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Private Thomas Charles Golden Pettitt, Maldon, All Saints
Born: third quarter of 1899, Maldon, Essex.
The eldest of two children of Robert Charles Pettitt and Florence Pettitt (nee Ellingford)
of 92 Fambridge Road, Maldon.
At the time of the 1911 census, he was at School and residing at 16, New Street, Maldon.
Enlisted Southend Essex, Initially in the Territorial Reserve, Service No 75962.
Royal Fusiliers 26th Bn. Service No. G/82159
Died 14/07/1918 age 18yrs
At La Clytte Military Cemetery, Belgium, Grave 1V F 14.
THE HERO IN ST. MARY’S BELFRY
by Stephen P. Nunn
Out over the Town’s Hythe, along the surface of the salty Blackwater, across the green space of Promenade Park, through the adjacent winding streets and beyond, bursting from the belfry up in the re-built Carolean tower, came the gusty blasts of the bells of St. Mary’s. That unique peal of six, heard by our forefathers since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, used to arouse me from sleep, in a warm feather bed in my grandmother’s house, at 22 Church Street. To me, that sound meant family, community and, above all, harmony. Little did I know that it was a security that had been hard won from the past. My grandmother told me that, at the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, those bells had fallen silent. Ringers, in common with those from all other walks of life, had joined up in their droves to do their bit, to fight for King and Country. But before battle commenced the conductor of the St. Mary’s Company had been Maldon born, Alf Gozzett. A printing compositor by trade, he lived happily with his wife, Eleanor, and their two sons, Alfred Henry and Joseph William, at number 27 King Street. Alfred was undoubtedly a passionate campanologist, he had rung in the St. Mary’s band since its formation in 1905, rarely missed practice nights, or the all important Sunday services. Achieving, in bell-ringers’ speak; “16 peals in all, including one of Grandsire Triples, one of Treble Bob Major and 14 of Minor (several in seven methods)”. In 1910 alone, he conducted a peal on his birthday (April 2nd) and another, this time muffled, as a memorial to King Edward VII (May 20th). (A “peal” consists of 5,040 changes and takes about 3 hours to perform).With the War clouds forming over Europe, a different sound shattered the rhythm of Alfred’s life – a bugle called him and thousands of others to the colours. He enlisted at nearby Warley Barracks and first served in the Essex Regiment, as private soldier number 28866. Despite military training, there was still the odd, precious opportunity to ring. Whilst posted to Aldershot he went to St. Michael’s Church there, joined a Gunner from the Royal Garrison Artillery, a Private from the Royal West Kents, an airman from the Royal Flying Corps and two civilians and, for a fleeting moment, once more became a conductor in a; “720 of Kent Treble Bob Minor”. (Was this, perhaps, the last time he ever rang?). Alfred Gozzett eventually transferred to ‘A’ Company of the 20th (Service) Battalion of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own, the Middlesex Regiment - this time as Private G/51139. The 20th Battalion had originally been formed in Shoreditch on the 18th May 1915, by the Mayor and Borough, but in July 1915 it too was based in Aldershot. A move to Witley, in Surrey, occurred in February 1916 and the Battalion became part of the 121st Brigade, in the 40th Division, in readiness for active service abroad. Alfred and his comrades from the 20th landed in France in June 1916 and went into the front line near the killing fields of Loos. After a number of hard-fought campaigns on the Somme, the beginning of April 1917 saw them entrenched at Fins and Sorel, during the German retreat to the so-called Hindenburg Line.We don’t know exactly how Alfred faired during his last few weeks, perhaps reciting the mathematics of ringing acted as a distraction from the horrors, but he must surely have been looking forward to leaving the trenches. As he did so, on Monday, May 7th 1917, tragedy struck. 33 year old Private Alfred Gozzett was mercilessly cut down by a sniper’s bullet. Today, he lies buried in the Fins New British Cemetery, Sorel-Le-Grand. Back in Essex, a Portland stone tablet to 44 members of the County’s Association of Change Ringers was dedicated in Chelmsford Cathedral in 1920. Amongst the names is one A. Gozzett, along with two other Maldon ringers – Russell Finch and Thomas Pettitt. He also appears on Maldon’s War Memorial and on one of the plaques attached to the rear fence is the name of his son, Alfred Henry, who went on to die in the next conflict of 1939-45. But a much more personal memorial exists to Alfred in his beloved parish. Yes, he is on the St. Mary’s Roll of Honour and has a tree dedicated to him on the Promenade, but then there is the tangible sound of the bells of St. Mary’s. A new band, the latest successors to Alfred and his contemporaries, was formed in 2007. I wonder how many times those present-day ringers have glanced at the old peal board and noticed the former conductor’s name (along with that of his younger brother, Thomas)? In some ways he is still there with them, and all of us can be touched by his presence every time he reaches out through that melodic song of peace, as it drifts across our homes and our consciousness
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