Able Seaman J/31108 William Henry Harding

Died Home on Wednesday, 10th November 1920, age 24.
Buried in Grave B. Ded. 160A. at Tipton Cemetery, Staffordshire, United Kingdom.

Royal Navy, H.M.S. "Victory.".

Son of Thomas and Kate Harding, of 2, Boscobel St., Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Unknown, Resident: Tipton.

Pre-war naval man.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Naval Papers transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because his grave was found in Tipton Cemetery.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/395345/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
54 Constitution Hill, Dudley, Worcs.
Thomas Harding (34, Carpenter, born Tipton), his wife Kate Eliza (28, born Dudley), and their 5 children: Frederick Ernest (7, born Tipton), Herbert Charles (5, born Tipton), William Henry (4, born Tipton), Winifred (3, born Tipton), and Dorothy May (4 months, born Dudley).

1911 Census
2 Boscobel Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Thomas Harding (44, Carpenter, born Tipton), his wife Kate Eliza (38, born Dudley), and their 7 children: Frederick (17, Moulder's Labourer, born Tipton), Herbert (15, Moulder's Labourer, born Tipton), William (14, Errand Boy, born Tipton), Winifred (13, Nurse Girl - Domestic, born Tipton), Dorothy (10, School, born Dudley), Gilbert (9, School, born Dudley), and Hilda (3, born Tipton).

Personal Data

William Harding volunteered for the Royal Navy on 6th October 1912 for a period of 12 years. He was a small man, just 5 feet 1¾ inches tall with a 32-inch chest. He had brown hair, blue eyes, a fresh complexion and scars on his nose, thumb and right shin.

He served at a number of training establishments, and advanced from Boy to Ordinary Seaman in November 1914. In January 1915 he joined HMS Minotaur based in Cromarty Forth, and became an Able-Bodied Seaman in July 1915. Minotaur participated in the Battle of Jutland, but at the very fringes and did not fire her guns during the battle. In June 1917, he was transferred to HMS Vernon which was a torpedo training school. From there he was sent to the newly built battle cruiser HMS Caradoc.

His naval career took a turn for the worse when it appears he went absent without leave, the records show "Run Caradoc 22 February 1918". On 31st July Birmingham police took him into custody and he awaited a military escort. He was sentenced to 90 days imprisonment.

William asked to be released from prison to join the army. This seemed to be agreed but never happened, as he was still with the Navy when he was 'invalided' out of the service on 31st January 1920.

Action resulting in his death

The Tipton Herald article says that his service in 'Mystery Ships' brought on the complaint from which he died. Mystery Ships were ships disguised to look like cargo vessels or trawlers to encourage U-boats to approach, and then to reveal their hidden armaments and try and sink the U-boat. This was a highly stressful posting, and caused physical and mental problems. William's papers do not show such service, but as this was 'hush-hush', this is not surprising.

His burial in Tipton Cemetery was not a military funeral, but his brother Herbert, who was serving with the Worcesters in post-war Germany, was able to attend and play the Last Post at the ceremony.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald November 13th 1920
A Pathetic Incident.
The occasion was observed in all the great works and factories, and what took place at Palethorpes was, perhaps, indication of many other works. Here the whole of the workpeople, office staffs, heads of departments and employers assembled in the covered yard. When the siren announced 11 o'clock, Corporal Harding, drummer in the Worcesters, sounded the "Last Post." Then for two minutes all stood in silence, and at the expiration of the time Corporal Harding sounded the reveille, and work was resumed.

A rather pathetic circumstance attended the sounding of the bugle by Corporal Drummer Harding. He is with the army of occupation on the Rhine, and had obtained leave to come home and see his sick brother, one of the sailor heroes of the war, whose ship was torpedoed in action, and who died a few hours before his soldier brother was called into Palethorpes. So that he may be said to have sounded the "Last Post" for his own brother, as well as the nation's tribute to our glorious dead. Both soldier and sailor boys are the sons of Mr J. Harding of Boscobel Street, an employee at Palethorpes, who has for many years been a most enthusiastic member of the Tipton Friendly Societies Committee and who has received the warmest sympathy in the great loss he has sustained.

Tipton Herald November 20th 1920
Many were disappointed that a military funeral was not accorded to the late Mr W.H. Harding, Boscobel Street, whose death we recorded last week. The father of the deceased sailor wishes to say that it was no fault of the Federation who wanted a military funeral, but the sole wish of himself. For all he wanted was his brother from Germany to sound the "Last Post" over him, which he did. I think this creates a precedent, for I do not think that it has occurred before, for a soldier to come over from the Regular Army to sound the "Last Post" over his own brother an ex-sailor.

Mr Harding joined the Navy before the war, when recruits had to be sound in every shape and form. He went out with the Grand Fleet on H.M.S. Minotaur, and was in the battle of Jutland, where he got knocked about a bit, and later volunteered for the Mystery Ship. This service brought on the complaint from which he died. The esteem in which he was held was shown by the numerous wreathes and letters which were sent. Of his brothers, Corporal Drummer H.C. Harding is still serving, having joined up again after being discharged. The other brother, F. Harding, was discharged after the armistice, and is still under the doctor's hand's suffering from wounds. He served in Gallipoli, France and Salonica. His father, an old soldier of the Worcester Regiment, served in the South Africa war.