Military Medal : Corporal W J Harding, 14 Battalion, AIF

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Hebuterne
Accession Number REL/18373
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1918: Dernacourt
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Military Medal (Geo V). Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

History / Summary

Born at Tooborac, Victoria in 1893, William James 'Bill' Harding was working as a farm labourer when he enlisted in the AIF on 6 July 1915. After initial training he was assigned as a private, with the service number 3342, and allocated to the 11th reinforcements for 14th Battalion. He sailed from Melbourne for Egypt aboard the troopship HMAT Nestor on 11 October.

After further training in Egypt as a machine gunner Harding joined his battalion in March 1916 and was posted to D Company. The battalion moved to France at the beginning of June and first saw action at Pozieres in July. Further major engagements took place at Bullecourt in April 1917, and the German spring offensive and Battle of Amiens in 1918. Harding was not present at Bullecourt as he had been evacuated to England suffering from rheumatism at the beginning of January 1917. In May he was transferred to the newly raised 66th Battalion at Windmill Hill Camp on Salisbury Plain. The battalion was disbanded in September. Harding was promoted to lance corporal shortly before he returned to 14th Battalion in France on 21 September 1917.

In 1918 Harding was recommended for an unknown award, which was not approved, for action between 29 January and 3 February 1918. The recommendation reads: 'Whilst in the Front Line, near HOLLEBEKE. From 29th January to 3rd February 1918, this N.C.O. was in charge of the Liaison Patrol and had to cross 200 yards of very open country which was continually swept by severe Machine Gun fire. Throughout the tour of duty this N.C.O. made this extremely dangerous trip 4 times every night and maintained communication with the troops on our flanks during very critical times'. He was promoted to corporal on 2 February.

On 28 March he was again recommended for an award, this time receiving the Military Medal 'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty near HEBUTERNE, 28th March 1918. This N.C.O. carried out a daring daylight patrol with the object of reconnoitering the enemy trenches near the CRUCIFIX and estimating the damage inflicted by our Lewis-gun-fire. He secured most valuable information; a wounded prisoner; a wounded British soldier, and two enemy machine guns. Throughout the whole tour he proved himself an energetic and efficient N.C.O.'

Early in the morning of 20 August 1918, at Madam Wood near Harbonnieres in the Peronne Sector, D Company waited in a front line trench for an artillery barrage to lift. They were due to be relieved from front line duty that afternoon. Fragments from a high explosive shell burst struck Harding in the neck, severing his jugular vein. Despite medical attention he died 10 minutes later and was buried where he had fallen. A small temporary cross was erected over the grave but by the end of the war this had been lost. Harding has no known grave and is commemorated on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial.

His Military Medal was forwarded to his father in 1919. Harding's brother, Eric Richard Harding, served with 7th Battalion, AIF and survived the war.