- Vickridge, G.L.W., Lieutenant, RANR
- Biographies and personal histories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
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- March 1978 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The natives seemed friendly enough and invited Goodenough and his men to accompany them to another village. After three hundred yards or so, however, he thought it more prudent to visit the village by boat and turned back. ‘Casting my eyes to the left I saw a man with a gleaming pair of black eyes fitting an arrow to a string, and in an instant, just as I was thinking it must be a sham menace, and stared him in the face, thud came an arrow into my left side. I felt astounded. I shouted, ‘To the boats!’ pulled the arrow out, and threw it away (for which I am sorry), and leapt down the beach, hearing a flight of arrows pass . . . and while . . . (shoving off the whaler) . . . another arrow hit my head a good sharp rap leaving an inch and a half of its bone head sticking in my hat.’
Although the Commodore ordered retaliatory fire, it was restricted to firing over the natives’ heads. Six of Pearl’s ship’s company were wounded in the brief exchange. In the whaler, Goodenough was faint from the pain of his wounds, but soon revived and came up the side of the ship briskly. He ordered that the wounded should be attended to immediately, the boats hoisted and sail set. As no provocation had been offered by his party, he thought it right to mark his displeasure by burning a few of the natives’ huts. Pearl then sailed for Mota to leave orders for HMS Nymphe before proceeding south.
For the first four days after the incident Goodenough slept a great deal. He realised that death was imminent and asked the Chaplain to give thanks at the Sunday service, so that he and the others had time to prepare. On the Tuesday he sat up and wrote what were to be his last descriptive words. While writing this letter, someone came into his cabin and he put it down with an unfinished sentence – never to resume it again. With the exception of signing some despatches two days later, these were his last written words.
Early on the Wednesday afternoon the Commodore was told that tetanus had undoubtedly set in. Despite the severe spasms which were wracking his body, it was a serene man who calmly asked how much longer he had to live. By the Thursday the spasms were more intense and so he had all of his officers assemble in his cabin where he took a cheery farewell of each one. He then wished to address the ship’s company and despite the Doctor’s protests was carried out and laid on a bed placed on the quarterdeck. With his saddened crew gathered around him. Commodore Goodenough begged the men to smile for although he was dying, he had had a very happy life.
After addressing the ship’s company for more than twenty minutes and shaking hands with all his petty officers, the Commodore was carried back to his cabin. He fell asleep and his strength never returned although twenty four hours passed before the end came. He constantly asked after the other wounded men; he knew that Edward Rayner and Ferdinand Smales also had tetanus, but was not told that Rayner had died on the Thursday night. Smales lived only two days longer – both were only seventeen years of age. Goodenough spoke very little after Friday morning and died at a quarter past five that afternoon. A boat was sent into Port Stephens on the Sunday afternoon and the news telegraphed to Sydney. On 23rd August HMS Pearl steamed into Sydney Harbour with yards scandalised and the ensign and broad pennant at half mast. The funeral of the three men took place the following day and was held at St. Leonard’s Cemetery on Sydney’s North Shore. The tragedy of the event and the popularity of the man was attested to by the attendance of the Governor of New South Wales, the crews of HM Ships Pearl, Sappho and Renard, a large number of volunteers and several thousand Sydney people, as well as by his wife and two sons. Three graves had been dug that morning by marines from HMS Pearl; side by side, that of the late Commodore being the centre one. There were laid to rest the three sailors who had fallen in the same manner – James Graham Goodenough resting in death as he had lived, as he had died, in the midst of his men.
- Among those lost in the disaster was the author’s great-great uncle. Able Seaman T. Jones.
- As a direct result of Goodenough’s concern for the welfare of his men, the first Royal Naval House was founded in Sydney in 1876. It was established on leased premises situated at 31 Princes Street but demolished about 1926 to make way for the southern approach of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. At the first meeting of the Management Committee on 27th July 1876 it was named ‘Goodenough Royal Naval House.’