142. C Hibbs / A Goodwin

HIBBS Clifton (Clifford) / GOODWIN Arthur 2867
23 B KiA 10/11/17

Private Arthur Goodwin was killed in action on 10/11/17. At the time he was with 23 Battalion in the front line near Passchendaele. The war diary for 23 Battalion reveals that the battalion moved to the front line late evening on 7/11/17. It was relieved on 12/11/17. On the first day, there were 6 men killed as positions were taken up but the next 2 days were relatively quiet, even though patrols were sent out each night. However on the morning of 10/11/17 there were 4 men killed – one of them Private Goodwin – by enemy shelling. The diary explains that the men were killed when the Germans retaliated to a British barrage that had been fired at 6 a.m.

There is a detailed Red Cross report covering his death. There are the usual inconsistencies but, overall, the account was that Private Goodwin and 4 others were killed when a high-explosive shell hit the shell hole they were in. It was a direct hit and the other 4 were killed instantly. Goodwin, badly wounded, lived for about an hour. The fighting was too intense to remove the body and he was buried where he died. Those who made the statements spoke highly of him. He was described as ‘very popular’ with a ‘nice disposition’ and a ‘fine cheerful lad’.

Even though Private Goodwin was buried on the battlefield his body was recovered and he was buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele. No personal kit was returned.

The cable advising of his death was dated 1/12/17. It was sent, presumably, to the next-of-kin identified on his enlistment papers, his father – William Goodwin, 30 Regent Street, North Richmond. Private Goodwin had given the same address as his own when he enlisted. At the time he enlisted he was 21 yo and single. He gave his occupation as labourer. He had not had any previous military experience.

He had enlisted in Melbourne on 3/7/16 as reinforcements for 2 Pioneer Battalion and he embarked from Melbourne on 20/10/16. When he finally reached France in August 1917, after further training in England, he was attached to 23 Battalion. He was taken on strength on 1/9/17 and was killed just over 2 months later.

On the information given so far, there is nothing to tie Private Goodwin to the Shire of Alberton.
However, in May 1918 Mrs Thomas Hibbs of Tarraville wrote to Base Records asking if there was any information regarding her ‘grandson’, Private A Goodwin 2867, 23 Battalion who had been killed in action on 10/11/17. She wanted to know if there was a will and what the situation was with his deferred pay.

Base Records replied that there was no further information – other than that he had been killed on 10/11/17 – and gave her the contact for issues to do with pay. But it was to be another year before the full story of Private Goodwin began to emerge.

It is not entirely clear what happened next but it appears that round September 1919 a Mrs Edith Campbell, also of Tarraville, wrote to Base Records asking if any ‘personal property’ of Private Goodwin had been recovered. As indicated, no personal belongings were returned and Base Records replied (5/9/19) stating that it was unlikely any property would be recovered.

Inevitably, Base Records had to make contact with the next-of-kin – given as the father – in order to issue war medals and the memorial plaque. However, communications that were sent to 30 Regent Street, North Richmond – the father’s address given by Private Goodwin – were returned. At this point Base Records wrote to the Mrs Edith Campbell who had written to them in May 1918. It appears that in addition to her previous correspondence on the return of personal belongings, Base Records had also identified her from what was taken as Private Goodwin’s will: an extract from a letter to her (‘Dearest Edith’) from him (‘Arthur’) dated 6/8/17, in which he had stated:

I had to make my will today and I made it out in favour of you so if I get killed over here you will get all my Deferred Pay.

On 7/1/21, Base Records wrote to Mrs. E. Campbell, Tarraville:

If you are aware of the present address of next-of-kin of the late No. 2867 Private A. Goodwin, 23 Battalion, shown as – Father, Mr. William Goodwin – kindly furnish same, as a communication forwarded to him at – 30 Regent Street, North Richmond, Victoria, has been returned unclaimed.

The reply from Mrs Campbell was dated 12/1/21:

Having received a communication from you regarding the whereabouts of Mr William Goodwin shown as next of kin of No 2867 23 Battalion Private Arthur Goodwin, I must inform you that he is deceased about 18 mts. ago. I would also like to state that Mr William Goodwin was not his next of kin, but he is his brother in law, as Private Arthur Goodwin enlisted under the name of Goodwin. His rightful name being Clifford Hibbs. His father & mother is (sic) still living at Tarraville. His father’s name is Thomas Hibbs, & mother’s name, Mary Ann Hibbs. Hoping this information may be some use to you.

In the letter Mrs Campbell did not reveal that she was the youngest sister of Clifford Hibbs (Arthur Goodwin) but she did disclose his ‘true’ identity and the real next-of-kin.

On 17/1/21, Base Records wrote to Thomas Hibbs in an obvious attempt to settle the true identity of Private Arthur Goodwin:

I understand you are the father of the late No. 2867 Private A. Goodwin, (correct name stated to be Clifford Hibbs), 23rd Battalion, and shall be much obliged if you will favour me confirmation of this in the form of a Statutory Declaration, in order that I may be in a position to properly dispose of deceased’s war medals, etc.

The father replied immediately (20/1/21):

In replying to your communication of the 17th Re. (2867) Pte A Goodwin, I wish to state that I am his father & that his correct name is Clifford Hibbs, & I consider myself entitled to any articles which the deceased may have left or any army medals or colours due to said soldier.

However, Base Records (7/2/21) was not prepared to accept the father’s claims so readily, particularly given earlier correspondence from his wife (May 1918). They definitely wanted a statutory declaration:

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 20th January concerning the affairs of the late No. 2867 Private A Goodwin (correct name stated to be Hibbs), 23rd Battalion, and to state that it is noted from the file that Mrs. Thomas Hibbs wrote to this office in 1918 claiming the soldier as her GRANDSON, so that unless you are prepared to make a Statutory Declaration, setting forth the full facts, I am afraid I am unable to reconcile the two statements. In any case such a document would be necessary before I could make any amendments to the records, and, as the disposal of deceased’s war medals, etc., hinges on this matter, I shall be glad if you will let me have the desired declaration at the earliest possible moment.

But the father did not provide the required statutory declaration. Instead he wrote the following, dated 11/2/21:

Having received your communication regarding the late No 2867 Private Clifford Hibbs, 23 Battalion I wish to state that my son enlisted for Active Service in Melbourne without our knowledge and took his sister’s name (Goodwin). I also wish to state once again that I am the father of deceased and his mother’s name is Mary Ann Hibbs. My son was born at Tarraville, on 5th November in the year 1894 so if this statement is not sufficient I think it should be.

As a post script he added:
P.S Will not carry on any further with this business.

The father never supplied the requested statutory declaration but it appears that this letter put an end to the question of Clifford Hibbs’ identity. The matter does not appear to have been pursued further and the war medals were sent to the father.

There is no way of knowing if people in the local community knew that Clifford Hibbs had enlisted as Arthur Goodwin. However, the family made sure that death notices and in memoriams appeared only in the name of Clifford Hibbs. For example, the following death notice appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (12/12/17), about 10 days after the ‘bogus’ next-of-kin (of Arthur Goodwin) had been advised of the death:

Hibbs – Killed in action on 10th Nov., Private Clifford Hibbs, son of Mr. and Mrs. Thos. Gibbs, Tarraville.
Killed in action said the cable.
That was all that it could tell
Of a life so nobly given,
Of a son we loved so well.
Though our hearts are full of sorrow,
And our eyes are dimmed with tears,
There is something we are proud of,
He went as a volunteer.
Midst the roaring of the battle,
Midst the rain of shot and shell,
Fighting for God, King and loved ones
Poor Cliff like a hero fell.
– Inserted by his sorrowing parents and brothers and sister.

On the face of it, there appeared to be a strange double-standard at work at the time. As far as the AIF was concerned, the family appeared to be reluctant to come forward and correct the issue of their son’s identity and it was only when confronted with the issue, several years after the War, that they admitted the alias. The family then explained it in terms of the son having enlisted without telling the parents. However, in the local community, immediately after news reached them, the family was forthright in informing everyone that their son – Clifford Hibbs – had been killed in action in France.

There was another twist in this story that might explain the double standard. On 27/7/15 a young man named Clifton Hibbs enlisted. He had his initial medical at Yarram and then completed the enlistment process in Melbourne. He gave his father – Thomas Hibbs of Tarraville – as his next-of-kin. He gave his age as 21 years 7 months and he was single. His occupation was given as ‘farm labourer’. This enlistment was written up in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – at the time (21/7/15) and the young man concerned was identified by his full name: Clifton Hibbs.

Clifton Hibbs did not last in the AIF. He was reported to be a deserter from 1/9/15. He left from the Training Depot at Ascot Vale. The report written on his desertion noted simply that he had been in service for less than six months. Interestingly it gave the address of his father – Thomas Hibbs – as Yarraville. It was in fact Tarraville. The confusion between Tarraville and Yarraville was very common.

It seems reasonable to suggest that Clifford Hibbs was Clifton Hibbs. Clifton was the eighth of the 11 children of Thomas and Mary Ann Hibbs of Tarraville.

The reason(s) behind Clifton’s desertion are unknown. If the father’s statement about this son’s date-of-birth is correct then he was just under 21 yo when he enlisted and, in theory, he should have had his parents’ written permission; but there is no trace of this in his file. However, it does not appear that there was any problem with the initial enlistment. As indicated, he had his first medical in Yarram and the enlistment was written up in the local paper.

Interestingly, when an article on the unveiling of the honor roll for Tarraville State School appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 11/7/17 – two years after Clifton Hibbs had enlisted (17/7/15) and one year after Arthur Goodwin had enlisted (3/7/16) – the name was given as Clifford Hibbs. The roll was updated later to show that he had been killed. This suggests, that as far as the family was concerned, Clifton became Clifford not long after Arthur Goodwin enlisted. Presumably, if he had been known as ‘Cliff’, the shift in name would have hardly been noticed.

The full story will probably never be known but what is beyond dispute is that a local from Tarraville – Clifton Hibbs/ Arthur Goodwin/ Clifford Hibbs – was killed in action on 10/11/17. His sacrifice was as great as any other local who was killed but his name is not featured on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. He is buried under two of his names – Clifford Hibbs and Arthur Goodwin – in Tyne Cot Cemetery.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for GOODWIN Arthur 2867
National Archives file for HIBBS Clifton Depot
Roll of Honour: Arthur Goodwin/Clifford Hibbs
First World War Embarkation Roll: Arthur Goodwin/Clifford Hibbs
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Arthur Goodwin/Clifford Hibbs

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 2, The Alberton Project

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