Former Spalding Grammar School pupil leaves lesson in courage

An original photograph of John Goodale in the trenches in France during World War 1.
An original photograph of John Goodale in the trenches in France during World War 1.

History studies have taken on a new significance at Spalding Grammar School.

In preparation for the school’s World War 1 Commemorative Day in the summer, some of the students researched the lives of former pupils who had been involved in the conflict.

Among them was one man who stood out, having been awarded the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry” during the battle of Vimy Ridge.

He was John Goodale, born to a Deeping St Nicholas farming family in 1886.

John was the oldest of four brothers who attended Spalding Grammar School between 1896 and 1901 – his siblings were Walter, William and Reginald (popularly known as Bob).

The students doing the research discovered that John was a keen and able student, receiving several prizes during his time at the school. Among these was a leather bound book, embossed with the school badge, presented in summer 1899 for his efforts in English. John’s descendants allowed the young students access to the original book, the pages and badge still intact and the logo still used to this day clearly visible.

A Grammar School spokesman said: “After leaving Spalding Grammar School, John worked for several years on the family farm but left England in 1906 to pursue new and exciting adventures in Canada.”

When war broke out, he spared no time in enlisting in Lord Strathcona’s Horse, a Canadian cavalry regiment attached to the 28th battalion.

After training, John sailed to England, arriving in France in May 1915.

The spokesman continued: “The war had been ongoing for almost a year, and John experienced that war first-hand, living in a former German trench for much of the battle of Festubert.

“By 1916, John had been promoted to lieutenant and then to captain a year later, when he was responsible for around 250 men.”

It was at this time that John secured Vimy Ridge after three days of fighting.

John’s descendants were able to give students access to the sword and bayonet used in battle, as well as original photographs of John at war.

They also showed the young people the original Military Cross which reads, ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. With one man he entered a large enemy dug out and captured 23 prisoners. During the whole attack he displayed the utmost coolness and courage and led his men for nearly two miles through heavy shelling.’

Of the two brothers that went to war with him, Walter, a pilot, was killed during his time in the Royal Flying Corps.

John and his other brother, Bob, an ambulance driver, survived the war.

John returned to Canada after the war and worked for the Imperial Bank of Canada.