Ernest Jesse GOER
13 June 1881 – 7 December 1917
Regimental number 53490
In the first half of July 1917, fresh troops left Wellington on the transport ship Maunganui and its companion vessel HMNZT Willochra, bound for England. They were the 26th reinforcements for both the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. Among them was Ernest Jesse GOER, a 35-year old father of two who had been living at 7 Thule Street, Taitville, at the top end of the Aro Valley. According to the magazine produced by those sailing on the Maunganui , the passage was a notably rough one, but after just on two months the voyage was over. The Maunganui’s passengers disembarked on 15 August and the Willochra’s on the following day. The new troops headed off for Brocton Camp, the training base for the Rifle Brigade in England, for about 11 weeks of further training before setting off for France towards the end of October.
The new troops were welcome arrivals.
At the beginning of November approximately 1,000 reinforcements arrived. They were urgently needed, but, unfortunately, though all were of good physique and well-equipped, more than half the number had had very little training.
Ernest Goer was probably seen in that light. His Army personnel file shows 129 days from the date of his enlistment on 3 February 1917 to his departure on 15 August. It is likely that he spent several weeks undertaking initial training at Trentham Camp before leaving for Europe, although there is no direct evidence for this. Presumably there was some further training on board ship and more during his time at Brockton Camp although this is not documented.
The new troops arrived in the field on 2 November 1917 , when the soldiers of the Rifle Brigade were resting after the fight for Passchendaele. Ernest had been posted to the 1st Battalion, which was taking time out in the village of Colembert. Training resumed on 9 November and shortly after, the Battalion relieved the 1st Lincoln Regiment on the Menin Road, to the east of Ypres and went into the front line. It was a smooth changeover. The Official History says that ‘notwithstanding the long marches, the fearful state of the ground and trenches, and the heavy scattered shelling, the relief was completed by 9pm with very few casualties.’ 
To counter the sea of mud, plank roads had been built which eased movement by vehicles and troops but which also showed up clearly in aerial photos, making them easy for enemy artillery to target.
On the sides of the plank roads, in particular, there were gruesome evidences of the intensity of such shell-fire, broken transport and artillery limbers and dead animals lying all along the routes. On one stretch of 300 yards about the dreaded Jargon Cross Roads the remains of 125 vehicles were counted…. It was with the utmost difficulty that the ruins of hamlets could be located; some, indeed, had been completely obliterated, not even a redness in the mud remaining to indicate where once brick buildings had stood. Everything, everywhere, excepts parts of our own works and a few German ‘pill-boxes’, was shattered…
There was work for the fresh troops to do, connecting up posts that had become isolated, repairing fighting bays in the trenches, and trying to improve drainage. Carrying up materials and digging support lines became the daily routine for all battalions in support and reserve roles. The pattern for the Rifle Brigade was by then well established: a tour of about a week in the line, followed by a similar period in support, and then out to reserve for the same length of time.
On 1 December 1917, the 1st Battalion had a long march from Micmac Camp where it had spent time in reserve and took over from the 3rd Otago Battalion. Conditions were grim: the ground was already a deep sea of mud, machine-gun fire was an ever-present menace, and on 3 December, heavy snow storms struck. The Battalion was relieved on the night of 9 and 10 December but it was during this stint at the front that Ernest Goer was killed. He had been in France for exactly six weeks, had served for 308 days in total, and was aged 36.
Ernest’s parents, James Goer and Betsy Ann Derbyshire, had married in Staffordshire, England, in 1867 when he was 22 and she was 20. They arrived in New Zealand in about 1874, by which time Betsy had given birth to four children A further five children expanded the family in Wellington. Ernest, who was born on 13 June 1881, attended Te Aro Infant School followed by the Terrace School. James, his father, worked as a carpenter employed by the City Council. When he began work, Ernest was also employed by the Council, in his case as a driver.
Ernest married in 1906 in his father-in-law’s residence in Elizabeth Street, Mt. Victoria. He and his wife, Olive Minnie Charlotte MURCH, already had a daughter, Gladys, born in 1904; and a second daughter, Olive Cleta Charlotte, was born in 1908. On 5 June 1917, after he had enlisted but before he left for Europe, Ernest completed his will in which he left his entire estate to his wife, Olive.
Roughly one year before Ernest signed up his older brother Charles Arthur, then aged 44, had also enlisted. He sailed from Wellington on 15 November 1916 and arrived in France in March of the following year. Ernest was taller than Charles – 5 feet 10 inches compared with 5 feet 5½ inches – and heavier too, although both men were slight in build, 140 pounds compared with 131 pounds.
Charles, a labourer living in Palmerston North before he enlisted, marched into Sling Camp in January 1917 and when he reached France in March, was posted to 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment. He was killed on 4 October 1917 during the fight for Passchendaele. His name is not listed on the Aro Valley memorial.
Both brothers were buried near Zonnebeke in Belgium, Ernest in the Polygon Wood Cemetery and Charles in the Tyne Cot Cemetery.
A younger brother, Albert James, also enlisted. He did not embark from Wellington until August 1918, worked at Brockton Camp while he was in England, and returned to New Zealand in June 1919.
While Ernest’s name is inscribed on the Aro Valley memorial, Charles’s is not. This is presumably because Ernest and his family had lived in the area for many years before his death, and Olive continued to live at 7 Thule Street until at least 1928. She remarried in 1919, to Anker Jakob Charlo JENSEN. The couple later separated and Olive died in 1940. Charles, on the other hand, had moved away from Wellington before WW1 started and seems not to have married or created his own family to advocate for his inclusion. His name, however, is amongst those on the brass panels in the World War 1 Hall of Memories in the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and his photo was published in the Auckland Weekly News in 1917, presumably because he served in the Auckland Infantry Regiment.
Research conducted by Max Kerr
 Te Whakanui: the unofficial journal of the 26th and 27th Reinforcements RNZA, 26th NZ Field Engineers, 27th Specialist Coy, E, G, H, and J (Coys) 26th Infantry Reinforcements, 26th NZASC 18th Pioneers, and 26th Medical Corps, Cape Times Ltd, 1917
 Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, Lieut-Col W S Austin, L T Watkins Ltd, 1924, p 250
 Ibid p 251
 Ibid pp 252–253
The photograph below is the cottage at 7 Thule Street, Taitville, Aro Valley where Ernest and his wife Olive lived from at least 1911. This photo was taken in 2017 when the property was sold by Ray White real estate agency, who have generously given permission for it to be reproduced on this website. Thule Street is a very steep pathway between Entrance Street at the bottom of Aro Valley and Raroa Road above the valley. There is no vehicle access.