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Henry Arthur Goddard (1869–1955)

by Peter Burness

This article was published:

Henry Arthur Goddard (1869-1955), merchant, company director and soldier, was born on 13 December 1869 at West Hackney, Middlesex, England, son of Henry Goddard, insurance clerk, and his wife Elizabeth, née Simmons. He migrated to Australia in 1890 and settled in Brisbane.

Goddard had been a sergeant in the Essex Rifle Volunteers and took a keen interest in military matters. In 1899 he was commissioned in the Queensland Defence Force and by 1913 had risen to command the 7th Infantry (Moreton) Regiment. On 28 June 1897, describing himself as a clerk, he married Elizabeth Maud Morrow at All Saints Anglican Church, Brisbane, and gradually established a successful importing business with offices interstate. He was interested in growing malting barley and experimented with this crop on the Darling Downs. In 1906-15 he was also the consul for Paraguay in Brisbane. His business interests required extensive travel overseas, affording him the opportunity to attend military manoeuvres in England and to observe developments on the Continent. Although not a professional soldier, he developed a wide knowledge of military affairs and on the outbreak of war in 1914 was placed in command of the Brisbane defences.

Putting his business affairs in order, Goddard joined the Australian Imperial Force with the rank of lieutenant-colonel on 16 March 1915 and was appointed to command the 25th Battalion. When changes were made to commands in the 2nd Division he was transferred to the 17th Battalion, which he joined as it embarked from Sydney on the troopship Themistocles on 12 May 1915, bound for Egypt. From there the battalion sailed for Gallipoli in August but without Goddard who was in hospital. He was on the Southland sailing to rejoin the unit when the ship was torpedoed on 2 September. Rescued by a Royal Navy vessel he was taken to Lemnos and finally landed on Gallipoli on 6 September. He took command of his battalion next day in the trenches at Quinn's Post, one of the most dangerous positions on the peninsula. He served there until the evacuation and remained behind until the last parties of the unit were ready to move out on 20 December 1915. The 17th Battalion sailed to Lemnos, then to Alexandria, Egypt where orders were received to proceed to Tel el Kebir. Goddard's health had suffered on Gallipoli and he was admitted to hospital with dysentery on 18 January 1916. In April he was invalided to Australia.

In mid-July he again embarked for overseas service. He reported to A.I.F. Headquarters in London and was appointed commander of the recently raised 35th Battalion (part of the new 3rd Division) in October. He arrived in France with his new command on 22 November. After serving in a quiet sector at Armentières the battalion took part in the battle of Messines on 7 June 1917. For his work at Messines and his contribution to the efficiency of the brigade Goddard was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The battalion was heavily committed in the battle of Broodseinde Ridge on 4 October and in the attack on Passchendaele Ridge a week later. Weary and depleted, the 3rd Division was eventually sent back to the quieter sector in the north where it remained until early in 1918.

In appearance Goddard was tall and spare with a lean countenance behind a heavy dark moustache. 'A quiet, witty, scholarly man, far removed from the mud and blood of Flanders' trenches', he soldiered with quiet efficiency. 'With his intellectual and military qualifications he combined the attributes of sincerity, courtesy, a dry humour and natural dignity in his relations with superiors and subordinates alike'.

Although never robust, Goddard performed outstanding work during the great German offensive near Amiens in March-April 1918. With the enemy advancing on the city the 9th Brigade was detached from the division and rushed to reinforce the defences in front of Villers-Bretonneux. In the brigadier's absence Goddard established headquarters in the town and took temporary command of the brigade. On 4 April the Germans commenced a devastating bombardment. The infantry fell back on the town and Goddard found his headquarters in the front line. The situation was desperate but Goddard acted promptly and decisively, bringing all his reserves forward and ordering the commanding officer of the 36th Battalion to counter-attack immediately. Under strong leadership the Australians rallied and, assisted by the British cavalry and some infantry, held the line and repulsed the enemy. Early next morning Goddard ordered his weary troops to attack again. The enemy was taken by surprise and driven back from the town and for the moment Amiens was saved.

On 5 May Goddard's battalion played the major role in the successful attack at Morlancourt. Next month he was promoted colonel and temporary brigadier general and appointed to command the 9th Brigade which he led during the British Somme offensive until the end of the war. Important actions included the battle of Bray-sur-Somme and the attack on the Hindenburg line. Goddard was mentioned in dispatches three times, and after the Armistice the awards of the C.M.G. and the Belgian Croix de Guerre were announced.

Goddard returned to Australia in 1920 and resumed his business and militia interests. He moved to Sydney and in 1921-26 commanded the 14th Infantry Brigade, A.M.F., with the rank of honorary brigadier general; he was placed on the retired list in 1931. For twenty-one years, until 1947, he was president of the Imperial Service Club. He was joined in his importing company (H. A. Goddard Pty Ltd) by his son Horace Leopold who had served as a private in his father's battalion during the war (a second son had died in infancy). Goddard continued to travel, was commercial representative of The Times in Australia, and remained active in business until his death.

Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died in Concord Repatriation Hospital, Sydney, on 24 October 1955 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His estate was sworn for probate at £3156.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • K. W. Mackenzie, The Story of the Seventeenth Battalion A.I.F in the Great War 1914-1918 (Syd, 1946)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Aug 1938
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Oct 1955
  • Goddard papers (Australian War Memorial).

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter Burness, 'Goddard, Henry Arthur (1869–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


13 December, 1869
London, Middlesex, England


24 October, 1955 (aged 85)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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Military Service