CORPORAL JOHN COLLIN GOODALL
20TH SEPTEMBER 1917 AGE 20
BURIED: NEW IRISH FARM CEMETERY, YPRES, BELGIUM
Although the War Graves Commission were happy to allow next-of-kin a sixty-six-character inscription for the base of a headstone, this came initially with the proviso that the Commission would censor any that were plainly unsuitable. Their rationale being that it was "clearly undesirable to allow free scope to the effusions of the mortuary mason, the sentimental versifier or the crank". After a public outcry, the Commission backed down and whilst there is evidence that they did censor inscriptions, they did allow through some that they might not have originally countenanced.
In July 1922 the Vice-Chairman referred an inscription to the Committee which read: "He died the just for the unjust". The minutes record: "The Commission agreed to the inscription being refused". Over a year later the Vice-Chairman submitted another inscription of a very similar hue: "I am here as a result of uncivilised nations". This time the minutes say: "After some discussion the Commission agreed that this inscription might be accepted". This is Corporal Goodall's inscription, the indefinite article having been changed for the definite on the actual headstone.
However, both inscriptions seem to have the same ambiguity to me: in the first, who are the 'just' and who are the 'unjust'? In the second, who are the 'uncivilised nations'? You might assume that both the 'unjust' and the 'uncivilised' refer to the Germans, but they could just as easily refer to all the warring nations - British, French, German, Austrian, Russian etc etc. Nevertheless, one inscription was allowed and one wasn't.
John Collin Goodall, a bicycle maker from Brisbane, enlisted on 4 April 1915 at the age of 18 and embarked for Egypt that May. Unfortunately I cannot quite read the details of his wartime service, which his mother outlined on the Circular for the Roll of Honour of Australia. It looks as though he served in Gallipoli until the evacuation and then in March 1916 was sent to France. Here he was slightly wounded in the back before being severely wounded. He spent six months in hospital and then, after a period of convalescence, he returned to the front. He was killed in action on 20 September 1917. According witnesses, "Goodall was sniped, being shot between the eyes and killed instantly ... I saw his body and examined him. He was my mate and I never heard what happened to his body afterwards"; "He was shot through the head by a sniper just as we were on the point of reaching our objective. He was just in front of me at Glencorse Wood. He had to be left there."
And it was "there", at map reference J.8.b.5.5., that Goddall's body was discovered in April 1921 and buried in New Irish Farm Cemetery where 3,271 out of the 4,719 burials are unidentified.