Bruce Godfree

Name: Bruce Lyle Godfree

Rank: Private

Service Number: 2147

Unit Served: 27th Battalion

Personal Details: Private Bruce Lyle Godfree (2147) was my father’s cousin. Bruce enlisted on the 28th of May in 1915 and was barely 18 at the time. A student at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide, it has been recorded that he was a popular boy and took an active part in school life. Bruce was born in Mount Pleasant in South Australia the region where many of my father’s family were born and lived. (my father was Rex Royal and grew up on Glenroy at Sanderston) Dad’s account of the death of his cousin was inaccurate as the oral tradition in my family was that Bruce was killed at Gallipoli. However his service records show a different version from the one my father had believed.

Details of War Service: Bruce Lyle Godfree departed from Adelaide on the “Argyllshire” as member of the 27th Battalion.  The AWM website states that “The 27th Battalion was raised in South Australia in March 1915, from recruits previously earmarked for the 24th Battalion, a large number of whom hailed from the suburbs of Adelaide. The battalion left Australia in June, and, after two months spent training in Egypt, landed at Gallipoli on 12 September.”

Bruce left for Gallipoli from Alexandria on 14th November 1915. His time on the peninsula was brief as he contracted mumps and was hospitalised in Mudros on December 8th 1915. A member of the 27th Battalion, the battalion records on the AWM website states that “…at Gallipoli, the 7th Brigade, which included the 27th Battalion, reinforced the weary New Zealand and Australian Division. The 27th had a relatively quiet time at Gallipoli and the Battalion departed the peninsula in December, having suffered only light casualties. After another stint in Egypt, the 7th Brigade proceeded to France as part of the 2nd Australian Division.”

Bruce was discharged from Mudros hospital and rejoined his unit on January 3rd 1916. He sailed for France and disembarked at Marseilles on March 21st. “The 27th Battalion entered the front-line trenches for the first time on 7 April 1916 and took part in its first major battle at Pozières between 28 July and 5 August.” (AWM) Bruce did not see action in the battle of the Somme at Pozieres and was killed in action on 28th June 1916 in Belgium. As the AIF did not take part in a frontline battle on the Western Front until Fromelles on July 19- 20th Bruce was in one of the ‘nursery sectors’. His death would have been seen as part of the ‘daily wastage’ on the Western Front. The unit diary for the 27th Battalion stated that on the 28th of June “…enemy artillery shelled trenches during day and night. Casualties: 2 killed – Lieutenant John and one O.R. wounded. During night our raiding party entered enemy trenches at Ontario Farm under Artillery Barrage and did some damage killing 17 enemy and taking 4 prisoner. Retaliation by Bosche Artillery. Our casualties: Lieutenant Sommerville and Gooden. Other ranks killed 4 wounded 26.”

The date of Bruce Lyle Godfree’s death was June 28 and it is not clear whether he was killed when the enemy shells hit his trench or whether he was part of the raiding party later that night where 4 were killed. This young man saw little time on the front line and was a boy like so many of his peers. He may not have died in Gallipoli as the family tradition had held for many years, but the crushing loss of this young man with so much potential was indisputable. Bruce Lyle Godfree: Lest we forget.

Date of Death: 28th June, 1916

Age at Death: 19

Cemetery Details: La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery Plot I, Row C, Grave 4 

Since our 2008 project further details of Bruce’s death have come to light because of the research by Judy Georgiou into Captain J.W. Blacket a former teacher of Bruce’s at Prince Alfred College. In a letter home to his father, Blacket recounts the night Bruce L. Godfree was killed:
‘We have had a lot of casualties, and I have lost some good men. Two jolly fine boys, whom I used to teach…were killed the other day – George Davies…and a lad named Godfrey, when killed, was digging out a comrade who had been buried by a shell. However, these deeds live, and add lustre to the regiment’s name.’
(Note the mis-spelling of the Godfree name by Blacket.)

Julie Reece ( daughter of Rex Royal- cousin of Bruce )

Commemorated by


Julie Reece

8th December 2008