Private Robert WARDLE


Regiment/Service:
The Queen's (Royal West Surrey
Regiment)
Unit:
7th Battalion
Service Number:
36724
Date of Death:
23 September 1918 - Killed in Action
Age:
18
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 3.


Personal History:
Robert was born in the March quarter 1900, the son of William (Lime Firms Labourer) and Hannah (née Gould) Wardle.

In 1901 (Census RG 13/3271) the family were living next door to 'The Parks Inn', Harpur Hill, Buxton. Robert had four older brothers, James, Richard Samuel and Joseph, and five older sisters, Sarah, Annie, Charlotte, Sarah and Lillie.

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21239) another daughter, Nellie, had been born, and the family had moved to 17 Side Road, Harpur Hill.
[N.B. "The Buxton Advertiser" reported that on Sunday, 14th June 1924, at the Whitsuntide, St James, Harpur Hill, Church Service, a War Memorial Tablet Flower Stand was dedicated. It had kindly been donated by Mr Laurence Wardle. So that the family and friends of the dead could lay flowers and wreaths and the wind would not blow them away. This was before the main war memorial was built. It is not clear what, if any, relative Laurence was to Robert's family. In 1924 he was aged 63 and a "Stone Mason".]


Military History:
According to the SDGW database, Robert enlisted at Derby, but unfortunately, his Service Papers have been destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid. His Medal Index Card also gives no indication when he entered the War, which tends to mean, as he did not qualify for the 1914-15 Star, was after December 1915 - not surprisingly bearing in mind he was only 18 when he died.

Robert's Battalion, the 7th (Service) Battalion, The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), had formed at Guildford in September 1914 as part of K2 (Kitchener's Second New Army). It immediately came under the command of the 55th Brigade, 18th (Eastern) Division. Embarkation for France began on the 24th July 1915 and units assembled near Flesselles, completing concentration there five days later.

Bearing in mind his age, Robert would have enlisted late in the War, and had probably only been with his Battalion a short time when he was killed. During The Battle of Albert, 21st - 23rd August 1918, (a phase of the Second Battles of the Somme) 18th (Eastern) Division, part of Rawlinson's Fourth Army, captured the Tara and Usna hills near La Boisselle and re-took Trones Wood. The Second Battle of Bapaume, 31st August - 3rd September, was also an engagement where Robert might have seen action.

The Battles of the Hindenburg Line began on the 12th September 1918, and the Division was again in action - at The Battle of Epéhy, on the 18th September, and The Battle of the St Quentin Canal, 29th September - 2nd October. Robert was killed in action between these two major engagements.

For the greater part of August and early September 1918 the 18th Division had been fighting daily and incessantly and had crossed the River Aisne and the Canal du Nord. It had captured Albert Tara and Usma Hills, the craters at La Boiselle, Montauban, Bernafay and Leuze Woods. The whole of the country up to 17 miles east of the Canal du Nord had also been taken. In addition, 2464 prisoners and 321 guns and machine-guns had been captured.

By the 12th September the Division had advance a further 5 miles, taken 28 towns and villages and the number of prisoners had increased to over 7300 (including 146 Officers). Of the 18 German Divisions encountered, 17 had had to be withdrawn from the line.

The Battalion War Diary for the day Robert died is typical for a day in the forward trenches, and reads:

"  2.20 a.m. Relief complete. Disposition of Companies as follows: 'A' Coy in Trench in "Z" Copse. 'B' Coy in Doleful Post. 'C' Coy in slit trenches between Doleful and Duncan Posts. 'D' Coy in Ken Lane.
  2.45 a.m. Enemy snipers active and intermittent shelling with gas and H.E. lasting till 5.10 a.m.
  6.30 a.m. Visual Signalling Stations established for communication with forward posts.
  8.15 a.m. Companies report quiet night. …..
  9.30 a.m. Orders received from Brigade to make good Fleet Street.
10.00 a.m. 2.Lt. Lockhart proceeded to Duncan Post to arrange for this movement.
11.15 a.m. 2/Lt. Hoile ordered to push out a patrol into the Southern end of Fleet Street, and to work North reporting to Doleful Post.
  2.50 p.m. Enemy reported to be making their way in twos and threes with boxes towards Egg Post.
  3.45 p.m. 2.Lt. Hoile reports Fleet Street clear.
  4.00 p.m. Artillery send to ask if we need any help. Reply in the negative returned.
  4.20 p.m. Orders issued to O.C. 'C' Coy to make good at dusk all ground in his sector W. of 140 metre contour.
  6.30 p.m. Royal Berks on left in liaison with O.C. 'B' Coy in Doleful Post.
  7.30 p.m. Operation Orders received re attack by West Kents on Egg Post and Fag Support.
  9.20 p.m. 2.Lt Lockhart went to Duncan & Doleful Posts to arrange for harassing fire during the attack by R.W. Kents and the advance by Buffs on the right.
10.40 p.m. Guides sent to meet R.W. Kents to guide them to forming up line, track running N. of Doleful Post. 'B' Coy provided a covering party for this forming up by placing 2 platoons in the following formations: ….. " [followed by Map Co-ordinates]

Pt. Norman Waghorn was the only other member of the 7th Battalion to die on the same day as Robert, 23rd September. They were killed during one of the enemy actions described above - maybe by sniper or shell fire, or during Lt. Hoile's patrol. Pt. Waghorn, like Robert, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, which bears the names of over 9,000 men who fell in the period from the 8th August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois. However, the Battalion had 37 others killed in action between the 18th and 21st.




Sources:
· I am grateful to 'The War Graves Photographic Project' for the photo of Robert's name on the Memorial.
· "7th Battalion, The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment" - War Diaires

Link to CWGC Record
The Vis-en-Artois Memorial
Pt. Wardle's name on the Memorial
poppy
...... more of the War Diary and the C.O.'s Reports for these actions