Topic: Robert (Bert) Goulding (1886 - 1987) (WWI)

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ROBERT THOMSON (BERT) GOULDING (1886-1987) was a Tauranga Town Planner. He was part of the Hauraki Regiment and 8th Survey Company, Royal Engineers during the First World War and present at Gallipoli and Salonika.

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Most of what we know about Robert Thomson Goulding we know from three sources. 

  • The first was an interview he and his wife gave to a Mrs. van Oorde of the Local History and Archives department in 1975 and the notes she made of thisThe second source is the Bay of Plenty Times, articles from August 13, 1982, part of a series of articles "Add life to years" and on the day of his funeral, 9 September 1987. The third is a collection of photographs, letters and prints donated to the library we call the 'Goulding Collection'.

Robert, or Bert as he was known, was born in Napier where he also began his working life with the survey firm Kennedy Brothers and Morgan. He passed his civil service exams in  February of 1904 (New Zealand Herald Volume LX, Issue 18507, 18 September 1923, Page 14). His apprenticeship in Napier lasted from 1903 to 1907 and by the end of it he was earning 3 pounds a week.  His early experiences are described by Mrs. van Oorde. After some time in Auckland studying and working in the City Engineer's Office he was sent to Tauranga (1909) to do triangulation work for the Government and enjoyed the area so much that he returned there after the Great War. Much of his work in Tauranga, according to lifelong friend Mr Bonnington, took place in the Kaimai ranges (Bay of Plenty Times 9 September 1987).

When war finally broke out in 1914, Bert signed up with with the 6th Hauraki Regiment (D Company) and was shipped off to Gallipoli. Originally the main body left New Zealand with 500 horses unstabled in the hull of the ship, but had to return to Auckland after two German cruisers were reported in the vicinity. Eventually they left again from Wellington, experiencing very rough seas on the way. The arrival at Gallipoli was "a complete shambles" according to 1987 RSA President Henry Stephens.  "There were no maps of the area and it was real rugged country".

"When they reached Gallipoli, the navy had not allowed for the set of the tide and, instead of landing on a reasonable beach with a low cliff, they were swept about a mile down the coast and had to land on a beach only a few feet wide, under a vertical cliff, overlooked by the Turks. This error was catastrophic as far as the losses of the New Zealand soldiers were concerned, as they were mowed down attempting to scale the sheer cliffs" (Bay of Plenty Times August 13, 1982).

Royal Engineers. Present at Gallipoli and Salonika…NZ forces landing place at Gallipoli in 1915. Handwritten overleaf “New Zealand Division landed here. ANZAC COVE. Landing area at Gallipoli 1915. 25th April. Snow storm later."

Burt survived the landing and the army set him to work surveying and making maps.  He spent time in between the Allied and Ottoman lines with a photographer avoiding snipers and using trigonometry to create maps for use by the Allied forces. In the Goulding Collection at Tauranga City Libraries Research Collections, are several maps, some captured form Ottoman sources and others created by the 8th Survey Company, Royal Engineers, the unit Bert was latter transferred to. You can see some of these maps in the related items to this article.

Talking to a Bay of Plenty Times reporter in 1982 Bert recalled how the Allies disguised their withdrawal from Gallipoli  by setting up systems of dripping water into bully-beef tins that had been attached to the triggers of rifles. When the tins got heavy enough the rifles fired, creating the illusion that allied troops were still in their trenches. Such ingenuity gave them time to silently withdraw and undoubtedly saved many lives. Bert was discharged from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force of May 5 1918, in order to transfer to the Royal Engineers. On his discharge certificate he is noted as having the “Meritorious Service Medal (London Gazette 13.2.17)”. For details about this medal see . Accompanying the discharge was a Certificate of Character in which his character is noted as "very good". 

After Gallipoli, the 8th Survey Company were stationed in Salonika and it seems Bert was involved in an experimental technology using recorded sound to locate enemy gunfire. The following was found within the Goulding Collection in 2013. 

Rare sound ranging example

According to Matthew Buck (Senior Advisor Heritage Commemorations and Protocol Group HQ NZDF) this is a rare example of sound ranging recording. Writing in November 2012 to Tauranga City Libraries Research Collections staff he says

 "I am 99% certain that you have an example of a British artillery survey sound-ranging recording. These were recorded onto light-sensitive paper strips, cut to fit 35mm film handling equipment. They were developed in-situ on the front lines and used to calculate enemy gun positions. You will notice that there are 6 recordings on the strip, representing (I believe) two sets of 3 microphone recorders. This was the minimum needed to produce an estimated map coordinate for the origin of the sound signal. Paper strips of this type do not seem to have come into use until after mid 1916 so it is much more likely to be connected with (Bert's) ... Salonika campaign rather than Gallipoli. My impression is that these are quite rare artefacts.” .

Windsor Jones, Curator at the National Army Museum noted they had just 3 similar examples in their collection (as at 2013). To learn more about sound ranging technology, this Wikipedia article is a good general introduction

A Mr Stephens (perhaps his work partner Mr Stevens?) suggested at Bert's funeral that his worst experience had been when he was captured by the French and nearly shot after his heavy tan made them suspect he was a Turkish spy (Bay of Plenty Times 9 Sept 1987). There are many photographs, maps and documents collected by Bert Goulding during his  service experience. Some of these indicate he also spent time in the middle east. After the war according to the Bay of Plenty Times (9 Sept 1987) Bert "worked his way home through Greece and Italy. By 1919 he had made his way to London." His final discharge from military service was on September 20, 1919

Within the Goulding Collection at the Tauranga City Libraries Research Collections is included the following:

 In 1975 the City Libraries organised a Mrs. van Oorde of the Local History and Archives department to visit and interview Robert Thomson Goulding and his wife Margaret (nee Wallis). The full interview is here. Below are some notes from the interview relating to his life after the war.  

Returning to Tauranga in 1920 he continued in partnership with Mr. Stevens, and was engaged in surveying a great number of the sections in both Tauranga and Mount Maunganui, and in the surrounding districts.     During the Depression many surveyors had to turn to other work;    Mr. Stevens joined the Borough Council, but Mr. Goulding carried on and was joined by a cadet, Mr. Benham.     This gentleman was later to become a partner. At the same time Mr. Goulding did consulting work for the Borough Council, and continued to do so for thirty years, when failing health made it advisable to retire.

Mr. Goulding always found surveying interesting and satisfying work.     The town planning for Tauranga was based on Mr. Blair Mason’s report for the Tauranga Harbour Board, which provided an excellent basis for all subsequent development. This Report was published in 1919 in a special edition of "The Bay of Plenty Times," and Mr. Goulding considered it the result of first-class groundwork.

On one occasion Mr. Goulding was employed by the company engaged in taking sulphur from White Island.     They required some engineering and surveying work to be done, and he travelled over with the manager of the company, and with Mr. Bassett, the secretary, and Mr. Ron Kennedy.     This was quite some time after the disaster of 1914 when 12 men lost their lives there, but Mr. Goulding remembers that his party also was almost overwhelmed by fumes from the main blow-hole.     There were Pohutakawas growing near the encampment at that time, and between the encampment and the crater was a gannetry;    the birds were not at all shy, but rather curious and occasionally a bit aggressive. Mutton birds also abounded.

In 1938 Mr. Goulding suggested to the Council that it would be a wise investment to buy two farms in Otumoetai that could have been obtained for about forty-five pounds an acre, the land to be developed as part of the city and eventually sold to create funds.     He offered a detailed plan, and included a plan and estimate for a bridge across the Waikareao Estuary. However, the Council was not in favour of this proposal;    the causeway that was in time put across the Estuary cost thousands of pounds more, and Otumoetai property meanwhile has increased in value many many times.

The house, "Westcliff,”  first became known to Mr. Goulding as a boarding-house, where his partner Mr. Frank Stevens had been staying and where Mr. Goulding also secured accommodation. It was owned by Mrs. Humphries, who, having been left a widow with three small children to raise, took in boarders and in her spare time undertook photographic work.     The house then was about half the size it is now, and the present enclosed balcony was an open verandah.     When Mrs. Humphries died, Mr. Goulding bought the house for his own private residence and considerably enlarged it.     In time the steep narrow staircase linking the entrance hall with the lower floor was removed, and the latter converted to self-contained flats.     The original house, prior to Mrs. Humphries purchase of it, had belonged to a solicitor who travelled about a good deal on Maori land work;    and is thought to have been built in the 1880’s.     There is a lovely view across the Waikareao Estuary to Otumoetai, and Mr. Goulding remarked that when he first lived there only two houses were to be seen in that direction - "Woodhill,” occupied by the Brabant family, and ,”Maungawhare,” the home of Mr. Harry Bell Johnston.

It is said that Mr Goulding as a town planner was most proud of the scrubbing of the street names to replace them with avenues (Bay of Plenty Times, Sept 9 1987). After retiring he and his wife enjoyed many years at Lake Rotoiti. He was a life member of the Tauranga Rowing Club, the golf club and the Tauranga A and P society. 



This article was archived at Perma CC on August 10, 2016 (

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Robert (Bert) Goulding (1886 - 1987) (WWI)

Year:1886, c.1914, c.1920, and 1987
Date of Birth:1886
Place of Birth:Napier
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:1987
Spouses name:Margaret Wallis
Spouses date of birth:1894
Date of marriage:1947
Place of marriage:Tauranga
Military Service:WWI, Gallipoli and Salonika
Member of Society:Tauranga Rowing Club and Tauranga A & P Society
Activities involved in:Local Golf Club
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Robert (Bert) Goulding (1886 - 1987) (WWI) by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License