Royal honour in Belgium for Shropshire World War One hero

North Shropshire | News | Published:

Relatives of a Shropshire hero of one of the most daring naval exploits of World War One were honoured guests at the inauguration of a memorial at a rain- lashed ceremony attended by the King and Queen of Belgium.

Representatives from five families – those of Commander A E Godsal, Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, Lieutenant Victor Crutchley VC, Lieutenant Sir John Alleyne Bt VC, and Lieutenant Geoffrey Drummond VC – were at the rain-sodden ceremony

Commander Alfred Edmund Godsal, of Iscoyd Park, near Whitchurch, was killed while commanding HMS Vindictive in a raid on the port of Ostend on May 10 1918.

His family were among those invited to the ceremony to mark the resiting of the memorial.

From left are Philip Godsal, great nephew, Michael Godsal, nephew, Brigadier David Godsal, great nephew, Captain Walter Godsal RN, nephew, Rupert Godsal, great nephew, and John Birchenough, great nephew

Formed from the salvaged bow section of the ship, the memorial has been restored and is now in a more prominent position at the Belgian port.

Among others attending were various ambassadors, as well as civic dignitaries and military chiefs. The ceremony followed a laying of wreaths the previous day by representatives of the various families.

"It was a splendid, very moving, and rather humbling 48 hours – it certainly made one very proud of AEG and his comrades," said Philip Godsal, a great nephew of Alfred, who still lives on the estate at Iscoyd.

"I hope we will all be back for the centenary of the Ostend raid in five years' time."

The others in the six-strong party of Commander Godsal's relatives were nephews Captain Walter Godsal RN and Michael Godsal, and his great-nephews, Brigadier David Godsal, Rupert Godsal, and John Birchenough.


While the wreath-laying had taken place in fine weather, wind and rain provided challenging conditions at the memorial event.

Philip Godsal said: "There was a covered stand, with the front row – under cover, just – reserved for the King and Queen, British, American, Canadian and German ambassadors, Governor of West Flanders, Mayor of Ostend, Belgian Minister of Defence, a few admirals and so on. Unfortunately the seats reserved for the Vindictive families were actually in front of the stand, to be nearest the memorial I suppose, and so completely out in the open.

"We hunkered down under umbrellas, which of course had to be put away when the royal party arrived."

The royal party got out immediately in front of the Godsal contingent and 88-year-old Walter, who lives in Somerset, was among those presented to the royals, and he also made a speech at the end of the ceremony on behalf of the HMS Vindictive families.


Commander Alfred Edmund Godsal, of Iscoyd Park, near Whitchurch, is back row, second from right. Front, second from left with a pipe, is Victor Crutchley, who took over on HMS Vindictive when Commander Godsal was killed.

Afterwards there was a reception hosted by the Royal Navy on board HMS Tyne, rounded off by the Sundown Ceremony with the lowering of the white ensign.

Commander Godsal had taken part in the first Ostend raid on HMS Brilliant on April 23, 1918. Aimed at sinking blockships in the port to prevent U-boats getting out, it was a failure.

HMS Vindictive had taken part in a simultaneous raid at nearby Zeebrugge, and the damaged old cruiser was patched up and pressed into action a second time for a renewed raid at Ostend, this time with Commander Godsal in command.

The plan was to deliberately sink it in the shipping channel and bottle up the U-boats.

Commander Godsal was killed by a shell at the height of the battle and Lieutenant Victor Crutchley assumed command.

Lt Crutchley was to win the VC, and a 15-strong party from his family, including his 90-year-old daughter, were at Ostend.

HMS Vindictive was sunk in the channel but there was a gap through which U-boats were still able to pass. The ship was salvaged and the bow turned into a memorial.

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