Private Thomas Harding


8845 Private Thomas Harding, 2nd Battalion, O.B.L.I. enlisted in September 1914. He already had some military training after joining the old Oxfordshire Light Infantry Regiment in September 1897. He bought himself out for £2 in 1898, but stated later on his Attestation papers that he had served with the Grenadier Guards and left because of a ‘mis-statement as to age on enlistment'. 2nd Battalion, OBLI fought through the week-long Battle of Festubert and sustained 400 casualties, over half Battalion strength. Thomas was killed by a sniper in the final heavy fighting at Richebourg I'Avoue on 15-16/17 May 1915 in which the Battalion lost 31 dead, 182 wounded and 68 missing. He is commemorated on the Memorial at Le Touret on the Bethune-Armentieres main road, Pas de Calais (ref: Panel 26).

‘Poor Tom Harding was killed last Monday (17 May). He was shot in the back, the bullet went right through him and he was in awful pain. He had lain there an hour when I found him, but he was quite conscious. He kept saying ‘I wish I could die out of this pain'. I did my best and stayed with him to the last. He was afraid I too should get shot as it was a sniper who shot him, and he continued firing at me. I asked Tom if he would like any message sent home, but he only said there wasn't much to tell only that he had done his best. He passed away as quiet as a lamb.' (Letter from L/Cpl Harry Jones of Wheatley to Harriet Shorter, published in the Oxford Times, 19 June 1915).

Born in 1879/80, he was the third of four sons of John and Jane/Jenny Harding, and an older brother of Albert Victor Harding. In 1891 he left school, went to Horspath and became a farm labourer. In 1909, aged 29, he had married Florence Munt, widow, daughter of Andrew Gould, deceased: the 1911 Census shows the family living on Bell Lane, with Thomas' stepchildren Joe, Cyril, Richard and Florence Munt. Thomas and Florence had two children of their own: Blanche Lillian was baptised at St Mary's in 1912, and Thomas Reginald on 21 March 1915. See also references to Thomas in the Wheatley in a World at War chapter, and to him and his son Fred in the War Memorial chapter.

He had lived at 3 Bell Lane

Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
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