Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

William Harding

William Harding :

William Harding : Military Medal

Military Medal

We don't know anything about William's early life or family.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914 William felt a strong enough connection to Manchester to want to join the 4th City Battalion. This was being formed by the workers of Manchester to make sure they could serve together. He enlisted on or around the 8th September 1914 and was given the service number 12093. This unit became the 19th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and James was assigned to X Platoon in C Company.

The 19th Battalion trained at Heaton Park in Manchester until April 1915 when it moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire. It moved again to Larkhill in Wiltshire during September, and then sailed to France on the 7th November 1915.

In France the 19th Battalion trained until January 1916 when they took their place at the front near Carnoy. They stayed there until May when they moved to the Maricourt area to train to take part in the attack on the first day of the Somme Offensive.

This attack took place on the 1st July 1916. William and the 19th Battalion attacked a German position called the Glatz Redoubt that protected the village of Montauban. They successfully captured the position, although C Company took around 40 casualties during the advance. They were relieved on the 3rd.

We don't know whether William was wounded or left the 19th Battalion for another reason at any point. They continued to serve on the Somme until the end of the offensive in November.

After more fighting the 19th Battalion took part in an attack on the village of Guillemont on the 23rd. At the end of the day over 500 men, well over half the battalion, had been killed, wounded or were missing. The missing were mostly either dead or had been captured.

During August, September and October the 19th Battalion spent long periods in the front lines, but did not take part in any major operations. They still had to endure heavy German shelling, occasional attacks, and torrential rain that turned the battlefield into a sea of mud.

At some point between mid August and the end of the fighting on the Somme William carried out an act of great bravery. He was awarded the Military Medal in the London Gazette of the 22nd January 1917. Unfortunately we don't know what he did, nor can we be more specific about when it occurred.

We don't know anything about the rest of William's war service. In around mid 1917 he was transferred to the Labour Corps and was given the service number 396980. This tells us he was no longer fit enough to serve as an infantryman in the front lines. The Labour Corps carried out a wide variety of unglamorous but essential jobs, including construction, trench digging and guarding Prisoners of War. We don't know which of these jobs William had, or where he served.

William was discharged on the 21st March 1919. The rest of his life also remains a mystery. Towards the end of his life William and his wife lived at 14 Cranbrook Road in Gorton, Manchester.

William's medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in June 1965, after he had died. As well as his Military Medal, William was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council