Henry James Harding

Date of birth: Q4 (Oct-Dec) 1875
Place of birth: Fawley, Southampton
Service No.: 124685
Rank: Pioneer
Regiment: Royal Engineers
Battalion: 6th Labour
Died: 24th March 1917 aged 42 years
Death location: Etaples, France


Life before the war
Henry was born in 1875 in Fawley, Southampton to parents Charlotte (nee Bunday) and George.  Charlotte was born in 1843 and George was born in 1842, both  in Fawley.  They married in September 1866 and had four children, including Henry who was the youngest.

The 1881 census shows that the family moved from Fawley to Northwood on the Isle of Wight and lived at 2 Kings Cottage for several decades.  Henry’s father was a Farm Carter.  The 1891 census records that Henry himself worked as a Farm Labourer at the age of 15.

Henry’s older siblings were:

Mary Ann born in 1867.  Moved to the Isle of Wight and married Charles Elkins on 16th January 1887.  Died in September 1938.

Annie Marie born in 1869.  Married Stephen Andrew Smith on 25th December 1891.  Died in April 1902.

John Charles born in 1871.  Married Alice Maud Long in 1892.  John’s occupation was a Farm Carter.  He died 27th January 1931.

Henry’s father died in early 1908 and his mother in December 1928.

On the 9th March 1895 Henry married Elizabeth Jane Spencer and they had eight children together.  The 1901 census shows that Henry had moved back to Portswood, Southampton and worked as a Farm Carter, whilst the 1911 gives his employment as Builder Carter.

Henry and Elizabeth’s children 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.

Arthur George born 1st March 1897 in West Cowes.  Died 20th November 1914.

Ernest Edward born 1899 in Southampton.  He 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.  He 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.  He died in 1982.

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

Henry’s wife Elizabeth died 28th April 1943 on the Isle of Wight.


War Service
In October 1915 at the age of 40 Henry enlisted in the army as a Royal Engineers Pioneer.

The RE’s role in the war was to maintain the roads, railways, water supply, bridges and transport – allowing supplies to the armies. They operated the railways and inland waterways, maintained wireless, telephones and other signalling equipment, making sure communications existed.

On the 18th March 1917 Henry’s wife received a telegram which read:

‘Regret to inform you, Officer Commanding hospital, Etaples, France telegraphs 17 Mar 124685 Henry J Harding R.E, dangerously ill spotted fever.  Regret permission to visit him cannot be granted

The War office shortly received another telegram dated 18th March informing them that Henry had suspected Cerebro Spinal Fever.

Henry died on the 24th March 1917 at 24 Gen Hospital, Etaples from his illness.

A letter to the Regimental Paymaster in Chatham dated April 1917 states that in casualty list C.1153 Henry in fact died from Cerebro Spinal Meningitis on the 24th March and not Cerebro Spinal Fever.  A letter was then posted to Henry’s wife on the 10th April to inform her of this new information, although all records still list his cause of death as being Spinal Fever.

Henry was buried at the Etaples Military cemetery in France.  Grave ref no. XXII.C.15.

Henry was entitled to the 1914-15 star and the Victory medal.

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

Harding H.J, Sapper, R.E
He volunteered in October 1915, and in the same month was drafted to the Western front, where he was engaged in road making in various sectors.  Owing to an illness he was sent to hospital, but died from the effects.
56, Winchester Road, Shirley Southampton

Henry’s son Arthur George was a Royal Field Artillery gunner during WWI but was killed in action in 1914.  Please select the link to Arthur George 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 Henry’s second oldest son, 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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