for the Cheshires
How an 8-yr-old French boy went into the Front Line
When Andre Wattebled's home in the French village of Bethune was
shelled by the Germans in 1914 it was to lead to an unprecedented
alliance with the Cheshire Regiment, 10th Bn. The forlorn eight-year
was left to fend for himself and was picked up by English troops
who took him with them into Belgium, first staying with one regiment
and then another.
The 10th Bn. of the Cheshires were in the La Bassee sector in 1915
when little Andre stumbled on their camp, begging for bully beef
or a biscuit. He was befriended by a 19-year-old private, William
(Bill) Goulborn who decided to take him to his tent and give him
The Cheshires could not make much sense of the name Andre Wattebled
and so they rechistened him, Harry Andrews and Bill Goulborn was
determined that he should remain as their mascot. Officers soon
discovered his presence and he was taken before the C.O. who was
persuaded that he should stay. Afterall, the Worcesters were never
without their mascot, the famous goat, and there was no reason why
the Cheshires should not keep a little French boy as theirs.
Harry was put on the strength and attached to the battalion transport
section. He was even given a uniform (the smallest they could find),
army boots and a pay book, though it was suspected that his pay
came out of the officers' pockets.
Young Harry and Bill Goulborn became inseparable, sharing the same
tent, the same meagre rations and enduring the hardship of life
in the cold, wet and mud of the trenches, on the Somme, in Belgium
and on the Marne.
During bombardments Harry was hidden in a transport wagon, and also
when French gendarmes were near, for fear that they should steal
him from the Cheshires.
In 1918, Harry and Bill were parted. Returning after an absence
of duty, Bill discovered that the boy had been taken away to school
by the Bishop of Namu.
Bill eventually returned to his home in the Cheshire village of
Antrobus, believing that he would never hear of Harry again.
However, fate took a hand. Harry had run away from the Bishop's
school and, eventually, reunited with his parents he joined the
French army and fought in Morocco before becoming a gendarme in
An Englishman, in 1936, seeking his brother's war grave asked a
gendarme for advice and was surprised at the excellent English response.
It was Harry Andrews who was disappointed to discover that the Englishman
had never heard of Bill Goulborn.
On returning to England, the man made enquiries through the press
and found Bill, but by then the Second World War and the German
occupation of France had commenced. There seemed little hope of
Harry again fought for his country and then worked in a civilian
job, but was dismissed and later arrested, but he survived and was
liberated by the Americans.
In 1946 the friends met at last when M. Andre Wattebled, of Terramesnil,
the father of six children, surmounted all obstacles of permit and
passport, to arrive in Antrobus to stay with Bill Goulborn and his
family, 31 years after he had walked into the camp of the 10th Bn.
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