disaster at St.Valery and was captured on 12th June along with a friend, Brook Fox. They escaped twice and were recaptured but their third attempt was successful. His own account of what happened to them and others on their long escape route makes amazing reading. They made their way across France and eventually got to Switzerland where they were provided with papers and sent on a bus towards Spain. They reached Lisbon and were flown home, arriving at Poole Airport on 4th August 1940. For their endeavours in escaping both of them were awarded the Military Cross.

After a short leave John rejoined the Royal Horse Artillery in time to sail to the Middle East. The campaign in the Western Desert was fought along a thousand kilometres of desert between Alexandria and Benghazi and fighting surged back and forth between 1940 and 1942. After being involved in a campaign which freed Cyrenaica his unit remained as part of the garrison and withdrew to Tobruk where he remained throughout a seven month siege. He was awarded a Bar to his MC for his conspicuous gallantry. According to contemporary reports he was reknowned for his outstanding skill, devotion and gallantry. On 29th November he advanced alone on foot to within four hundred yards of German tanks and brought in a wounded brother officer. He seemed to be well-known for his cheerfulness and sense of humour.  On 1st December 1941 John was wounded in the shoulder, local casualties had been very heavy and, to ease pressure on the hospital, he was evacuated with others on the Chakdina, under convoy escort. Sadly, on 5th December 1941, the ship was torpedoed and sank very rapidly with great loss of life.  John was only twenty-three but had crammed more experiences into those years than many do in a life-time. He is remembered on the Alamein Memorial, west of Alexandria on the road to Mersa Matruh.