Ernest Leslie Gossage was born in Liverpool on 3rd February 1891. His father, Ernest Frederick, was involved in the soap manufacturing business which William Gossage had established in Widnes in 1850. They were one of the major soap producers of the time, responsible for about half of all soap exports from the UK. His mother was Emily Gladys, and at the time of his birth the family home was 31 Marmion Road L17. By the end of the century they had moved to a large mansion called Beechside in Beech Lane L18. (The house still stands and is now Beechside Residential Care Home).
Generally known by his second name, Leslie, he was educated at Rugby School and Trinity College Cambridge. He joined the University Officer Training Corps and unusually was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery whilst still a first year student. No doubt he could have found a rewarding place in the family business but on graduating in 1912 he embarked upon a career as a professional soldier.
When the First World War broke out he served initially as a second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery before being seconded to the Royal Flying Corps on 12th May 1915, having gained his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate on 10th March. By September 1915 he had reached the rank of captain, then major in 1916 and Lieutenant-Colonel in 1917. He transferred to the RAF when it was formed in April 1918 being appointed a staff officer in the Directorate oof Operations and Intelligence. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1916 and was mentioned in dispatches on four occasions during the war. In 1919 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
He continued to serve after the war, promoted to Group Captain in1928, Air Commodore in 1932 and Air Vice Marshal in 1936, in 1930 he served as Air Attaché in Berlin. He was made a CB in 1937 and knighted in 1940. He served throughout World War Two, mainly as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of RAF Balloon Command (1940-44). He retired in 1946 but died just a few years later, aged 58, on 8th July 1949.
He married Eileen O’Brien in 1917 and they had two sons. Terence Leslie Gossage joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, retiring as a Major. The younger son, Peter Leslie Gossage, became an RAF pilot like his father. He was killed on 31 May 1940.
The Gossage family home athe time of his birth.
The Gossage home from c.1900 as it appears today.
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