24 October 2003

Brandon Smith, a long time resident of Portsmouth, has spent a huge amount of time researching into the twelve Victoria Cross holders buried in Portsea Island, which comprises Portsmouth and Southsea. Following the erection of a memorial to Thomas Reeves VC in 1999, there remained the problem of William Goate buried in an unmarked common grave in the Highland Road Cemetery, Portsmouth.

The culmination of Brandon Smith's mammoth research and in pinpointing the burial plot, was the unveilling of a headstone by The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Tom Blair and his wife and Lady Mayoress, Mrs. Maureen Blair, commemorating the life of Corporal William Goate VC. Among the guests paying their respects was the son of Company Sergeant Major James Ockendon VC MM, 1st Bn, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, also a Portsmouth resident.

William Goate was born in the village of Fritton, near Long Stratton, Norfolk, on the 12th January 1836. He was one of eleven children born to John and Lucy Goate. His father died when he was young and to help his mother he left school early and took up work in the fields, where he learned a lot about horses.

Aged seventeen he enlisted in the Army and because of his expertise with horses joined the 9th Lancers. He served with the Lancers for eleven years and it was during his service with the regiment in India that he was recommended and awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry at Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 24 December 1858 ], Lucknow, Indian Mutiny, 6 March 1858, Lance Corporal William Goate, 9th Lancers.

"For conspicuous gallantry at Lucknow on the 6th March 1858 in having dismounted, in the presence of a number of the enemy, and taken up the body of Major Smyth, 2nd Dragoon Guards, which he attempted to bring off the field, and after being surrounded by the enemy's cavalry, he went a second time under heavy fire to recover the body."
( Despatch from Major General Sir James Hope Grant, KCB, dated 8th April 1858 ).
William Goate was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on the 4th January 1860.

After leaving the Army in 1864, William Goate moved to Bungay, some ten miles from his birthplace where he met and married eighteen year old Sara Ling. There was one son, also called William. He was first employed in Bungay as a railway porter and then as a wharehouseman.

He was in his fifties when he moved to Jarrow, Northumberland, where he was employed for twenty-two years with Palmers a shipbuilding company. During this period he served for eighteen years as a Lance Corporal in the Jarrow Company of Volunteers, a Militia unit. In May 1900 he moved to Southsea to be nearer his son and grandson, but the following year, on the 24th October 1901, he died of gastric cancer at the aged of 64. He was then buried in a commoners grave in the Highland Road Cemetery, the grave has since been reused twice.

William Goate's VC and Indian Mutiny Medal were sold at auction in 1902 for £85 pounds, sold again at auction in 1950 for £90 pounds, and lastly, auctioned again in 1999 and sold for £29,900 pounds to Goate's old regiment, the 9th Lancers. The group can now be viewed in the Regimental Museum of the 9th / 12th Lancers in Derby.

Medal entitlement of Lance Corporal William Goate - 9th Lancers

  • Victoria Cross
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-59 )
    • 3 clasps:
    • "Delhi" - "Relief of Lucknow" - "Lucknow"


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Iain Stewart, 24 October 2003