Tuesday, May 17, 2016

L/6273 Private Frederick John Harding, 4th Middx

L/6273 Private Frederick John Harding was probably a patient at Hickwells and may have transferred to Beechland House in June 1916. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album reads:

L/6273 Private F Harding 4th Batt Middlesex Regiment

Wounded at Freicourt [sic] on 15 April 1916

God made little Bees and little Bees made Honey
The Patients do the work and the Sisters get the money.

According to his attestation paper, Frederick Harding was born in 1882 at Hayes, Middlesex although his Conduct Sheet lists his place of birth as Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire.

He enlisted with the Middlesex Regiment on 20th November 1900 at Hounslow, giving his religion as Church of England, his trade as park keeper and gardener and his age as twenty years. Again though, his attestation paper gives his trade as labourer and his age as 18 years and one month. He was five feet, seven inches tall, had fair hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.

On 23rd November 1900 he was posted to the 3rd Middlesex Regiment but a little over a year later, was in trouble, forfeiting three days’ pay after absenting himself from the Military Tattoo at Woolwich in December 1901. That Boxing Day he was confined to barracks for ten days for not complying with an order but he had broken out of barracks on New Years’ Eve and remained at liberty until the 7th January when he was again apprehended, confined to barracks for seven days and deprived of eight days’ pay.

From March to September 1902 he was stationed on the island of St Helena where he had again been in trouble for not complying with an order, insolence to an officer and absenting himself from another Tattoo.

A three month spell in South Africa followed, followed in turn by a posting to India in December 1902. Despite a further transgression – insolence to Sergeant Greenaway – in January 1903, Harding appears to have liked life in the British Army and in June 1904 he extended his service to complete eight years with the colours. He was granted second class service pay at four shillings which was extended the following March to 1st class service pay at six shillings. In March 1905 he was granted his first Good Conduct Badge but eighteen months later he was in trouble again. In October 1906 at Mandalay, he was charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline and violence to his superior officer. His penalty was 56 days’ imprisonment and the loss of his badge (which however, was restored in December 1907). On 6th November 1908, after nearly six years in India, Frederick Harding returned to England and 15 days later was transferred to the Army Reserve.

In April 1911 Harding married Emma Orange at Dalston in London and the couple moved to nearby Tottenham. The following February a son, Henry William, was born. Still on the Army Reserve, but now nearing the end of his term, Harding re-engaged as a Section D Reservist and a day after war was declared he was mobilised at Mill Hill, a few miles away from his home in North London.

Initially posted to the 6th (Reserve) Battalion of the Middlesex on 11th August, he was transferred to the 4th Battalion on 7th October and two days later was in France.

On 10th March 1915 he was appointed lance-corporal (unpaid) and on 23rd June 1915 this was amended to lance-corporal (paid). On 27th September 1915 he was appointed acting corporal but less than a month later he had reverted to lance corporal and posted to the Middlesex Depot in England. He remained in England between 23rd October 1915 and 15th January 1916. On the 16th January he was again posted to the 4th Middlesex, re-joining the battalion in France.

On 31st March 1916, whilst in France, and now an acting corporal again with B Company, Harding fell out of the line of march without permission, neglected his duty whilst in charge of a fatigue party and absented himself without permission. He was charged with these offences the following day and deprived of his acting rank. On the 2nd April, he was absent from his billet from 8:30pm until 6am on the 3rd April for which he was deprived seven days’ pay.

On 15th April 1916 he sustained a gunshot wound to his left leg and was returned to England.

The War Diary of the 4th Middlesex (WO 95/2155), records the events at the time Harding was wounded in April 1916.

14th April 1916
“Battalion relieved the 9th KOYLI in the trenches. This new sector of the line is a marked contrast to the Trenches which the battalion have been used to. The country is hilly and the ground chalky, and therefore though harder to dig than Flanders mud. The revetting of trenches and the enormous quantity of sandbags which had to be utilised for that purpose and conspicuous by their absence. The nature of the soil however lends itself to mining enterprises which fact is duly realised by both sides… The relief was complete by 6pm… Our artillery reply very quickly at all times and respond on principle to any annoyance from the enemy… In our sector [of] the line, the TAMBOUR, Rifle Grenades are the chief arrivals and cause of 80% of our casualties. Our casualties were 1 killed and 4 wounded the first night owing to this weapon.”

15th April 1916
“During morning rain fell. The enemy were again busy with Rifle Grenades and Trench Mortars. We replied vigorously both by artillery and grenades. Sniping is very scarce here but our snipers are active and claim 1 hit. Our casualties during day were 1 killed 1 wounded.”

Frederick recovered sufficiently to be posted back to his regiment and, after further minor misdemeanours (including absenting himself from yet another tattoo in December 1917), he was discharged from the army on 18th January 1918 as no longer physically fit for war service. He had completed 17 years and 60 days in the British Army.

Inage, courtesy National Army Museuam.

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