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No. 11 General Hospital
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No. 11 General Hospital
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Pte. Harold Charles Harding 4th (City of London) Battalion London RegimentHarold Charles Harding was born on the 14th September 1895. He lived at 58 Carlingford Rd., Wood Green, N. Tottenham and in 1907 was a Jeweller’s Assistant and talked of sleeping under the counter in the shop.
Harold enlisted into the Territorial Force (TF) at 112 Shaftesbury Street in London on 12th August 1914. This was the headquarters of the 4th (City of London) Battalion of the London Regiment. As a volunteer, the choice of regiment was his and it appears from the fact that he reported at Shaftesbury Street that he had deliberately chosen this battalion. He joined the Army just eight days after the declaration of war. He first had to attest, which meant the he had to provide some personal details, agree the terms of engagement, swear an oath and sign acceptance. Harold said that he was single, aged 18 years and 11 months, and employed as a pawnbroker’s assistant by E. B. Saunders of 101 Upper Street. His home address was 203 Nag’s Head Road, Ponders End, which was shared with his father, given as next of kin. The next stage was a brief medical examination at which it was recorded that Harold stood 5 feet 5 ½ inches tall and had a 35 inch chest. This made him of average height and build by the standards of the day. Accepted for four years service he was made Private 2218. He would have been immediately embodied for full-time service. “Embodiment” was a term specific to the TF and the similar Special Reserve.
The 4th Londons were mobilised for full time service on 5th of August and after a few days left Shaftesbury Street to go onto duties guarding the Basingstoke to Waterloo railway. It left behind a cadre to act as a reserve and for recruitment of new men, and Harold is likely to have joined this before being sent, wholly untrained, onto these duties.
On 5th of September 1914 the battalion embarked at Southampton for garrison duty at Malta, arriving at Valetta on 14th of September to replace a regular battalion which had been recalled for war service in France. The three other battalions that were under command of 1st London Brigade (the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Londons) made the same journey. At this early stage there was no intention to send the Territorials to France; this was due to their original establishment for the purposes of home defence. By October the thinking had changed. The original terms of TF service did not oblige the man to serve overseas. Men could agree to do so, even in peacetime, by signing an additional contract known as the Imperial Service Obligation. Most men did not do this before the war, and those serving were requested to consider doing so in August and September 1914. For any unit to be sent to a theatre of war it was necessary to reach a target percentage of acceptance. Those men who did not wish to sign were separated out and returned to the reserve, which was then formed into a ‘second line’ battalion. Their places were taken by men who had signed. Harold signed the Obligation on 31st of August 1914.
He left Malta with the battalion on 2nd of January 1915, arriving at Marseilles on 6th January 1915. It is reasonable to assume that Harold moved with it and took part in its actions, although we can not tell which company he was in or whether he developed a specialist role.
Letter to Malcolm and Margaret dated 1st September 1915: "I had a chuckle at the boys jumping sky high when the gun went off. Brought back a memory when about thirty of us were marching up to the trenches in February 1915. There was not a soul about, when all of a sudden our Artillery opened up a barrage and we all threw ourselves to the ground. You couldn’t see a gun anywhere due to the expertness of the camouflage."
On 16 March 1915 Harold sustained a wound to his right foot (hospital notes say ankle). The notes give this, typically, as “GSW” meaning gunshot wound, a term which appears to have covered all manner of wounds from bullets, shell splinters, shrapnel and grenades. Six days before Harold was hit, the British First Army had launched what for that time was a large scale offensive, at Neuve Chapelle. The 4th Londons were in deep reserve at the time, being camped at Calonne-sur-la-Lys some eight miles behind the lines. Over the next two days they were ordered to the front, moving via Lestrem and Lacouture to Richebourg and entering the trenches for the first time at 7pm on 12 March. On this first tour, one officer and fourteen men became casualties.
The battalion was relieved next day, moving to Vieille Chapelle and then back to Richebourg. On 15 March the battalion suffered its first death, of a soldier killed by long range shellfire. The diary entry for next day talks about the battalion machine gun detachment going to a position at the Port Arthur Crossroads and also a trench mortar detachment being in action (a very early example indeed of something that would later become standard). We can only assume that Harold had been with one of these parties.
Letter to Malcolm dated 1st September 1975: "I believe you know I had a couple of splinters of shrapnel in my left leg, well the piece above my knee started pricking last week so I went to the Doc. He softened the skin round it and got it out. It was no larger than a pin’s head. The other piece is near my ankle so that might work its way out too. I got my first wound in March 1915 at the Battle of Newe Chappel and was in hospital for over three months as it turned to what they called a ‘running wound’. The second one I got at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. That’s 58 years ago so I certainly looked after that splinter."
Details of Harold’s evacuation and treatment in France are few, but it appears he eventually got to 11th General Hospital at Boulogne. On 14th of April 1915 Harold was returned England on the Hospital Ship St Andrew and went to one of the City of London Military Hospitals. The medical notes refer to “sequestrum” which means that some bone of his tibia had splintered away and had to be surgically removed. The length of Harold’s treatment is a little uncertain. Hospital documents say that he remained until 27th of November 1915, but another says that on 7th of October 1915 that he returned to duty. We suspect the former to be correct. Harold was posted to the 4/4th Battalion which was based at Tadworth in Surrey.
After a few weeks of training, Harold re-embarked for service in France on 1st March 1916, this time sailing from Southampton to Rouen. After going initially to a Territorial Base Depot (camp) he rejoined the battalion in the field on 17th of March 1916. Since his departure the battalion’s title had changed to the 1/4th, with the second line now being the 2/4th.
Harold was wounded for the second time on 1st of July 1916, in the very famous attack of the London Division at Gommecourt, a diversionary operation to the main opening of the Battle of the Somme. The injury was described as a graze to his left foot. One note mentions that it had been caused by a shell fragment. His evacuation route is much more detailed this time: he went at first to 2/1st London Field Ambulance, then on next day to 19 Casualty Clearing Station at Beauval then on to 2nd General Hospital at Le Havre. On 3rd July he returned to England on the ship Oxfordshire and went to the Mile End Military Hospital on Bancroft Road, which is within a short distance of home.
The injury was not serious as on 30th of July Harold returned to the 4/4th Battalion. Since his last time with the unit it had been retitled to 4th Reserve Battalion and had moved to Hurdcott on Salisbury Plain. The next part of Harold’s service is far from clear, for some details are missing. He appears to have sailed on 7th of December 1916 for service with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force for the campaign in Palestine, but even this is not certain, especially as he did go there, but in June 1917. We suspect the information is an error and he actually remained in England. The 1/4th Battalion were still in France at this time; 2/4th had been disbanded after also moving there. There is just one reference in the file to 3rd Battalion, but that was also in France. So we have something of a gap before 7th of March 1917, when Harold left the London Regiment and was transferred to the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps, which later became the Tank Corps.
On 1st of March 1917 Harold was renumbered to 280401. All troops then serving with TF units were renumbered at this time. Up to this date, each unit of the TF had its own numbering system. Inevitably this led to duplication and administrative confusion. New blocks of numbers were issued to each unit, which changed the numbers of men already serving and then began to issue numbers from its allotted block to new recruits. Harold’s number is from the block allotted to the 4th Londons. On being transferred to the Heavy Branch MGC he was renumbered again to 95661. His rank is not given but it was at this point he became a Gunner.
Harold was initially sent to the Bovington Depot, where he passed a number of tank-related training courses, passing in the use of the Lewis machine gun and 6-pounder field gun, both of which were carried in the tanks of that time.
- Note: Entries in pay book:
- 1917 8th May: Bovington Camp to join the Heavy Machine Gun Corps (later renamed the Tank Corps). Rank: Gnr.
- 28th July Tank Corps No: 302063. Pay: 1shilling 5 ½ pence per day
- 12th June until 17th April 1918: ‘in the field’.
Letters to Malcolm dated 24th January 1973 and 4th July 1975: "So you look like being posted to Whale Island, which brings back memories to me for I believe it was there that I went through a gunnery course on a six pounder. As you know, after I got my second wound in the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, and came out of hospital, I rejoined the Training Battalion on Salisbury Plain, they were asking for volunteers for the Tank Corps. In those days it was known as the Heavy Machine Gun Corps. Having had two packets, I thought the third time might be unlucky so I put two and two together and thought it would be better than being sent out to France again so I had a go and was sent to Bovington for training. I also thought there would be more protection in a tank than in the front line, but I soon changed my mind when I got sent out to Palestine and went over the top. With the infantry, if you got wounded you could make your way back to the rear, if you were able to, but with the tanks you were penned in. The old tanks were fitted with four machine guns, or two 6-pounders and the crew consisted of one officer, one driver, two gearsmen and four gunners. We each had to be ready to take over any position in case of any mishaps, so the training for the tanks in those days were to pass out driving one, the same for the six pounders and the Hotchkiss Machine Guns and the gears. If you wanted to change course, it was done by the officer with hand signals. Turn left: he would put one finger up and No.1 gearsman would stop his track and the tank would swing to the left; to turn right, he would give a V-sign and No.2 would stop his track. Driving a tank was most interesting. No matter how steep a ridge was, the nose of the tank would shoot up in the air, and as soon as it seemed to drop, you threw your clutch out and it would just glide down."
He also passed a course in the use of pigeon signally; before wireless became practical on board tanks, the pigeon was the only way of sending messages from the interior of a tank.
On 20th of March 1917, Harold was absent from an early morning parade and reported by a Corporal Harris. His commanding officer, Captain Stewart, awarded a punishment of two days confinement to camp (which also implies two days of fatigues).
Harold may have been expecting a posting to France where all of the active Heavy Branch was deployed, but was instead sent to Egypt, where a small tank force was about to be created. He disembarked from the hired transport ship Saxon at Alexandria on 20th of June 1917 and went at first to B depot at Zeitoun to prepare for service in Palestine
On 30th of June 1917 Harold was posted to E Company at Deir-el-Belah, which had been in Egypt since January 1917. He was one of nine men who arrived to join the company that day. The company comprised a squadron of machines that would have been considered obsolescent in France but ideal for operations against the Turks in Palestine.
The war diary suggests a rather tedious time, for the company remained at Deir-el-Belah until mid 1918 without anything of note happening with the exception of an action in November 1917. This was part of the break out into central Palestine after the army had finally captured Gaza.
Extract from ‘The Tank Corps’ by Major Clough Williams-Ellis M.C. and A Williams-Ellis "The Tanks that had fought in the Battle of the Somme, in the autumn of 1916, had proved successful enough for the authorities to consider that a test ought to be made of their capabilities in some other theatre of war. Accordingly a small – a very small – detachment of Tanks was sent to assist our troops in the Sinai Peninsula. Unfortunately only eight Tanks were ultimately sent, and further, “through an unfortunate error, old experimental machines were sent out instead of new ones as intended.” At The Third Battle of Gaza the tanks were concentrated in a fig grove to the rear. Here, no work being found for them, they stayed till October, being reinforced by three Mark IV machines.
General Allenby had now succeeded to the command, and there was to be another attack upon Gaza, for the town and its defences effectually barred our further advance along the coast or towards Jerusalem. We were this time to operate on a still wider front. The usual shock troops, the same three Divisions and their Tanks, were to attack nearest the coast. Next to them, a mixed force of French, Italian and West Indian troops were to make feint raids near Outpost Hill.
Opposite Gaza itself several cavalry Divisions, mounted and dismounted, were to attack, and from Hereira to Beersheba a synchronised assault was to be made by the Australians. The position was, in fact, to be turned by an extensive flanking movement.
On 23rd of October 1917, the Tanks moved up to a new station on the beach. From here, on horseback and by boat, the new area was thoroughly reconnoitred. This was the special country of cactus hedge and strong mud bank, and it had been dug a veritable labyrinth of trenches. It had been a country of small fig groves and of little irrigated gardens, and its close boundaries afforded unending cover to the enemy. However it was divided into Tank sectors, and by dint of patient toil, the Tank Commanders at last formed a more or less coherent picture of the intricacies. Tank Officers and N.C.O.s were attached to each Brigade with which they were to work, for ten days before the battle. Most of the Tanks were detailed to bring up R.E. stores, such as wire, pickets, shovels and sand bags for their infantry. These things they were to carry on their roofs.
The first phase of the attack, timed in consideration of a full moon for an hour before midnight, was to be independent of Tanks, and was to consist of an infantry attack protected by a creeping barrage. While this attack was going on, six of the Tanks were to move to their starting-points, in order to be ready to advance at 3a.m. Two Tanks were held in reserve. It will be observed that the plans, preparation and liaison were in general much more complete than the Second Battle of Gaza, but unfortunately one mistake of that battle was repeated. The six first-line Tanks were given among them no less than twenty-nine objectives to attack.
At eleven o’clock on the night of 1st/2nd of November, the first phase of the battle began. The 156th Infantry Brigade attacked Umbrella Hill, the first objective. The Turks were taken completely by surprise, there was little resistance, and even their artillery seemed too startled to fire. Unfortunately, however, the smoke of the battle and a dense haze made so thick an atmosphere that not a ray of the expected moonlight reached the combatants, and the infantry had to fight and the Tanks to manage their approach march in profound darkness. Also, when the enemy’s artillery at last woke up, it was to open a heavy fire on our back areas, where the second wave was gathering. All the Tanks, however, came safely through and were at their stations half an hour before the second zero at 3a.m. The Turkish resistance had by now stiffened, and when the Tanks and the fresh infantry advanced behind a heavy barrage it was to meet with dogged opposition.
The two Tanks detailed to the El Arish redoubt were, after a stiff fight, successful in driving the enemy out of the enclosed stronghold, and were making their way through the maze of trenches, cactus hedges and gardens beyond, when one received a direct hit and the other got ditched in the darkness. Both crews at once joined the infantry. Slowly, scrambling up the nud banks, often fighting hand to hand in the darkness, we advanced. The Turks were fighting stubbornly, but inch by inch we pushed them back. The remaining Tanks lumbered slowly on.
At last all along the coast all the objectives were taken. No.6 Tank captured Sea Post, and followed by the infantry, moved along the enemy’s trenches, crushing down the wire as far as Beach Post. It successfully attacked three other strong points and deposited its R.E. stores at the appointed place. It was again moving forward to attack a certain isolated Turkish trench when one track broke, so ending a brilliant innings. The crew went on but the Tank had to be abandoned. The two reserve Tanks both caught fire through the empty sand bags with which their roofs were loaded being set ablaze by the heat of their exhaust pipes.
The coastal attack had done its work, and the Turks’ hold upon Gaza had been loosened. The other attackers, the troops who had advanced from Beersheba, broke through the enemy’s resistance completely, and drove them back for nine miles on an eight-mile front. The battle was decisive, and after about three days’ fighting our troops at last entered Gaza."
Letter to Malcolm dated 24th January 1973 continued: "After passing out in everything we were sent to Palestine for Allenby’s Big Push, laying just outside Gaza. The name of my tank was ‘Revenge’ which was painted on the outside. I was a full corporal then. The’ Big Push’ was planned and there were only eight tanks in our sector and each one was loaded up on top with thousands of sand bags and roughly a ton of barbed wire, so that when we went over the top and took our objective, the infantry would clear the sand bags and wire from the top and consolidate the position, but us nits in my tank put the sand bags on first and the barbed wire was on top of them. As you may know, the exhaust pipe used to run over the top of the old tanks and it used to get red hot. We hadn’t gone above a couple of hundred yards when smoke started pouring in – the sand bags were blazing and Johnny Turk let us have it properly! From that day to this I shall never know how he missed a direct hit. We couldn’t abandon it as we had two or three of the boys wounded, but luck was with us as we turned back to safety. After all that lot they sent us back to France, because the tracks of the tanks couldn’t stand up to the sand of the desert."
Harold sailed from Alexandria on the hired transport ship Caledonia on 4th July 1918 and thirteen days later arrived in England. On arrival he went to the Tank Corps Depot at Wareham in Dorset. When the Heavy Branch MGC was transferred into the new Tank Corps on 27th July 1917, Harold was renumbered to 302063.
On 19th of August Harold was posted to a new unit that was being formed at Bovington, the 18th Battalion of the Tank Corps. He was not alone, for his former commanding officer and a number of comrades from E Company made the same move. On 12th of September 1918 Harold was appointed as an Acting Lance Corporal. This meant that he was given extra responsibility and pay of the appointment and wore the single chevron stripe, but was only in rank on a temporary basis. He was promoted to Acting Corporal on 26th September and confirmed in rank on 2nd October 1918. This was also the day he made what turned out to be his final journey to France, sailing once again from Southampton but this time to Le Havre.
The 18th Battalion war diary is comprehensive, describing how the battalion remained in training once in France and did not see action before the Armistice. It spent most of its time at Mirlemont and Orlencourt (north west of Arras). Harold left the unit and was posted to a depot on 12th October 1918 – the writing is not clear, possibly referring to Remy – returning to the On 24 November 1918 Harold left to go on a course at a gunnery school. Unfortunately no location is given. It appears to be while there that he was taken ill, later diagnosed as influenza and possibly a victim of the terrible killer Spanish Flu pandemic that was so rife at that time. He was admitted to 56 General Hospital at Etaples and discharged to the nearby 6 Convalescent Depot on 7th of December 1918. After a short period there and at another reception depot camp, he rejoined the battalion ten days later.
On 7th of February 1919 Harold sailed for England and demobilisation. Harold went to the No 1 Dispersal Unit at Wimbledon for the purposes of demobilisation. All soldiers were allowed to make a claim for a pension award for any medical problem that had been caused or aggravated by their military service. Harold chose not to make such a claim so we can probably assume that his injuries were giving him no further trouble. He was finally disembodied on 10th March 1919; he would have been placed into the TF Reserve and his commitment to this ended on 31st of March 1920.
Harold’s service was eligible for the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal (for leaving his native shore) and the Victory Medal (for service in a theatre of war). They were despatched automatically without the need to claim them. The British War and Victory Medals were despatched as a pair and received by Harold on 21st July 1921, and the Star on 20th December 1921.
On the 27th March 1921 he married Gwendoline Letitia Clements. Working as a Pawnbroker and Jeweller in his own shop in Edmonton. They had three children, Iris, Shirley and Malcolm. During the Second World War Harold served as a Sergeant in the Home Guard in Cheshunt which had its HQ in the Great House. He worked for the Enfield Highway Co-operative Society as Long Distance Driver for Removals, Milk Delivery and Area Milk Sales. On retirement, he moved to Malshiris, Jaywick and lived until 1979.Malcolm Harding
Pte. Robert Angus Kelly 34th Btn.Robert Kelly was my great uncle. He enlisted in June 1916 & left Sydney on 25.11.16 on board the HMAT Beltana A72 & arrived in England on 29.1.17. He crossed over to France on 22.5.17. He was wounded in action (gunshot wound to the right elbow) on October 1st 1917, spending time in the 11th & 18th General Hospitals in Camiers before being transferred to England on Nov. 5th, to the #3 Military Hospital in Canterbury.
He was discharged from hospital on December 18th & left England for home on January 24 1918. He returned to the district where he grew up, married & had 5 children. He died on October 14th 1947 in Walgett NSW.Jocelyn Cameron
Rfm. James Lord 20th Btn. Kings Royal Rifle CorpsI have been piecing together such information as I have been able to find about my father's time in the KRRC during WW1. 13051 Rifleman James Lord 20th Battalion KRRC, volunteered 27th of May 1915 and was injured 26th of April 1917. The 20th Batallion, KRRC was the pioneeer batallion of the 3rd Division at that time.
He was injured during a short interlude between two battles. There were only two men killed that day both, I think, in the same battalion so he must have been on pioneeer work at the time when he was injured by a high explosive shell somewhere in the vicinity of Monchy-le-Preux east of Arras. Possibly on road repairs on the Arras to Cambrai Road.
Due to repositioning of forces, he was picked up by a Scottish Division and taken to W15 ADS, 47th Field Ambulance and thence presumably to a CCS. This must have been where his leg was amputated since there is an interlude of three weeks before he arrives at No.11 General Hospital, Camiers on 13 May 1917. This hospital was handed over to the Americans, presumably after evacuation of patients, two weeks later. So probably his move to Camiers was awaiting repatriation and his stay must have been less than those remaining two weeks.
What I do not know, and would be grateful if anyone could tell me, or point me in the right direction, is the whereabouts of the CCS. From the Hospitals and CCSs WW1 website I think I have narrowed it down to three places which were within reasonable reach of Arras and the dates when they were operational. In order of distance from Arras they are, CCS 8 or 41 Agnez-les-Duisans, CCS 24 or 30 or 42 Aubigny-en-Artois, CCS 45 or 49 Achiet-le-Grand.
I also have a photograph of him in what is obviously a makeshift hospital ward which may be Camiers or in UK, but I have not yet been able to find that out. The photograph is mounted on card and is obviously by a professional photographer.Alan Lord
Rfm. James Lord King's Royal Rifle CorpsJames Lord served with the KRRC, I am looking for a photograph of No 11 General Hospital, Camiers at about end of April 1917.Alan Lord
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