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John Moss Ward (1893-1972)

Hartlepool man served with 18th, 21st and 3rd DLI in Egypt, France and India

It is not known why John Moss Ward chose to enlist on the 18 January 1915. The early January weather had been foul, throwing heavy rain and strong gales at the north east. Temperatures plummeted. Ten days before Christmas, a German naval bombardment had sprung the full horror of war on Hartlepool resulting in a town devastated by the deaths of 130, including many school children and the first loss of men of the newly established 18th (Service) Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI).

At the time of his enlistment, at the age of 21, John Ward was the manager of a family owned laundry business located next to St Aidan’s Church, Stockton Road, West Hartlepool. Along with other members of the Ward family, his father, Richard Mark Ward of Ashgrove House, Stockton Road, had been involved in a successful family building business which had included the construction of terraced houses on Stockton Road and the Sydenham Road area, as well as involvement in building projects for the Cameron brewing family. John Ward lived at 185 Stockton Road from 1918 until the mid 1930s.

Born 28 September 1893 in the registered district of West Hartlepool, John Ward had attended Silcoates School near Wakefield, excelling in football, cricket and boxing. In his early twenties he lost his first wife prematurely whilst she was giving birth to their first child whom sadly also died during the birth. He later married Dora Scotson on 21 June 1934. They had one child, Ann Ward, and soon after Ann was born the family moved to Eldon Grove, West Hartlepool where John lived until his death 18 March 1972.

The attestation of John Moss Ward confirms his enlistment at West Hartlepool, as Private (no.1287) 18th (Service) Battalion Durham Light Infantry (Durham Pals). His descriptive report states height 5ft 10 1/2 inches, fully expanded chest measurement 41 inches, unmarried.

Initially, because all four companies of the battalion had been completed, he was enlisted to one of the two Depot companies, although in November 1915, he was transferred to D company 18th (S) Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI), thereafter embarking the Empress of Britain from Liverpool to Egypt, December 1915 to defend the Suez from the Turkish. The two week passage to Egypt was noted for rough waters, overcrowded quarters, submarine torpedo attacks and a collision with a French troopship. The ship finally arrived Port Said, Egypt on 21 December 1915.

Prior to the campaign in Egypt, John Ward was billeted for basic training at Cocken Hall Durham. He then moved up to Ripon and Wensley for training exercises including route marching and night exercises. During this time, he was quickly promoted to lance corporal and then to corporal.

Also, during his training, he was transferred temporarily to 21st Battalion DLI, one of two reserve battalions created to feed in newly-trained soldiers to other battalions. In October 1915, John Ward was reprimanded for issuing weekend passes to men undeserving of a pass and for failing to carry out orders. Always remembered well for his kindness, this attribute along with experience and his age were perhaps shortcomings in tasks facing a young non-commissioned officer (NCO). According to his Statement of Services sheet, by his own request John Ward then reverted back to the rank of private and was transferred to D company 18th Battalion, DLI for the duration of the First World War, including theatre of war service in Egypt and Northern France.

By the end of 1916, following ten months of active engagement with 93rd Brigade, 31st Division, 18th DLI involving numerous attacks in the Battle of the Somme, including the devastation of his company within thirty minutes of its courageous but failed attack of Pendant Copse, Serre on 1 July, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, John Ward was recommended for a commission. In archived documents and war diaries, his commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel WD Lowe detailed John Ward for a number of complex night raids within the Gommecourt area of the Somme.

After attending No. 5 Cadet Officer Battalion at Trinity College, Cambridge, John Ward was appointed to a temporary commission of Second Lieutenant Officer 18th Battalion, DLI and returned for duty in the Arleux Sector near Arras, May 1917. By the end of the year he became very ill, suffering from a fissure as a result of extensive trench service. After an operation and eight months recovery at Furness Auxiliary Hospital Harrogate, Second Lieutenant John Ward embarked for Bombay and the Punjab, Northwest India.

After being promoted to lieutenant whilst posted to 3rd DLI and attached to 2/91st Punjabis and seeing active service in the third Afghan War (1919), he finally relinquished his commission in October 1921 and returned to the family business in West Hartlepool.

His medal card confirms he was issued the 1914-15 Star Medal, The British War Medal, The Allied Victory Medal and the India General service Medal 1908-1935 (Afghanistan 1919).

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, John Ward enrolled in the local defence volunteers 18th (Independent) Battalion Home Guard, initially as Assistant Company Commander between May 1940 and December 1940. He was then promoted to Company Commander of the battalion until June 1941 when he was appointed major in charge of the battalion. For the duration of the war, the battalion was based at the old steel works, Hartlepool. He was finally discharged December 1945 and received the Defence Medal for his services.

He maintained a lasting respect and support of the DLI for the rest of his life.

John Moss Ward’s timeline (1915-1919):

18 January 1915
West Hartlepool: Enlists for duration of war
Rank Private/ No 1287/ 18th (Service) Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI)
Home Address: The Cottage, Four Lane Ends, Seaton Carew, West Hartlepool

6 March 1915
Cocken Hall Durham: Training: Promoted to lance corporal

9 April 1915
Ripon: Training. Promoted to corporal

29 July 1915
Wensley: Training. Posted to 21st Reserve Battalion DLI

14 October 1915
Wensley: Training. Severely reprimanded for issuing weekend passes to men whom had recently defaulted.

18 October 1915
Wensley: Training. Severely reprimanded for neglecting to obey orders

19 October 1915
Wensley: Training. Reverts to ranks by own request

17 November 1915
Cocken Hall: Training. Transferred to 18th Battalion D Company. Joins Battalion training Fovant, Salisbury

5 December 1915
Fovant Hants: Embarks train from Dinton to Liverpool docks

6 December 1915
Liverpool: Embarks liner Empress of Britain bound Egypt; 5,000 on board, overcrowded, food inadequate and poor; Liner collides with French troopship Djuradjura which sinks; Torpedoed by German submarine, but misses

21 December 1915
Port Said, Egypt: Disembark liner to tent camp. Drill and parades, Christmas

28 December 1915
Kantara, Egypt: Travel by open truck, encamp within fortified perimeter; Trench digging and defending Suez canal from Turkish Army. Joins 15th West Yorkshires, Sikhs, Gurkhas and Bengal Lancers.

16 January 1916
Port Said: Admitted to Consulate Hospital to treat infestation of scabies

19 January 1916
Port Said: Discharged from Hospital returns to duties and unit in Kantara

2 March 1916
Kantara: Leaves Egypt for France. Embarks Cunard Liner SS Ivernia

11 March 1916
Marseilles: Battalion disembarks Ivernia D Company advances by train to Pont Remy, Northern France

The Somme
14 March 1916
Pont Remy: Proceeds to billets Citerne

25 March 1916
Citerne: Proceeds to billets Longpre

26 March 1916
Longpre: Long march to billets Flesselles

27 March 1916
Flesselles: Long march to billets Beauquesne

29 March 1916
Beauquesne: Long march to billets Beaussart

29 March 1916
Beaussart: Moves up to front line trenches relieves 10th Royal Irish Rifles; NW Beaumont Hamel sector; Hard conditions, snow and rain, water logged trenches

3 April 1916
Beaumont Hamel: Battalion relieved, billeted to hut camp in woods Bus-les-Artois; Heavy rain, cold damp huts with no windows no doors; Training in bomb throwing, rifle grenades and gas chamber

20 April 1916
Bus-les-Artois: Battalion moves up to Redan Ridge trenches, NW Beaumont Hamel; Builds enforcements no-mans land; Heavy mortar attacks

24 April 1916
Redan Ridge: Relieved billeted Colincamps then billeted Bertrancourt

14 May 1916
Bertrancourt: Moves up to trenches N Serre; Inferior trenches and heavy barrage of German mortar fire

19 May 1916
N Serre Trenches: Relieved to billets Colincamps; Subjected to heavy shelling

24 May 1916
Colincamps: Battalion returns to Bus-les-Artois camps, Warnimont Wood; Working parties despatched to build assembly trenches up the line and other preparations for the big assault; Involves seven mile marches by night under heavy fire; Practice trench-to-trench attacks

4 June 1916
Bus-les-Artois: Battalion moves forward to Courcelles; Build trenches for bombardment cover

20 June 1916
Courcelles: D Company leaves to join 16th West Yorkshire Regiment Gezaincourt; Special training for the 1 July attack

Battle of the Somme
30 June 1916
Courcelles: 2045 Hrs D Company and 16th West Yorkshire Regiment moves up to assembly trenches Maitland then on to Front Line for night

1 July 1916
Serre Front Line: 0600 D Company line-up for attack on Serre; 0720 Hawthorn Ridge mine sprung alerting Germans of attack; 0730 D Company climbs out trench to attack. Germans unleash enormous fire power on trenches; Machine gun curtain of fire at advancing D Company; A few managed to reach Pendant Copse but never returned; Most fell in trench or on climbing out; Only 10 men of D Company survived; War Correspondent wrote ‘Heroism could go no further’; Battalion losses 474 and 12 officers from 789 of all ranks

5 July 1916
Serre Trenches:Relieved and moved up to Louvencourt; D Company reinforced by new drafts and NCOs of other companies

Tour of Festubert, Neuve Chapelle and Givenchy Sectors
6 July 1916
Louvencourt: Billeted Beauval

7 July 1916
Beauval: Billeted Berneuil

8 July 1916
Berneuil: Battalion moves to Conteville then on to Berguette and La Pierrierre

15 July 1916
La Pierrierre: Long march to La Fosse Sector 50 miles north of Somme attack; Promoted from Private to Lance Corporal; Regrouping and training in bombing tactics and musketry

27 July 1916
La Fosse: Instructed to relieve 14th Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment Neuve Chapelle sector; Subjected to heavy bombardment and night raids; Breastwork type trenches liable to heavy flooding; Poor condition and only chest high protection; Extensive repairs carried out to trenches

9 August 1916
Neuve Chapelle Sector: D Company relieved and moved up to Essars

10 August 1916
Essars: D Company moves into trenches East of Festubert

11 August 1916
Festubert Sector: Front line tour of Festubert and Givenchy sectors

Tour of Festubert, Neuve Chapelle and Givenchy Sectors
18 August 1916
Festubert Sector; Relieved and billeted Le Touret

28 August 1916
Festubert Sector: Promoted to Sergeant

September 1916
Givenchy sector: Front line tours of Givenchy sector

Return to the Somme
Oct/ Nov/ Dec 1916
Hebuterne Sector: Front line tours of Hebuterne and Gommecourt; Heavy rain at nights, trenches very wet and muddy; Frequent Gas-shell bombing D Company sector; Night raids and wire cutting from both sides; Billeted Sailly aux Bois and Rossignol Farm

25 December 1916
Famechon: Christmas Dinner presented by 70-year-old Baroness of Gommecourt; 70 Turkeys prepared and served

26 December 1916
Hebuterne; John Moss Ward recommended for a commission returns to England; Posted to Depot Newcastle, England

7 February 1917
Cambridge:Attached to No.5 Officer Cadet Battalion, Trinity College
Home Address Ashgrove House, Stockton Road, West Hartlepool

30 May 1917
Cambridge: Appointed to a temporary commission as Second Lieutenant DLI

Return of duty Northern France
June-July 1917
NE Arras: Front line tours of Gavrelle sector; Repair work Rolincourt-Bailleul railway

Aug-Dec 1917
SE Lens: Front line tours of Mericourt and Arleux sectors; Night wiring other repairs and fatigues; Intermittent shelling, occasionally very heavy

25 January 1918
Arleux Sector: Taken ill on duty, Fissure and Fistula

11 February 1918
Calais: Arrives Dover

Feb-April 1918
London: London hospital for surgery and recovery
Home Address Ashgrove House, Stockton Road, West Hartlepool

May-Aug 1918
Harrogate: Furness Auxiliary Hospital for recuperation

Aug-Sep 1918
Home; Ashgrove House, West Hartlepool for recuperation; Fit for duty India/ NW Frontier

6 October 1918
Southampton; Departs Southampton for Bombay; Posted to 3rd DLI and attached to 2/91st Punjabis
Home Address 185, Stockton Road, West Hartlepool

6 November 1918
Bombay: Disembarks and entrained to Ferozepore Punjab

11 March 1919
Ferozepore: Promoted to Lieutenant DLI

31 March 1919
Ferozepore: Transferred to1/1 Kent Regiment

1 June 1919
NW Frontier: Proceeds to active service

11 November 1919
Bombay: Embarks SS Derbyshire to England

6 December 1919
Ripon: Demobilised

19 October 1921
Relinquishes commission retains rank of lieutenant

Civil Parish: Hartlepool

Birth date: 28-Sep-1893

Death date: 18-Mar-1972

Armed force/civilian: Army

Gender: Male

Contributed by Mark Openshaw (Grandson), Battle