Albert was born early in 1875 at Grindon Moor near Leek. His parents, James and Charlotte Goldstraw nee Hancock, had married at St. Peter’s in Stoke in 1853. They had a large family and Albert was their youngest child. He was baptised on March 28th 1875 at Grindon.
On the 1881 census, James, a 52 year old agricultural labourer was living with his wife, Charlotte, and five of their children remaining at home. Albert was aged six and a scholar.
By 1891 his mother was widowed and living with son John, aged 35, at Grindon Moor. Both Albert and his elder sister, Hannah, were servants at Ferney Hill Farm, Cheddleton for William Bailey and his family. William Bailey had been born in Biddulph and as a child had lived at Ox-Hay Farm. This appears to be the only link to Biddulph that can be found.
Albert’s father died in 1883 and the children either married or moved to employment away from home.
In 1892 Albert married Mary Jane Heath at St. James Church in Newchapel. However, on January 2nd 1893 he enlisted in the North Staffordshire Regiment at Lichfield. His occupation was given as a collier. His records on recruitment described him as aged 19 and 5ft 8½in tall. He weighed 132lbs and had brown hair, grey eyes and had pit scars on his spine. Army records show that he was first posted on April 13th 1893 and later served in Malta (November 9th 1894 to October 4th 1895), Egypt (October 5th 1895 to October 11th 1897) and East India (October 12th 1897 to February 2nd 1902). In 1896 he participated on the Dongola expedition and was awarded a medal. He was wounded slightly on June 25th 1901 at Richmond in South Africa. Still in South Africa in February 1902 but Albert returned to England in October of that year. On January 1st 1905 he was discharged. His army records show his mother as Charlotte Goldstraw of Grindon Moor (deceased) and his wife as Mary Goldstraw of 23, Station Road, Newchapel, near Tunstall.
By 1911 Albert and Mary resided at 36, Piccadilly Street in Tunstall along with their daughters Alice 17, Florence Lilian, seven, and son George, five, in addition to three boarders. Albert was now described as a ‘Confectionery Waggoner’.
With the advent of the First World War Albert enlisted at Manchester, joining the Royal Field Artillery. He must have been about 39 years old by this time. He travelled to Bulford on Salisbury plain to start basic training. Besides the personal training of discipline, fitness, gun drill and marching, Albert was taught that the horses of the artillery came before his own needs; watering, feeding and grooming morning and night, ‘Stables’ took priority. As a wagoner he was probably used to such routines.
The winter of 1915 was spent in billets at Andover and Basingstoke. By spring the artillery Gunners and Drivers were at Tidworth where further training took on a more deadly role; the 18-pounder field guns were a weapon to be feared and required skill to fire and maintain. Orders to prepare for embarkation were issued; King George V on June 23rd inspected the 19th Western Division of which Albert was now attached, serving in the 88th Artillery Brigade Ammunition Column.
The Division crossed the English Channel between July 16th and 22nd and on landing the troops moved to their assembly concentration area at St. Omer. As divisional artillery to 19th Division they moved to the fields of Flanders to adjust to life on the battlefield. In September the artillery was to see their first action in the Pietie area giving support to their infantry in the Battle of Loos.
Without service records to help, it is difficult to pinpoint when Albert gained promotion to Corporal. Come 1916 the frontline routine continued and Albert and his pals brought up ammunition and other supplies, mainly at night and out of sight of the enemy artillery. Their loaded general purpose waggons went forward to feed their artillery batteries. This ammunition was carried from the divisional dumps in the safer back areas.
The Battle of the Somme approached; the date was unknown to the men, however on June 24th all along the Somme battlefront the artillery went into action. A barrage of shells was laid down on the enemy position, this lasted for a week. The Ammunition Columns worked none stop day and night bringing up the shells to feed the batteries. It was dangerous work; many brave men fell during this operation being the target of enemy artillery. The battle opened on July 1st 1916, and although progress was slow, the batteries moved forward to support their divisional infantry. By November the 19th Division infantry had fought through La Bosisselle, High Wood and onto the Pozieres Ridge. It is believed that it was about this time that Corporal Albert Goldstraw sadly died on the Somme battlefield.
Albert now rests in the Pozieres British Cemetery at Ovillers La Boisselle. His widow, Mary, died a few years later in 1919.
Corporal Goldstraw is remembered on the Biddulph Moor memorial inside Christ Church and on the cenotaph in Albert Square. However his name does not appear on any of the St. Lawrence memorials.
Kathleen Walton & Mike Turnock.