Private Mark Clifford WARDLE


Regiment/Service:
Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment)
Unit:
1/9th (Highlanders) Battalion
(Formerly: 2/4th Battalion)
Service Number:
202032
(Formerly: Private 64414 2/4th Battalion)
Date of Death:
1 August 1918
Age:
23
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Reference:
II. D. 6.


Personal History:

Mark was born on the 28th May 1895, the only son of John Thomas (Railway Engine Stoker) and Emma (née Harrison) Wardle, at 3 Cross Street, Buxton. His parents had married in the December quarter 1894, and Mark had four half-brothers and sisters from his mother's first marriage to Arthur Richards. These were, Isaac, Ellen, May and Arthur. (1901 Census RG 13/3269)
By 1911 (Census RG 14/21233) Mark's family had moved to 37 Windsor Road, Fairfield, and he was working as a "Servant". When Mark enlisted in 1916 he was living at 51 Windsor Road and working as a "Grocer's Assistant". At that time he stood 5 ft. 7 ins. (1.70 m.) tall and weighed 8 st. 12 lbs. (56.25 kgs.). 

He was a well-known and highly respected young man, and in civil life was in the grocery business with Mr Headington of Fairfield. After the War his parents had moved again to 47 Windsor Road, Fairfield.

Military History:
Mark enlisted at Derby on the 21st August 1916 into the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), the senior line infantry regiment of the British Army, it is often referred to as "Pontius Pilate's Bodyguard". His Medal Index Card gives no date for when he was posted to France, which would have been, therefore, after 1915. Mark's Service Papers show that after Attesting on the 31st August, he was immediately admitted to the Army Reserve the next day and Mobilised on the 20th October 1916. Four days later he was posted to the 2/4th Battalion of the Royal Scots.

This Battalion (Queen's Edinburgh Rifles) had formed at Edinburgh September 1914 and moved to Penicuik in February 1915 and on to Peebles in May. In November 1915 it was attached to the 195th Brigade, 65th Division at Cambusbarron and between then and January 1916 was temporarily amalgamated with 2/5 and 2/6th to become the 19th Battalion. Another move to Essex in March 1916, where Mark joined the Battalion, before it moved on to Ireland in January 1917.

Mark clearly went to Ireland with the 2/4th Battalion as he spent 17 days in Fermoy Infirmary, from the 20th August to 6th September 1917, suffering from a "Boil on the back". Two months later, however, he was back in Scotland, and back in Hospital, spending almost three months in Edinburgh Military Hospital (15th November 1917 to 12th February 1918) being treated for "Vincent's Angina", a condition  commonly referred to as "trench mouth". Three weeks later he returned to the same hospital to be treated for "Hypertrophy of Tonsils" (chronic tonsillitis or infection). He spent 15 days this time, from the 3rd to 17th April 1918.

His Service Papers do not make clear when Mark transferred to the 1/9th Battalion, but presumably after his discharge from Hospital. However, his record was endorsed on the 26th June 1918, showing his new Service Number of 202032, and bearing in mind he was killed in action barely 5 weeks later, it must have been about this time that he moved to the 1/9th.

In August 1914 the 1/9th (Highlanders) Battalion had been based at 89 East Claremont Street, Edinburgh, part of the Lothian Brigade, Scottish Coast Defences. On the 26th February 1915 the Battalion was posted to France and landed at Le Havre and transferred to 81st Brigade, 27th Division. It transferred to 14th Brigade, 5th Division on the 24th November 1915 and on the 25th January 1916 transferred again to the Third Army Troops. On the 1st March 1916 came another transfer to the 154th Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division, and on the 6th February 1918 a further transfer to the 183rd Brigade, 61st (South Midland) Division. Just before Mark was killed came the final transfer of the Battalion, on the 1st June 1918 it transferred to the 46th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division.

During July Mark's Division came under French control and was involved in the capture of Buzancy. On the 1st August 1918 the Division attacked in the neighbourhood of the Bois d'Hartennes having been involved in about a week of continuous combat. The plan was as follows:

On the Right 46th Brigade was to attack two wooded hills on the west of the Soissons road and advance as far as Taux (capturing it). As they went they were to form a defensive flank running SE from the road.

On the Left 45th Brigade was to capture the Soissons road, then 44th Brigade was to advance through the 46th and capture the northern end of the Bois d'Hartennes linking up with a French attack from the south. 46th Brigade had 9th Royal Scots on the right, 7/8 Kings Own Scottish Borderers on the left, with the 10th Battalion, Scottish Rifles, in support. (the support units were able to move up unseen and remained hidden in fields of standing corn) 'H' hour was at 9.00 a.m. after a successful French attack.

They came under very heavy artillery and machine gun fire, in particular machine-gun fire from derelict tanks in front of 46th Brigade. Our artillery was called in to support but without success and the 9th Royal Scots on the right flank advanced only about 250 yards [230 m.] before they were stopped. 'C' & 'D' Companies of the 9th Royal Scots, which led their attack, suffered heavily.

Although the 15th Division attack was halted it tied up so much German manpower that French attacks were successful and forced the Germans to move back. The Division which was to have been relieved now went on the advance on the 2nd August and by that day's end were about 2½ to 3 miles [4 - 5 kms.] further east than their start point. The Division was eventually relieved on the 3/4th August.

The Regimental History (Major John Ewing) gives a graphic account of the action on the days Mark lost his life:

"The 9th and the 13th Royal Scots went into action on the 1st August in an 
attack on the German positions near Villemontoire. Zero was fixed at 9.00 a.m. 
when the barrage was to open, and five minutes later the infantry assault was 
to begin. The 9th Royal Scots had French troops on their right, and in order to 
preserve liaison a platoon from "B" Company was detailed to act along with these. 
The enemy was strongly entrenched on wooded hills, which "D" and "C" 
Companies were to take, after which "A" was to pass through "C" and carry 
another wood to the rear. ”D" Company and the liaison platoon assembled behind 
a hedge, and the remaining companies formed up in a quarry held by "C" 
Company.

Unfortunately our barrage was ragged and desultory, and the assailing 
companies were almost massacred by the storm of shells and machine-
gun bullets which deluged their ranks. The French troops on the right 
never stirred from their positions, and the 9th Royal Scots had no support 
in their attempt to achieve the impossible. Of the liaison platoon only two 
men returned. Captain R. M. Murray, the one unwounded officer of "D" 
and "C" Companies, rallied the few survivors, and with the help of Sergeants J. Fraser and K. M. Baird reformed them in their original positions. The quarry, being under direct hostile observation, was a death-trap, and the enemy's shells pitching into it, added greatly to the casualty list. The stretcher-bearers, conspicuous among whom were Privates Clougherty and Campbell, frequently braved the enemy's murderous fire to bring in the wounded, to prevent them from delivering their messages and reports.

The 4/5th Black Watch and the 5th Gordons were hurriedly dispatched to reinforce the weak garrison of the Royal Scots in the front line, and at 3.30 p.m. "A" Company was ordered to make another attack. The enemy's machine-gun bullets swept across No-Man's-Land like sheets of driving rain, and once again the Royal Scots, who alone ventured to essay the forlorn hope, were mown down before they had gone forward 100 yards. The casualties of the 9th Royal Scots were appalling, 120 killed, 300 wounded, and 13 missing, a total which represented about 80 per cent, of the Battalion strength, and many of their best officers were slain: of "A" Company, Lieut. F. M. Ross, 2nd Lieuts. T. H. Lawrie [No CWGC Record]W. M. RobertsonJ. C. Jackson; of "C," Lieut. J. D. Willisen [No CWGC Record], 2nd Lieut. J. M. Black; and of "D", Lieuts. T. Stevenson and D. A. Bannatyne were killed, while five officers were wounded. After nightfall the fragments of "C" and "D" Companies were relieved, but "A" and "B" remained in the line.

This attack was supported in the north by a raid on the German trenches by "B" and "C" Companies of the 13th Royal Scots; at a cost of only 19 casualties they killed at least 15 Germans, destroyed four machine - gun emplacements, and captured one prisoner.

It was no small satisfaction to the 9th Royal Scots to learn that the attacks, which had cost them so high a price in life without any apparent result, had not been in vain. By dawn, on the 2nd August, the Germans were in full retreat. The 9th Royal Scots were in reserve, while the 13th pressed on without encountering opposition to a line 500 yards east of Mesnin. On the 3rd August the Division was relieved and returned to the familiar haunts of Arras.

The French were profoundly impressed by the magnificent fighting qualities shown by the Fifteenth Division, and have given graceful proof of their appreciation by setting up on the highest point of the Buzancy plateau a monument which bears the following inscription in French : "Here the thistles of Scotland will bloom for ever among the roses of France."

The French assaults on the salient served their purpose. In a difficult situation the Germans conducted their retreat with admirable skill, but they lost many prisoners to the Allies, and their organisation was beginning to break down when on the 3rd August they retired across the Vesle. With the enemy obviously weakening, the time had come to tighten the pressure, and Sir Douglas Haig, who had carefully prepared for this opportunity, delivered on the 8th August a crushing blow on the forces in front of Amiens."

CWGC records show that 93 Officers and men of the 1/9th Battalion, including Mark, were killed in action on the 1st August 1918. However, the regimental history above says that 80% of the Battalion were casualties, the figure of 93 men is just the ones who are recorded by the CWGC to have died on that specific date and were accounted for. The figure is undoubtedly much higher when the ones who died of wounds or whose bodies were never identified etc. are taken into account.

When reporting his death 'The Buxton Advertiser' of the 12th August 1916, stated that although Mark had served in the Army for " … something like 18 months … " he had only been in France about 5 weeks. It went on to say that he had been taken ill, delaying his "… departure for the scene of hostilities, and was in hospital at Edinburgh."
.
"Pte. Wardle was taking part in an attack on a wood, and was killed by a machine gun bullet. This was on the 1st August and he was buried on the same evening."

Mark's Service Papers state that he was buried at Raperie Quarry British Cemetery, which was made by the 15th Division's burial officer on the 9th August. It contained the graves of 103 officers and men, almost all of whom belonged to the 9th Royal Scots who fell on the 1st and 2nd August 1918. This Cemetery was 400 yards [365 m.] to the East of Raperie British Cemetery, when he now lies. This Cemetery was made, after the Armistice, by the concentration of graves from the battlefield and from several smaller burial grounds nearby.

Sources:
· I am grateful to James and William Revels of 'The Great War Forum' for information from the Battalion and Divisional Histories.
· "The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) in 1914-1918". The British Army in the Great War.- Chris Baker.  
· "The Royal Scots 1914-1919" - Major John Ewing (pps. 652 - 5) Original published 1925. [ISBN 1843423588].
·  The Buxton Advertiser - 12 August 1916
Link to CWGC Record
Mark Wardle's Grave
poppy
Buzancy August 1918
Map of the Buzancy Area - August 1918
Pt Mark Clifford Wardle