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In the 1901 census the Wardle family live at 5 Devonshire Street Bolton. The parents, Thomas aged 51yrs was a machine maker in an iron foundry, his wife of 13 years was Alice, (nee Newton) a housewife aged 47 yrs and at this time the children were: Bertha 13, Elizabeth Ann 10, William 8, James 5, twins Alice and Thomas born in 1899, the death of both twins is recorded in 1902.

By the time of the next census return in 1911, the family are at the same address with an additional family member Maggie aged 5. The rest of the children are now of working age and were all employed in the cotton industry, William is recorded as a piecer. Prior to the war he was working as a side piecer at the Brownlow Fold Mill of Messrs Richard Harwood & sons Ltd and the family were now living at 275 Waterloo Street in Bolton.

He was aged 22yrs 11 months and 5’5” in height when he enlisted at Bolton as Pte 7913 into the 4/5th Battalion L.N.L. Regt (T.F.) on 11th December 1915, he named his father as his NOK and was mobilized on 5th February 1916.

He began his initial training and served on home service for the next year, and was promoted to unpaid L/Cpl on 23rd October 1916. The battalion left the training area of Blackdown on the 11th February 1917 and marched to Farnborough where they entrained for Folkestone.

He sailed for France arriving at Boulogne on 13th February 1917, a week later he was promoted as paid L/Cpl. Almost immediately the battalion were sent up to the trenches, where they received their first casualties.

By March they had been posted to the Fleurbaix sector where they remained until August then moved onto Armentieres. On the 18th September they were sent to a resting area were they trained for the forthcoming attack being planned for October. By the 19th of that month they were moved to Proven ready to partake in the operations for the third battle of Ypres, the proposed 57th Division attack had a front extending from Ypres – Roulers railway to Poelcappelle.

The second battle of Passchendaele was the culmination attack for the third battle of Ypres in Flanders.

Attack of the 26th October 1917: (extract from the 4/5th bn war diary).
At 05.40 hrs our barrage fell and the battalion moved forward heading now 25 -50 yards behind the barrage. At 05.45 hrs a light enemy barrage dropped behind the original front line, this continued until 07.45hrs.

Enemy aircraft to the number of 14 machines repeatedly flew over our troops at a low altitude and inflicted several casualties.

At 07.20am about 100 men appeared from the vicinity of DAVOUST FARM with the object apparently of delivering a counter attack. The men were totally disorganised and in no formation for attack when they advanced toward VAN DYCK FARM. Some wore steel helmets some soft caps, all wore greatcoats, none wore equipment and many had no rifles. They were easily dispersed with Lewis gun and rifle fire and their casualties are estimated at about 40.

8 pigeons were taken forward 4 were killed and 2 utilized. Communications with Battalion HQ was almost impossible by runners owing to enemy snipers, many runners being shot down in an attempt to get back with reports.

The going was difficult all shell holes were full of water and muddy due to heavy rain which fell from midday. The men’s Lewis guns and rifles rapidly became useless despite breech covers, owing to the mud. After two days and two nights the men were exhausted and reduced in NCO’s, for these reasons it was considered necessary to withdraw.

The 4/5th Bn part in the battle thus came to a conclusion they had received heavy casualties due to accurate enemy machine gun fire.

On 1st November 1917 he was confirmed as substantive corporal.

He appears in the regimental war diary in November 1917 in a list of 19 soldiers of the battalion awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty, for their actions on the 26th October 1917.

It may be safe to assume that when reading the War Diary extract above and the below newspaper item in tandem, that Cpl Wardle’s MM was for the action near to Davoust Farm.

His battalion was amalgamated with the 1/5th Bn on 31st January 1918 and from February Wardle appears with his new battalion. Within the war diary are a number of Battalion Training Day Orders where he is found as the ‘D’ company Lewis Gun instructor during range practices.

The award of his Military Medal was published in the London Gazette of 23rd February 1918. This and the following gazette contained the names of 66 individuals of the 5th Batt L.N.L. awarded the MM during this battle for varying incidents of bravery in the field.

On 27th February 1918 together with other recipients he was presented with the MM medal riband at a parade held on the parade ground at Cottes with much ceremony. The band played the soldiers onto the parade ground, all uniforms had to be smart, all belts tightened, caps had to be worn properly and all badges and buttons polished. To make sure that all went according to plan, there had been a rehearsal the previous day.

The Bolton Journal & Guardian of Friday 26th July 1918 had the following:

Bolton Soldiers Honoured.

Three local soldiers were on Saturday at a gathering in the Town Hall when the Mayor (Ald. Knowles Edge JP) pinned on their breasts their military awards. He had that morning to present 3 medals to Bolton soldier sons. The Military Medal was presented to Corp Wm Wardle Loyal North Lancashire Regiment who enlisted on February 5th 1916 and went to France on February 12th 1917. He is a Lewis Gunner and was in an engagement at Ypres in October 1917 where he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery and devotion to duty whilst in command of a Lewis Gun section. He broke up an enemy counter attack, repaired his gun under a heavy enemy barrage and got into action again.

He spent some time in hospital on the 12th June 1918 he was sent home to England, where he spent a month in hospital from 14th June. After initial treatment he was taken on strength of ‘J’ Coy Command Depot at Heaton Park, near Manchester, a rehabilitation centre for soldiers at the time. Not long after on 17th August he was diagnosed with an abscess of the axilla (armpit) and scabies which required another 69 days hospitalisation. After this period he was deemed fit for transfer on 24th October to the Ashton under Lyne Hospital for 20 days for further treatment of the condition.

He had been absorbed into the 3rd Battalion and in November he was posted to Felixstowe where he stayed with the regimental depot from 9th January 1919 until he took his discharge from the army.

Besides the Military Medal he was also awarded the British war and victory medals for his services in France and Flanders.

His name is on the Roll of Honour at St James’ Church, Bolton.

Garry Farmer
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