Remembering Caleb GoodwinHis StorybyGwen Guiou Trask, CG (C)My father Gerald W. Guiou was a tall man but Caleb Goodwin was taller –head and shoulders taller. Thus the origin of the name he was known by in the First World War when he was serving in France with the Princess Patricia s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) –“Sky” Goodwin. In fact it was only recently with the help of Society members Ken and Doris Peters that I learned Sky Goodwin’s proper name – Caleb. After that, tracing his life story became possible – challenging – but possible.That these two soldiers would cross paths at all seems highly unlikely. Jerry Guiou, born in Ottawa, joined the army at age 21, in 1915. (3rd University Company CEF) after a year at McMaster University. Sky Goodwin, born at Pubnico Head, Nova Scotia, “joined up” at age 25 years, 8 months, in 1916, fisherman/carpenter. By the time Sky landed in France and joined the PPCLI in the field in January 1917, Jerry had been with the Regiment since November 1915 and in August 1916 had been granted a commission in the field. Sky served in Jerry’s platoon when Jerry was platoon commander. He described Sky as, “A fine chap at heart, a wonder in action but in trouble most of his time out of the line.” Official records of his various misdemeanors detail why this was just not acceptable behaviour for a PPCLI. It fell to my Dad to solve the problem by taking measures to get Sky on the right track. So in June 1918 Sky was working for Captain Guiou, “other than the parades he detested.” Every officer in the Regiment knew him and watched to see if he would, “stay with it as this work required a very sober man. It was not a job one could safely play on.” This was related to the responsibilities of the Bombing Officer and Sky reportedly measured up and became, “The cleanest, smartest man in the Regiment, and doing fine.”In any case, these two hit it off - possibly because of a strong Maritime connection – Jerry having spent every summer on his grandfather’s farm in New Brunswick – but more likely because they both had red hair! This relationship certainly survived the weeks of late summer 1918 when history tells us the Patricias, as part of the 3rd Division, were fighting constantly and preparing for yet heavier blows to the German army. Jerry’s letters home tell of the level of mutual support among the men, particularly mentioning Sky Goodwin – “He is good as gold at heart – a Nova Scotia fisherman and as faithful as a man can be.”Stephen K. Newman’s, ”With the Patricias 1914-18” recalls the events of September 28, 1918 and the Battle of the Canal du Nord. “On the outskirts of Cambrai the Patricias suffered grievous casualties – 8 officers and 58 men killed, 9 officers and 284 men wounded. My father was one of the 9 officers wounded. That he lived to recount the events of that day, he maintained, was entirely due to his man Sky Goodwin. A severe gunshot wound to his left thigh and another to his right hand meant that to survive he had to get to a forward Dressing Station immediately. Sky got him there under shell fire, all the way carrying his battle equipment. Sky Goodwin was one of the 58 men killed that same day.POSTSCRIPTBut that is not the end of the story.In 1940 my father, by then Rev. G.W. Guiou, accepted a call to the ministry at Zion United Baptist Church in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. As such he was guest speaker at the Baptist Church in nearby Pubnico, Sky’s home town. Here he saw the brass plaque in memory of his fellow Patricia, and told his remarkable story from the pulpit. In attendance were some of Sky’s relatives who until that time had not heard of his final days with the PPCLI and the high regard he had earned in the Regiment.Unfortunately, despite many queries, no family members have been located in the Pubnico area, apparently most having moved to the U.S. Records show only that Mrs. H.L. Simpson (sister) living in Massachusetts was notified of his death, his mother Rebecca Goodwin having died 3 July 1918. His medals were sent to his brother Arthur in Little Deer Isle, Maine in 1922. With the amalgamation of Baptist congregations in the Pubnico area the memorial plaque was mounted prominently in the new Argyle Centre Baptist Church along with the handwritten record of service men found in all churches. His name tops the list.BIOGRAPHYCaleb Goodwin was born 17 November 1890, the son of James Melvin Goodwin and his second wife Rebecca Divine Goodwin, at Pubnico Head, now Pubnico, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. The 1901 census reveals that he was the sixth of their ten children and had an older half brother, Clarence.Listed are brothers Arthur age 22, Clifford age 20, sister Lena age 17, brothers George age 15, and William (or Wilbur) age 13, next Caleb age 11, then sister Annis age 10, brothers Gordon age 9, Melvin age 5, and sister Evie age 3.Rebecca and James Melvin Goodwin are buried in Pubnico’s Laurel Hill Cemetery. Also listed on their gravestone is Gordon, son of Rebecca and James M. drowned 1 December 1916 age 22. Disappointingly, records of remaining siblings have not been found locally, but in 1918 one sister, Mrs. H.L. Simpson , living at 8 Rogers Ave., Lynn, Massachusetts, is named next of kin, Rebecca having died, and brother Arthur in 1919 is living at Little Deer Isle, Maine.By July 1916, having passed his medical by Dr. S.W. Williamson at Yarmouth, Sky is described as “fit for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 6ft. 1 in. tall, light complexion, blue eyes, hair – light (later described as “red”) weight 175 lbs – and a Baptist. He signed attestation papers and took the oath at Digby, Nova Scotia 20 July 1916, before Lt. Col. Charles S. Bullock, Magistrate.So he sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, 18 September 1916, on the S.S. Olympic, arriving in Liverpool, England, 25 September 1916. He was taken on strength from the 97th Battalion at the RCR and PPCLI Depot 31 October 1916 and proceeded to France. From 13 December 1916 on he remained with the PPCLI, the famous Canadian regiment. He joined the unit in the field 19 January 1917, thus becoming a Patricia.From that date the PPCLI fought in major battles including the Passchendale Sector when Sky sustained shrapnel wounds during the assault on Meetcheele Ridge, 30 October 1917. He was treated by No. 8 Canadian Field Ambulance and transferred to No. 26 General Hospital, Etaples 1 November 1917, then to No. 6 Convalescent Hospital 18 November 1917, discharged 20 November 1917.On checking his regimental records before June 1918 it becomes apparent that Sky really didn’t take to army constraints. He was almost constantly “on charge” until he was given other duties under the wing of my father who at that time was serving as Bombing Officer in anticipation of the heavy combat that certainly followed. It seems that gaining respect and responsibility when “out of the line” turned things around completely for Sky who was described as “the smartest man in the regiment and came to know a newer happier life.”Sky was killed in action 28 September 1918 and is buried along with 87 other Canadians in Crest Cemetery, Fontaine – Notre Dame, Nord, France. Information courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission indicates Fontaine – Notre Dame is a village approximately three kilometers southwest of Cambrai. The cemetery there designed by W.C. VonBerg, is walled with attractive plantings and the usual Great Cross common to all the Canadian cemeteries in France.His name appears on the south side of the War Memorial in front of the Library in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, the county seat of his home area. As well, it was projected on the National War Memorial in Ottawa during VIGIL 1914-1918 on 10 November 2009 at 2:12am EST and appears on page 146 of the First World War Book of Remembrance in the Peace Tower at Ottawa.SOURCES:The Patricias. David J. BercusonWith the Patricias in Flanders 1914-1918. Stephen K. NewmanFighting Birth of the Princess Pats G.R. Stevens. Montreal Star Weekend December 26, 1964.Soldiers of the First World War CEF. Library and Archives Canada.Quotations are from letters home from France 1918. G.W. Guiou. In the author’s collection.Canada Remembers. http://www.vac-ac.gc.ca/(This story was published in The Argus Vol.23 No.1 - Spring 2011; reprinted here with the permission of the author)See: Remembrance Page - Caleb Goodwin
The Caleb Goodwin plaque as found in the Argyle-Pubnico United Baptist Church at Central Argyle, NS.Digital photo by Stuart Trask.