Courtesy of Maurice Woodburn

Private Percy Pitt Goullet MM

Pakenham & District War Memorial

Born: 13 March 1893 - Bourkes Flat, Victoria

Enlisted: 2 February 1916 aged 22

Unit:  21st Battalion, 13th Reinforcement (SERN: 5022)

Served: Western Front

Died: 15 October 1958 - Swan Hill, Victoria

 

Recorded on the Pakenham War Memorial as ”P Goullette”, Percy was the youngest of Frederick Thomas Goullet and Susan McPherson’s fourteen children. His grandfather Charles Goullet was an “old colonist” (1) who had originally migrated from Wales. The family lived at Burkes Flat (near St Arnaud) where Percy was born and attended school. The family owned shops at Burkes Flat, Berlin (now Rheola) and Wehla which were small gold rush towns (2). In 1913, one of Percy’s brothers, Frederick Charles Goullet purchased a farm at Pakenham from James Learmonth (3). Percy appears to have come to the district with him, being listed on the local electoral roll in 1914 as a labourer, which is likely to be a farm labourer (4). Percy was a keen cyclist. Interestingly, Alfred Goullet, a relation of Percy’s, had become a famous cyclist internationally (5). In March 1915, Percy competed in the Koo Wee Rup Sport’s Club handicap bicycle race against other local young men including Ern Cameron, Alf Ellett and Arch Blackwood (6) - all future Diggers. Percy himself enlisted on 2 February 1916 at the age of 22. This was during a major recruitment campaign to meet the Berwick Shire’s quota. Other men to enlist at the time included Jack Clancy, Robert Black, Frank Hornby, Albert Nye, Syd Thewlis and Bill Stone (7). When enlisting Percy stated that he was a farmer and listed his widowed mother Susan who lived in Queenscliff as next of kin (8). 

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After enlisting, Percy trained with the Light Horse at Royal Park, before being assigned to the 13th Reinforcement, 21st Battalion at the Seymour Army Camp. He departed Australia on 3 July 1916 and arrived in England on 2 September 1916. After a brief period of training, Percy was taken on strength with the 21st Battalion in France on 22 November (9). The 21st Battalion had been fighting for some time on the Somme, and had sustained heavy casualties in the fighting around Mouquet Farm a few months earlier. Percy was taken on as a signaller (10). Shortly after arriving at the Front, Percy fell sick and was hospitalised with pneumonia. In March and April 1917, he was hospitalised again, this time with “T Fever” - trench fever (11). Percy rejoined his battalion on 2 May 1917 in time to participate in the Allied attack on the German lines at Bullecourt. During 1918, the 21st Battalion was in the thick of the action which stopped and then reversed the Germans’ last ditch “Spring Offensive’; then the subsequent Allied push towards the “Hindenburg Line”. Percy was lightly gassed near Villers-Bretonneux in late July / early August 1918 when the Germans bombarded the area with gas shells. The gas shells were continually breaking the communication lines with Battalion HQ, necessitating Percy and other signallers to go out to mend them during the bombardment itself. Later, Percy was also gassed at Mont St Quentin on 1 September 1918, where a heavy pocket of tear gas settled in the lowest part of the quarry near where the “A” Company HQ had been established. The gas (which probably came from the Allied side) left Percy “violently sick” and vomiting, but again he remained on duty, despite the difficulty in doing so (12). 

 

In early October 1918, the 21st Battalion participated in the Australian attack on the Germans at Montbrehain. During this battle, on 5 October 1918, Percy earned the Military Medal for “displaying great courage and daring”. The citation read in part: “He was the first to volunteer for any enterprise of a dangerous character. On arrival at the objective he supervised the digging in of his section. Assistance being urgently required, Pte Goullet set out to bring aid and moved over open country, under close machine gun fire. He delivered an important message to his Company Commander, and whilst returning, gathered a party together to attend to the wounded. Having seen that all the casualties in his vicinity had been disposed of, he again set out to obtain liaison with the flanks. By his daring he thus established communication between all parts of his Company, and was able to deliver messages of extreme importance. At all times he was subject to heavy enemy fire of all descriptions”. In reporting Percy’s heroics, the Pakenham Gazette proudly noted that he had enlisted from Pakenham (13). Montbrehain was the last battle involving Australian infantry on the Western Front. After this battle, Percy was transferred to the 24th Battalion, but the War was almost over. He departed England for home in March 1919, arriving back in Melbourne in early May. Percy returned at the same time as another Pakenham Digger, Private Edgar Huckson (14). Shortly after arriving back, Percy visited Pakenham, where his old friends “were delighted to see him” (15). Percy was officially welcomed home to Pakenham with other returned soldiers in October 1919 and presented with a gold medallion on behalf of a grateful community (16). Percy’s war service was eventually commemorated on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial. He was also remembered on the honour roll at the Burkes Flat School (17).

 

Percy subsequently moved to Queenscliff, where he worked for a period in a confectionery shop owned by his sisters Kate and Mona (18). Percy later acquired a 749 acre soldier settlement property at Kenley, between Narrung and Piangil in the Mallee, where he grew wheat and later established a store. In 1923, Percy married Ivy Ellen White at Swan Hill and the couple raised a family. The Mallee however, proved to be tough country for most of the soldier settlers, and Percy’s health was not good, something he attributed to the gassings he received during the War (19). Percy surrendered his farm by 1936 (20). Later, Percy became an apiarist (bee keeper) in Swan Hill (21). Ivy died in 1954, while Percy passed away in 1958 aged 65.  

 

The assistance of Percy’s grandson, Maurice Woodburn and great-granddaughter Michelle Lau is gratefully acknowledged. 

 

Sources:

(1) Australasian 17/12/1898, p. 62                                      

(2) Information provided by Maurice Woodburn                  

(3) SBMJ 20/11/1913, p. 2                                        

(4) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll -  Flinders - Pakenham - 1914        

(5) Daily Telegraph  17/2/1923, p. 4                                                                         

(6) SBMJ 11/3/1915 p. 3                             

(7) BSN 3/5/1916, p.3                       

(8) (9) & (11) NAA B2455 GOULLET P P

(10) (12) (18) & (19)  NAA B73 M60796

(13) & (15)  PG 6/6/1919 p. 2

(14) PG 30/5/1919 p. 2

(16) PG 17/10/1919 p.2 

(17) Bealiba Times 4/1/1918, p.2

(20) PROV VPRS 5357/P/0 Unit 1622 CN1056 Percy Pitt

(21) Ancestry.com.au - ER - Mallee - Swan Hill 1954 p. 39

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