Lance Serjeant 9988 Joseph Harding

Killed in Action on Monday, 28th August 1916, age unknown.
Commemorated on Pier and Face 4 A of Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

1st Bn., Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 22nd Brigade of 7th Division.

Son of Charles and Elizabeth Harding.
Born: Oldbury, Enlisted: Birmingham, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 6th October 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/789206/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
12 Bell Fold, Oldbury, Worcs.
Charles Harding (60, Canal Boatman, born Middlesex), his wife Elizabeth (46, Washerwoman, born Tipton) and their 5 children: Alice (17, Shoemaker, born Tipton), Edward (15, Canal Boat Boy, born Oldbury), Joseph (10, born Oldbury), Arthur (8, born Oldbury), and Maggie (6, born Langley).

By 1911 both parents had died, Arthur and Margaret were living with their married sister Alice Hull at 49 Farm Road, Langley Green. Joseph had joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

1911 Census
2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Roberts Barracks, Quetta, Baluchistan, India.
Private Joseph Harding, Single, age 22, born Oldbury, Worcestershire, Absent at time of census.

Personal Data

It is certain that the J. Harding recorded on the Tipton Library Memorial is Joseph Harding of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (RWF). The 'Staffordshire Roll of Honour' shows 'J. Harding Quarter Master Sergrant, Royal Welsh Fusiliers'. It is less certain why he appears on the memorial as all Joseph's connections seem to be with Oldbury rather than Tipton. Possibly one of Joseph's relatives was living in Tipton and put his name forward for commemoration. He is also recorded in the excellent book "The Fallen of Oldbury, Langley and Warley 1914-1918", unfortunately they also have no personal information.

Joseph Harding was a regular Soldier at the outbreak of war and landed in France with the 7th Division (the 'Immortal Seventh') on 6th October 1914. Before his death he would have seen action at 1st Ypres, Neuve Chappelle, Aubers Ridge, Loos, and Mametz on the 1st Day of the Somme. Joseph Harding was killed in the latter stages of the Battle of Delville Wood which continued from 15th July to 3rd September.

Action resulting in his death

The battle for Delville Wood had commenced on 14th July 1916, and by the last week in August the wood was still not completely in British control. Its capture was essential before the impending battle of Flers/Courcellette when tanks were to be used for the first time.

On the evening of 26th August the 1st Battalion RWF took up position on the Eastern edge of Delville Wood in an area known as 'The Brewery'. They took over part of Hop Alley which entered Delville Wood, and the adjacent Beer Trench. On the morning of 27th August, RWF bombers began fighting for the possession of Ale Alley, where it entered Delville Wood.

A bitter struggle followed and after two hours the Fusiliers had gained about 30 yards but were held up by machine-gun fire. From Hop Alley they had also pushed North for about 90 yards and for a rather less distance East along Vat Alley, while about 50 prisoners had been taken. Further efforts to gain ground in Ale Alley were unsuccessful, though they tried rushing it after a barrage of rifle-grenades. The RWF were greatly impeded by German shelling, which inflicted many casualties.

Over the next three days the 1/RWF gained about 170 yards in Ale Alley by bombing. On the night of the 29th/30th, they were relieved from the front-line by the Queen's Regiment. During this tour the 1st RWF had just over 200 casualties of whom just over 50 were killed including Joseph Harding. Private Harding's body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

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