War hero honoured by family at the Victor Harbor RSL

Presenting the medals and Plaque: Sarah Dridan, president David Miller and Nicky Sage at the presentation. In the background is the profile of Major Gosse MC.
Presenting the medals and Plaque: Sarah Dridan, president David Miller and Nicky Sage at the presentation. In the background is the profile of Major Gosse MC.

The descendants of a prominent South Australian family have donated to the Victor Harbor RSL the war medals of their grandfather, who was killed in action during the First World War.

Sarah Dridan (nee Gosse) and Nicky Sage (nee Gosse) donated the medals that were awarded to their grandfather, Major William Hay Gosse MC following his death on April 5, 1918 during World War I.

William Hay Gosse was born in 1875, the second son of explorer William Christie Gosse and his wife Agnes Gosse (nee Hay). William later fought in the Boer War in South Africa, serving with the 2nd South Australian Mounted Rifles Contingent. In 1908, he took up farming in Western Australia and in 1911, married Muriel Mary Davidson. They had two children. The family holidayed regularly at Victor Harbor and became part of the local community.

In May 1915, at the age of 40 years, William volunteered for service with the British Army and was commissioned as a lieutenant and posted to the 79th Artillery Brigade, of the Royal Field Artillery, which formed part of the 17th (Northern) Division.

William fought in all the major battles on the Western Front in France and Belgium in 1916 and 1917. On June 19, 1917, the Division moved to the Arras front and was successful in taking its objective that included the ruined chemical works at Roeux on the night of June 26.

Captain Gosse's leadership and intelligence skills played an important role in the capture of the Division's objective and he was awarded the Military Cross. He was later promoted to major.

Further intensive fighting followed for the Division that year near Cambrai, and in March 1918, the men were in the thick of the great German Spring Offensive. On March 21 to 23, all enemy attacks on the Division were successfully repulsed, however it was forced to retreat because of chaotic British organisation.

On 5 April 1918, Major Gosse was leading his Battery against a strong German attack when his command post was struck by a enemy shell and he was killed instantly. Major Gosse was buried by his men in the village of Varennes.

In 2008, Victor Harbor RSL members Ian and Janet Milnes visited the Varennes Military Cemetery and photographed Major Gosse's war grave.

In presenting the Memorial Plaque, often referred to as the Dead Man's Penny, and the war medals, Sarah and Nicky told President David Miller that it was fitting that the Victor RSL should be the custodian of the artefacts as the Gosse family considered Victor a very important part of their lives.

President Miller said, "It is an honour to receive the medals of such a distinguished local soldier, they will form an integral part of our growing collection".

President Miller went on to say that Major Gosse's son, George Gosse, the father of Sarah and Nicky, served with distinction in the Royal Australian Navy during the Second World War.

Lieutenant Commander Gosse became an expert on ordnance and defusing mines. He was awarded the George Cross, the highest award for bravery outside of war service, for defusing mines in the murky waters of Bremen Harbour (Germany) in May 1945.

President Miller said the Memorial Plaque and medals will be mounted and placed on display in the Clubrooms.