Interviewee: Mr Percy George Goring
Date of Birth: 19 December1894
Interviewer : Lyn Adams
Date of Interview: Feb – Oct 1995
Date of Death: 27 July 2001
Synopsis: John Brewer
BOHG No: 1995.006
Total Length: 4 hr 33 min
Events and Sequence Listing:
Born in London December 19th, 1894, in Beresford Street, Shoreditch, England
Parents Harriet and Henry (Harry) Goring
Percy’s father sold hats
Grandparents: Harriet and Daniel Webb
Grandfather fought in the Coldstream Guards in the Crimea.
Percy’s brother Leslie was born two years after Percy
Description of life – school, amusements, holidays.
Percy left school at fourteen years old and was told to go in a ladies’ hat factory and learn the trade.
He worked with various firms.
His brother Les joined the Army with the Royal Engineers and Percy too signed up.
About July 10th onto the ‘Manitou’ to Malta, Alexandria, Mudros, anchoring in Suvla Bay and on to Anzac Cove.
Description of food, water, illness such as dysentery.
The mining of Hill 60
A lucky escape from a bullet in the night
Blowing up Hill 60.
The evacuation of Anzac Cove
To the western desert, El Alamein, El Dabah, Cairo, Shalufa on the Suez canal.
Lucky escape from being blown up
To Al Arish half way to Gaza, Mansura Ridge
The first battle for Gaza, Litani River, Sidon and Tyre
Escape from a five-point-nine explosive shell
Beirut the end of the war for Percy – November 11th, 1918.
The trip back home.
Port Said, Taranto in Italy, through France to the port of Le Havre.
Percy got home in March 1919.
Southampton, London, Luton.
Reunited with his Mother
Father and brother reorganising so that the three of us could start in business, making and selling ladies’ hats.
Daisy in charge of the office, made all her own hats, had eight years to learn about fashions and followed the financial news in the papers.
Daisy became a designer
Percy tells of the successes and trials had in the hat trade.
Daisy and Percy married.
Daisy returns to work as designer, part-time fine.
Daughter, Iris, born.
Reunion of the Second Company
Son John born on Percy’s daughter’s third birthday
A new class of hat and a larger factory
War with Germany a shortage of wool for hat felt
Percy joined the Wardens then took over D. Company, covering three villages and an aerodrome.
Moved to a six-hundred-year-old house named “Old Raisons” in the country on ten acres.
Percy and his wife see the same ghost
Plans to go to Australia
Trip to Australia on a Sunderland flying boat
Aix-en-Provence, Cairo. Karachi, Calcutta, Rangoon, Indonesia, Darwin, Bowen in Queensland and Rose Bay, Sydney Harbour.
To Melbourne and bought a three-bedroom house.
Arranged for John to work as a jackaroo.
Percy bought a Singer motorcar.
After about twelve months, Percy and his wife decided to go back to England to settle things
Percy to West Australia, bought property at Darkan
Moved close to Donnybrook
Moved into a flat in Cottesloe
Moved to Gooseberry Hill
Percy’s wife was taken ill and passed away in ten years
Moved to Bunbury to be with his son.
Return to Gallipoli at the 75th anniversary
Description of getting there, the service, and tours afterwards
Percy’s description of his hundredth birthday in Bunbury then in Melbourne
The story of Percy George Goring was recorded over many sessions between February and October 1995, during his hundred and first year. The usual interview procedure was not followed as Percy preferred to think about each facet of his life before committing it to tape. One section, being the period of his World War 1 experiences, with a few additions, was read from a dossier which had been put together earlier. Percy is assisted in putting his story on tape by Lyn Adams for the Bunbury Oral History Group. As the story pertains to many aspects beyond Western Australia, only extracts, namely his journey to Australia, living in Australia, the 75th Anzac anniversary, and his hundredth birthday, have been sent to the J S Battye Library. The complete material, including master tapes and verbatim transcriptions are available from the Bunbury Oral History Group.
In 1995, approaching his hundred and first birthday, Percy remains very independent and self-reliant. He has lived by himself, since his wife died about fourteen years ago. He does all his own cooking, laundry, and housework. He gave in his driver’s license when he was ninety-five, so he is now driven to the shops by his son. This is the only regular assistance he allows. He attends Senior Citizens activities at least once a week and Church on Sundays. Until quite recently, he enjoyed ballroom dancing at the Senior Citizens evenings. His mental faculties are very acute and his manner is that of a charming gentleman, with a sparkling sense of humour. His goal for the future: Having been born in the nineteenth century, he intends to witness the next turn of the century. In that way he will achieve something very few people are able to achieve, the fact of living within three separate centuries, in this case the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I wish him well, and feel that, as a real survivor throughout his life, he has every chance of achieving this goal.
Born in London December 19th, 1894, in Beresford Street, Shoreditch, England of parents Harriet and Henry (Harry) Goring, strict but fair. Percy’s father was a sales representative, first with Stuarts Wholesalers in St. Paul’s Churchyard, then at Bartlett’s hat factory
Living in the same house were his grandparents Harriet and Daniel Webb who, when younger fought in the Coldstream Guards in the Crimea.
Percy was born within the sound of Bow Bells and so a Cockney. He learned cockney slang when about 4 but did not use it with his father as he describes his family as very class conscious, classes mixing at school but not at home.
Percy’s brother Leslie was born two years after Percy and they remained special friends.
Percy describes, at five years old, only new houses had electricity. There were no cinemas, planes, cars. The family left London and went to Luton to live and Percy started school there when they were changing from slates to pencil and paper and where the cane was used.
His amusements were football, skating, tobogganing or cricket, tops, hoops, hopscotch, bows and arrows.
The family went to the seaside for summer holidays and picnics, at the Linses or Dunstable Downs were popular.
He remembers the coronation of King Edward VII at nine years old.
He describes going to the birthday party of father’s boss’s daughter, passing a balloon round and when the music stopped, going out of the room and being kissed by his partner.
He had piano lessons and, in the ‘News of the World’ found ragtime songs which his father would not let him play on Sundays.
He describes life as very happy and contented, going to the fishing town of Lowestuft for holidays, staying at a small farm in Tottenham Knolls, an ancient British fortification during Roman occupation.
Percy left school at fourteen years old, wanting to be an electrical engineer but was told to go in a ladies’ hat factory and learn the trade so as to take over when his father got older.
He began by sweeping and running errands. Not impressed he changed without his father’s knowledge to work as warehouseman, moving to various departments until he was in charge.
He then worked with his father’s firm in the finishing room and became an under-manager at another where he stood up to being bullied.
In the middle of August, 1911 Percy met Daisy [Gibbs], the girl he eventually married.
His friend Tom Haynes joined the Bedford Yeomandry, was wounded in France, recovered and died within a fortnight when he went back to France.
His brother Les joined the Army with the Royal Engineers and Percy too signed up with a unit with a Sergeant Major too old for active service and no equipment. Eventually four rifles arrived but Percy got some practice at the local rifle club.
December saw them leaving Luton to be billeted in Peterborough where they had uniforms, but still no equipment and Brightling Sea was the site for training in pontoon bridging.
Percy moved out to Radlett before he could get his first stripe. They now had rifle and bayonet and trained in trenching, bridging, route marching with the 162 Brigade of the 54th Division then, in June, new tropical uniforms, rifles and bayonets signalled they were going overseas.
On his last Leave before going abroad he met Daisy’s sister May and agreed to write to one another. May regularly sent Percy a magazine called the “9:15”. May later said she was getting married and that Daisy would send him the magazine.
About July 10th they went to Plymouth and onto a twenty-thousand ton Atlantic cattle steamer called the ‘Manitou’ to Malta, Alexandria to off-load supplies then on to Mudros, anchoring in Suvla Bay where landing craft took half ashore with Percy’s half unloading stores.
Under Turkish fire the ship zigzagging away to Imbros twelve miles away where, after a week’s unloading, went to Suvla and dug holes for cover.
To Nibgunesi Point to be bombed by a German plane and on to Anzac Cove, which Percy refers to as Anzac, where Harry Newbury, next to Percy, was shot in the chest. Dug-in at their new base at Evans Gulley where, over a high bank, could be seen the Turk trenches overlooking Anzac.
There was an unofficial arrangement between the Turks and the British that if you crawled out to repair the wire in front of your trenches, the Turks would come out and repair theirs and nobody got hurt.
Poor food, shortage of water, billions of flies and lice brought illness such as dysentery.
Snipers meant they had to lift sandbags up on shovels. A Staff Officer was killed demonstrating his theory that “If you move about quickly, snipers won’t hit you”,
A disciplinary task was to put a double wire fence in front of trenches with a Ghurka under Turkish machine-gun fire without a scrap of cover.
Another ‘nice’ job was to mine Hill 60, as were the Turks. By holding a lead pencil in our mouth with the sharp point on the end of support wood and, if the Turks were working, you could detect it through the pencil.
One night the Turks started bombing. “No fresh air in the mine over one hundred feet below the surface and no light. You could feel the darkness.”
No food parcels so some went down to Anzac Cove and came back with two tins of treacle, one of which Percy won. In the morning, Percy’s head felt sticky. A bullet had come through the side, missed his head by two or three inches, and hit the treacle. “Once again Goring was lucky!”
Desperately hungry a mate, Cyril prayed to the Lord for food. There was a bump and a loaf of bread fell into the dug-out. “Cyril was on it in no time and he actually gave George and myself a slice each, but no more.” Why? Some soldiers robbed the front-line troops by sticking a bayonet into supply bags as they came by and taking a loaf out, and one fell as they came by the dug-out.
Shortly before the final evacuation, the mine was finished and they had to plant half a ton of explosives into the end of it. When they fired it one day, the whole top of Hill 60 seemed to go up in the air and burst when it was some way up. If there was any Turks in there, it was goodbye.
Shortly after this, the evacuation started and gradually the troops left each night, so that the Turks did not realise that they were leaving. When it came to the last night, they fixed rifles with two tins attached. The top one was full of water and slowly dripped into the bottom one which was attached to the trigger. And when the bottom one was full, it pulled the trigger and the rifle fired. Although a lot of stores were left behind, just on two hundred and fifty thousand men left Anzac without a casualty.
Disembarking at the Greek Island of Mudros and on to Alexandria on the “Marathon”, a pre-war passenger liner, then entrained for the western desert, passing through El Alamein to El Dabah where they worked on a well, then went on an expedition destroying an Arab village with “half a ton of high explosive in the back, holding the fuses and detonators in our hands because of the jolting.”
On to Cairo where they camped alongside the Pyramids and on to Shalufa, twenty miles from Suez on the canal.
They went to where there were four hundred Mills bombs, quite safe so long as you know what you are doing. Bill Wesley was to help us but, “if a stick had a dirty end he would always pick that end up.” Bill said, “what’s this split pin for?” and pulled it out. We had five seconds to throw ourselves down. The fragments flew over us and hit the stack of bombs but didn’t set them off. “Goring’s luck again!”
Foot slogged it to Al Arish, one hundred miles of soft sand at about ten miles a day and camped at Khan Yunus half way to Gaza. Two or three weeks later we dug in on Mansura Ridge and put-in trip wires which could not be seen.
“One night I had a most vivid dream: I was sitting in front of a dug-out looking towards Wadi on the other side of which a string of loaded camels was being shelled by the Turks and they were scattering away. It left me damp with perspiration. Then, when we were in the first battle for Gaza, I watched a string of camels walking along the other side of the Wadi and Turkish shells started to fall among them and scattered them. And at the time I could not believe it: what I had seen in my dream of eighteen months before, had actually happened!
We heard the Australian Light Horse had captured Beersheba. We then took part in the third battle for Gaza where we found walls with fuses sticking out. Were they booby trapped? And I got the job of going down on a rope to find out. I was very pleased when, finally pulling on the fuse, the detonator came out on the end, and I could then handle the explosive with safety.
Our division caught up with the Turks at the Litani River, but it was soon over, and we carried on past Sidon and Tyre towards Beirut.
Sometime between Gaza and Tel Aviv, Percy was diagnosed with appendicitis and sent to Port Said, missing seeing my cousin nursing at the railhead but not needing an operation.
Percy was blasting rock to repair roads and saw the rock-carriers were women one of whom gave birth to a baby, and straight away resumed work picking up rocks and loading wagons. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
Through Palestine to a Jewish township called Mulebis where you could buy port wine for one shilling a pint. “Although I was a teetotaller, they got me to try it, and I somehow found myself at the bottom of a six-foot deep ditch.
While camped in a Eucalyptus grove their billet was hit by a five-point-nine explosive shell and was completely destroyed. “Goring’s luck again!
We reached Beirut and, after spending the night in a cemetery, heard the Turks had surrendered, and that was the end of the war for Percy.
In summary, the conditions at Anzac were terrible. One bottle of water per day for everything, we stank. Lice – millions of them. Rations – never enough, dysentery, no entertainment, no parcels by post. The Headquarters staff were hopeless. The only good thing was the evacuation.
The War was ended November 11th,1918.
There were terrible conditions on the trip back home. We caught the train to Port Said to a little tramp steamer, the ship for the start of our journey. Two hundred and forty of us, one toilet and one washbasin with cold water, bully beef and biscuits three times a day, and a mug of tea, for the three days it took us to get to Taranto in Italy.
There we transferred to a train of cattle trucks, forty men to a truck. Cooking facilities, none! Toilet facilities, none! “I reckon the shop that sold newspapers wondered why a lot of foreigners who could not read Italian, would want to buy newspapers.
The trip did not get any better as we went through France, eventually we reached the port of Le Havre, where an cross-channel steamer was waiting for us, standing room only.
Percy got home in March 1919.
We docked at Southampton and reached London at midday. Six of us who were going to Luton, got sandwiches to eat and then into the barber’s shop for a haircut and shave. Then to St Pancreas for the Luton train.
The first person I saw was my Mother, she was meeting all the trains from London.
I had not had a hot bath for over two years. What a change to sit at a table and have my evening meal and properly cooked food, and later a proper bed to sleep in.
My father and brother had taken the lease of the factory and they were busy reorganising the place so that the three of us could start in business, making and selling ladies’ hats.
I wrote to Daisy and went to a café and talked over coffees. She was in charge of the office, now made all her own hats and had eight years to learn about fashions as well as following the financial news in the papers. I said to her, “You are in the wrong business in the office. You ought to be where the money is, a designer.” Some weeks later she became a designer at double the amount she was receiving.
Percy tells of the successes and trials had in the hat trade.
Seeing a nice house, we discussed renting it ourselves, and getting married and “so it came to be that Daisy and myself were married.
Daisy said her firm wanted her to go back as designer, part-time fine.
Daisy then received £400 sterling from a firm similar to B.H.P. that she had been following in the financial news.
Percy’s father then passed away.
Percy and Daisy sought medical advice on becoming parents and Daisy needed a slight operation after which our daughter, Iris, was born.
Holidays in Bex Hill, Sussex, facing the English Channel., visiting Eastbourne. The two checked-out the hat trade, finding hats from their own factory.
Percy remembers the abdication of Edward VIII.
My brother Leslie and his wife Grace were involved in amateur dramatics.
As he visited fashion shows or passing a lady in the street, Percy would sketch the hat and a copy of it would be in our showroom within twenty-four hours. Percy looked forward to moving into a higher class of hat than their usual.
Percy helped arrange a reunion of the Second Company and the following year to hold the reunion at Luton
Daisy was expecting her new baby in a fortnight’s time but was worried. The doctor and rang for three other doctors to observe an unusual birth. My son John was born on my daughter’s third birthday two to three weeks early.
While visiting an engineering firm Percy saw a piece of sharkskin they used to burnish metal. He took a piece and tried it burnishing a hat producing a velour, a higher class of hat, using the same felt.
It was not long before we moved into a larger factory and our staff went up from seventy to a hundred and twenty. We were now among the big firms.
War with Germany was about to break out and, as it did, everybody in the hat trade was in trouble as most of the wool in the trade came from Australia and the government took control of it to use for uniforms.
Percy joined the Wardens and was commissioned to take charge of a platoon and to keep the army informed if paratroops should drop in our area.
After several months I was asked to take over D. Company which covered three villages and an aerodrome.
Early in the war they moved to a six-hundred year old house named “Old Raisons” in the country on ten acres.
After the War, most of us, for holidays, we went on the Broads in Norfolk and Suffolk. We had a thirty-six foot motor cruiser and we had a lovely holiday each year, for two years.
Percy tells of seeing a ghost, a little old lady walked into the room. Later he heard his wife telling the same story, for she had seen exactly the same as Percy on another night when Percy was asleep.
Towards the end of the War, Daisy and Percy planned for the future. Daughter, Iris, would be finishing at the University, and son John would be seventeen with farming on his mind. They talked about going abroad, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and finally decided on Australia, but couldn’t get on a ship in six years.
Percy went to BOAC – British Overseas Airway Corporation and got a cancellation on a plane leaving in three months.
The plane was a Sunderland flying boat, thirty-two passengers plus the crew. The Sunderland Flying Boats were used during the latter part of the War and they’d altered them to a certain extent to carry passengers. It took nine days to Australia, putting down in a different country each day with a big cabin seating twenty-eight people and a small cabin in the tail of the plane that sat four, which Percy’s family got.
In between the two cabins was an observation cabin with windows each side where you could rest your arms on the rails, and look out.
They stopped at first class hotels every night: Aix-en-Provence, Cairo. Karachi, Calcutta, Rangoon, Indonesia and put down in Darwin, Bowen in Queensland and Rose Bay, Sydney Harbour.
After a fortnight, they left Sydney, and went to Melbourne where they bought a three-bedroom house.
Percy advertised in the paper for a job for a jackaroo, and a doctor replied that his brother and his wife wanted a jackaroo at Elmhurst. So John would go to Elmhurst and start as a jackaroo.
Percy bought a four-seater, ten horsepower Singer motorcar.
After about twelve months, Percy and his wife decided to go back to England to settle things up financially.
Next Percy thought about West Australia, and bought a property at Darkan that was suitable for sheep and cattle but soon after they moved close to Donnybrook. John started up his own, supplying farms with whatever they wanted – petrol, oil, wool bales, you name it, a small stock agent.
Percy then moved into a flat in Cottesloe for about eight years, eventually finding a place at Gooseberry Hill, with a view across the country, right out to the Indian Ocean.
Percy’s wife was taken ill and lasted about ten years before she passed away and Percy’s son suggested that he come to Bunbury, and he’s been here ever since.
Sometime after that, the Government decided that for the seventy-fifth anniversary of Gallipoli, “to take the ‘Diggers’, the ‘Anzacs’, that was the New Zealanders and the Australians, back to Gallipoli
I was hoping that I could go back with them, and had a word with Chris Mills of the R.S.L. in Bunbury but I wasn’t eligible to go.
I eventually went with a private party. There was about thirty-two of us. When the Tour Manager found out that I was ninety-five years old, he thought he’d got a problem on his hands. Not at all.
We left Istanbul, went down by the Bosphorus to the Sea of Marmara. After some mechanical problems got to Canakkale across the Dardanelles, to Eceabat.
The Prime Minister of Australia and others made their speeches at dawn at Anzac Cove. There were prayers and the bugle blowing, they stood for the ‘Last Post’, then for the ‘Reveille’.
Percy recounts tales of organisation and sometimes a lack thereof, of the entertainments provided and visits to places.
To Cairo, Aswan, the Valley of the Kings and back to Perth in Australia.
Percy talks of his hundredth birthday, that his birthday party and the Senior Citizens’ Christmas party were going to be held together. “One hundred and seventy-five people there and if I’d have known there was going to be a hundred and seventy-five people, I wouldn’t have been at that party.” Photographs, I had three dances “but had to leave early because I’d got to catch the train early in the morning to catch the plane back to Melbourne. And just before we got to Melbourne, one of the hostesses came to us and asked if we’d remain in our seats until all the passengers were off the plane. The crew came to us, wished me a happy birthday, and handed me another birthday cake with the compliments of Qantas Airlines. Next day in Melbourne we had a quiet day. And the day after that I had my Melbourne birthday party. That made five birthday cakes.
Finally: “Quite a lot of people have asked me what it is like to be a hundred years old. Apart from the fact that I’m certainly slowing up, I don’t feel any older than what I did when I was ninety. I am more or less as I have been donkeys’ years.”