Archives provinciales du Nouveau-Brunswick

Les soldats de la Grande Guerre : Projet de biographies historiques sur les soldats de Fredericton

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Gough, James Percy

Private 22569
12th Battalion, CEF
15th Battalion, 48th Highlanders


Private James Percy Gough was born on March 26, 1893 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, to parents James Wellington Gough and Isabel Amelia Sturgeon. James Percy’s father was from Fredericton and his mother was from White Rapids in northern New Brunswick. The 1911 census shows us that James Percy, the eldest son, had six siblings including four brothers and two sisters. His sisters were Barbara, the eldest child, and Jean. His brothers were Walter Ernest, Norman, Kenneth, and Robin. Three brothers, James, Norman and Walter would enlist for service during the First World War. The Gough family lived on 63 Shore Street in Fredericton close to the Saint John River.

Just prior to the war, records suggest that James Percy was working as a shoemaker at the Hartt Shoe Factory in Fredericton. His brother, Walter Ernest, worked at the same factory as well which was located on York Street. According to his service record, James Percy stood five foot six inches tall, was of a dark complexion, and had dark hair and brown eyes. Newspapers reveal that he, like his brother Walter Ernest, was a well-known amateur baseball player with the local Fredericton Imperials who won the city Championship in 1914. When war broke out in the late summer of 1914, Percy left right away for Camp Valcartier, Quebec, with the 71st Carleton York Regiment. At the tender age of 21, he formerly enlisted for service overseas on September 24, 1914 with the 12th Battalion, CEF. While Private James Percy would often write letters home about his experiences, he would never return to his family.

Wartime Experience

According to his service records, after spending late August and all of September at Camp Valcartier, on October 3 he left for England with the 12th Battalion for England aboard the S.S Scotian. After training with the 12th Reserve Battalion in England during the fall and winter of 1914-1915, newspapers report that Private Gough went to France on April 27, 1915, as a member of a draft joining the 15th Battalion, 48th Highlanders. His service record confirms that he was with the 15th Battalion in the field on July 31, 1915 and he would remain with this unit over the next ten months. While James would receive a short week-long leave of absence at the beginning of 1916, he would soon be engaged in serious fighting along the Ypres Salient by April. According to the official war diary of the 15th Battalion, 48th Highlanders, the spring found them just south-west of Ypres in an area called Poperinghe, Belgium. Letters received from home, reported in newspapers, reveal that during his time in the field Gough had numerous “remarkable escapes” and would share with friends back home of his “luck” while in the trenches.

However, in late April Gough’s close calls caught up to him. On April 28, 1916, James was reported to have received gunshot wounds to his head while with his unit. His medical history sheet shows that he was admitted to number 17 Casualty Clearing Station to treat a depressed fracture of the parietal region of his skull. Immediately doctors operated to repair the skull fracture before recommending him to be moved to England for further surgery as Gough appeared to be in a “semi-stupor state all the time”. He arrived at Epsom War Hospital in London, England on May 3 where his medical officer, Captain J.H. McGee, noted the development of a large hernia on his skull near the wound shortly after his arrival. Only four days after being admitted, Private Gough was unable to recover from his wounds. He died in the early hours of May 7, 1916 at approximately 1:35 a.m. The oldest of James and Isebel Gough’s sons, James Percy died at the age of 23. The news of his death came as a tremendous shock to the young soldier’s family, relatives, and the community as a whole.

Lest We Forget

James Percy Gough is buried in the Epsom Cemetery, Surrey England where there are 182 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 49 of the Second World War. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 149 of the 1914-18 war burials are located in Plot K and this is where James is buried. These war burials are commemorated at the North end of the plot on a Screen Wall where there are bronze panels bearing the names of those buried in the plot.

*This biography was researched and written by Mohammed Khan & Mahdi Habibi, Grade 8 student (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.