Private Gilbert Madgwick

Regiment: 11th Battalion, The Royal West Kent Regiment
Service No: G/26423
Date & place of birth: 15 March 1892 at Midhurst, Sussex
Date & place of death: 20 September 1917 (aged 25) at Geluveld, near Ypres (Ieper), Flanders

Gilbert Madgwick was a member of a Midhurst family who settled in Cocking in the early 20th century, where Gilbert worked for the local carrier, George Lambert. He was killed in the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, near Ypres in Flanders in September 1917.

Family background

Gilbert Madgwick was the second son and fifth child of George Edward Madgwick (1859–1945) and his wife Amelia née Ryder (1862–1941). George had been born in Midhurst; his family then lived at Midhurst Common where his father was a bricklayer. By 1881, George was living with his widowed mother at South Pond (then in West Lavington) where both he and his mother worked as whiting makers. (Whiting was used to whitewash the walls of rural cottages.) Their neighbours were George’s sister Alice and her husband, William Carpenter and their baby daughter, Bertha.

In January 1885, George married Amelia Ryder from Petersfield. Amelia already had a daughter, Kate born in February 1883. Another daughter, Mary was born in December 1885, but died the following October. The couple had a further six children, with Gilbert being born in March 1892.

The family continued to live at South Pond for several years, but by the 1901 census, they were living at North Street, Midhurst when George was now employed as a bricklayer.

Ten years later, the family were living at Church Lane in Cocking when George was employed as a scaffolder to Lord Cowdray. Gilbert was also now working, as a carman for George Lambert, the village carrier, whose depot was just across the road from the family home.

Military service

Gilbert enlisted at Horsham, joining the 11th Battalion, The Royal West Kent Regiment. The battalion had originally been formed by the mayor of Lewisham but in October 1915 it was taken over by the War Office as part of the 122nd Brigade of the 41st Division. After training at Aldershot, the battalion was shipped to France on 3 May 1916.

Within weeks of arriving in France, the battalion was engaged in the Battle of the Somme in July. Over the next few months, the battalion was heavily engaged in fighting on the Western Front, including at Flers–Courcelette in September and at Le Transloy in November 1916. Their next major action came in the Battle of Messines in June 1917 followed by the Battle of Pilckem Ridge at the end of July, where they successfully captured the small village of Hollebeke, south of Ypres (Ieper) in Flanders.

Death & commemoration

After spending a month near Boulogne to recuperate, the battalion returned to the Ypres Salient in mid-September. On 18 September, the battalion moved forward with the objective of capturing a ridge known as “Tower Hamlets” south-west of the village of Geluveld. Two days later, they had made little progress against heavy shell-fire which cost it 40 casualties. At 5:40 on 20 September, the 11th Battalion left their trenches to attack the German lines. After two days of intense fighting, the battalion eventually achieved its objectives but with a heavy casualty list. Little over 100 men survived with two officers and 26 men killed and 53 men missing. Altogether, 100 men from the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) were killed between 20 and 22 September 1917.

Gilbert Madgwick's name on the Tyne Cot Memorial
Gilbert Madgwick’s name on the Tyne Cot Memorial

Private Gilbert Madgwick was killed in the fighting on 20 September. His body was never recovered and he is one of 35,000 man commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, a few miles east of Ypres. He is also commemorated on the Cocking War Memorial.

A memorial service was held at Cocking Parish Church on Wednesday, 14 November attended by “the father, mother, brother and sister, besides a number of friends”.

Subsequent family history and other family members

On 15 December 1917, Gilbert’s brother George and his wife Amelia had a son, which they named Gilbert in memory of his uncle. George had served with the Royal Sussex Regiment during the war, but died in September 1922, aged 35.

Gilbert’s cousin, Bertha Carpenter married Frank Pierson in 1903. He was killed on 31 July 1917 at Pilckem Ridge, a few miles from where Gilbert was killed eight weeks later. He is commemorated on the Bepton War Memorial.

His sister, Jenny, was married to William Millins who served with The Middlesex Regiment; in August 1915, The West Sussex Gazette reports that he had been mentioned in despatches and twice promoted and was now a sergeant. Millins was later seriously wounded and was invalided out of the army in May 1918.

Gilbert’s father, George, was a member of the committee responsible for the erection of Cocking War Memorial in 1920. George and Amelia remained in the area until their deaths in the 1940s.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project