Arthur George Harding

Date of birth: 1st March 1897
Place of birth: West Cowes, Isle of Wight
Service No.: 72304
Rank: Gunner
Regiment: Royal Field Artillery
Battalion: 51st Battery
Died: 20th November 1914 aged 20 years
Death location: Ypres, Belgium

 

Life before the war
Arthur was born on the 1st March 1897 in West Cowes on the Isle of Wight to parents Elizabeth Jane (nee Spencer) and Henry James .  His mother Elizabeth was born in 1869 in West Cowes and his father Henry was born in 1875 in Fawley, Southampton.  They married on the 9th March 1895 and had eight children including Arthur, who was the oldest son.

Arthur’s siblings – 3 sisters and 4 brothers – were:

Ethel born 3rd August 1895, West Cowes.  Worked as a domestic servant in Shirley Road, Southampton at the age of 15.  Date of death unknown.

Ernest Edward born 1899 in Southampton.  Died in 1925.

Elizabeth Victoria May born 7th August 1901 in Southampton.  Married Norman C Doel in 1928.  Died in 1987.

Harold Henry born 14th July 1903 in Southampton.  Died in 1943.

Nellie Louisa Annie born 14th December 1904 in Southampton.  Married James Edward Fogarty in 1933.  Died in 1990.

Harry William born 30th July 1907 in Southampton.  Died in 1982.

Willie Thomas born 3rd September 1910 in Southampton.  Married Winifred M Charles in 1934.  Died in 1941.

The 1901 census shows that the family had relocated from the Isle of Wight to Southampton. In the 1911 census the family was living in Winchester Road, Shirley, and Arthur was working as a Milk Boy at the age of 14.

Arthur’s mother Elizabeth died on 28th April 1943 on the Isle of Wight.

 

War Service
Arthur was a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery 51st  battery, 39 brigade.  The Royal Field Artillery was responsible for the medium calibre guns and howitzers deployed close to the front line and was reasonably mobile.  During the First World War a whole new form of artillery was developed to meet the unusual conditions of war on the Western Front: the trench mortar.  The lighter weapons being manned by the infantry, the Royal Field Artillery, provided the manpower for the heavier mortars.

The National roll of the Great War 1914-1918 states:

Harding, A.G., Gunner R.F.A
He was serving at the outbreak of war, and was soon sent to the Western front, where he took part in the earlier engagements, but was killed in action on the 20th November 1914, during the first battle of Ypres.  He was entitled to the 1914 star, and the general service and victory medals.
56, Winchester Road, Shirley Southampton

 

The first battle of Ypres
This battle took place between October and November 1914.  After an Allied victory in the Battle of the Marne in September 1914 a ‘race to the sea’ began as each army attempted to outflank the other on their way north.  The race ended in Ypres in Belgium, an ancient city which the Germans had planned to use as a route to the French and Belgian ports.  On 19th October 1914 German and Allied forces began a fierce battle to take control of the city.  The fighting would continue until the 22nd November when the onset of winter weather forced the battle to halt.  Although a victory for the Allies the battle claimed the lives of 7960, wounded 29562 and 17873 were reported missing.  It also marked the start of four years of trench warfare.

Arthur was killed in action on the 20th November 1914, shortly before the first battle of Ypres was halted.  He was buried at the Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, West Vlaanderen in Belgium.  Grave ref no. III. H. 27/34.  Although he is recorded as being 20 years old when he died, Arthur’s birth records and the 1901 and 1911 censuses would suggest he was actually just 17 years old when he lost his life.

Arthur’s father Henry enlisted in 1915 and was a Royal Engineer Pioneer in the war but died of Cerebro Spinal fever whilst in France.  Please select the link to Henry James Harding’s story to read more.

A reference is also made to a E E Harding in the national roll of the Great War which appears to be Arthur’s sibling Ernest, although no other military records have been found.  The reference reads:

Harding, E.E, Private, Labour Corps
 Joining in June 1917, he was retained on important duties with his unit, after completing his training.  He rendered valuable services but was unable to obtain his transfer overseas, and was demobilised in December 1919
56, Winchester Road, Shirley Southampton

 

Researcher: Louise Link
Published: 28th September 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

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