Albert Harding, Private 49624, 13th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 21st October 1916 in Somme, France, aged 28
Albert Harding was born on 5th August 1888 and baptised on 20th November 1889 at Christ Church, Macclesfield, the son of (Mary) Eva and George Harding, a labourer of 22 Shaw Street, Macclesfield.
In 1891, Albert was living at that address with his parents and older brothers Thomas (15), Ernest (7) and William (4).
By 1901, the family had moved to 3 Lyon Street, Macclesfield, and twelve year old Albert was living there with his parents and brothers Ernest and William.
Albert married Ethel May Houselander at Christ Church, Macclesfield on 26th March 1910, and in 1911 the couple were living with their six month old son Harry at 13 Lyon Street, Macclesfield – the home of Ethel’s mother, Sarah Jane Houselander. Albert was employed in the cotton industry as a ring doubler, and his wife was a silk bow maker. Albert and his family later moved to 7 Back Paradise Street, Macclesfield.
On 13th November 1915, Albert enlisted in Macclesfield with the 7th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, receiving service number 4083. His service records show that he was 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 120 pounds and had a 34 inch chest. He was vaccinated in infancy and had four vaccination marks on his left arm. At the time of enlistment he was employed as a cotton doubler at Clarence Mill, Bollington, and lived at 7 Back Paradise Street. His eyes were tested on 23rd June 1916; this showed that he was slightly short-sighted.
Albert was drafted to France on 7th September 1916 and transferred to the 13th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment on 16th September, when his service number was changed to 49624.
In October 1916, the 13th Cheshire Regiment formed part of the 74th Brigade in the Somme region of France, and on 20th October they took up position in Hessian trench. The following day an attack was made on the enemy in Regina trench near Thiepval, going ‘over the top’ at 12.06 after the usual bombardment. The following is an extract from the 13th Battalion’s war diary for the day:
“The whole Bn. went over and entered the enemy’s trenches, drove back the Germans, took & claim about 250 prisoners, captured a machine gun, one party advancing well forward, put a German field gun out of action but was unable to bring it back, consolidated the position and were finally relieved at 6pm on the 22nd instant. Numerous congratulatory telegrams were received.”
Casualties for the day were 125 wounded (7 officers and 118 other ranks) and 58 missing (2 officers, 56 other ranks). Albert Harding was one of the missing men and was later assumed to have lost his life during the attack.
Albert’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Courier of 9th December 1916:
ROLL OF HONOUR – PRIVATE A HARDING
Mrs Harding, of 27 Chester Road, has received official intimation that her husband, Private A Harding, of the Cheshire Regiment, was killed in action on October 21st.
Twenty-eight years of age, the deceased soldier was the son of the late Mr George and Mrs Harding, of Shaw Street, Macclesfield, and enlisted about twelve months ago. He had only been in France about six weeks when he met his death. Prior to enlisting he had been employed as a cotton doubler at the Clarence Mill, Bollington. He was a regular attendant at Christ Church, Macclesfield, where a memorial service was held on Thursday night.
Private Tom Harding, a brother of the deceased, is with the Cheshires in Egypt. He fought in the South African campaign, gaining two medals and five bars, and volunteered for service at the outbreak of the present war. He was wounded in France and on recovering was drafted to Egypt. Another brother, Mr Wm. Harding, served eight months in the Cheshire Regiment, and was then discharged on medical grounds.
Private Albert Harding has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel Ref. Pier and Face 3 C and 4 A of the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Albert Harding.
Locally, Private Albert Harding is commemorated on the Macclesfield Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael’s Church, Christ Church and Christ Church School war memorials, and on the Clarence Mill, Bollington roll of honour.
Brother of Tom Harding, who served in the South African wars and served in WWI with the Cheshire Regiment as Private 10137; and of William Harding, who served with the Cheshire Regiment as Private 4169 and was discharged from the Army on 12th August 1916 due to ill-health.
Thanks to Sally, granddaughter of Albert Harding, for providing photos and information to supplement this research.