Rev Wilfred John Harding enlisted with the Royal Army Medical Corps [17th October 1914].
He was gazetted Chaplain to HM Forces [29th May 1917].
He was Captain Chaplain attached to the Drake Battalion Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
He served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders, and was killed in action at Passchendaele while stretcher-bearing during heavy fighting [31st October 1917].
He was buried there.
He is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium [Grave Ref 160], and on the Memorial at Saint Mary the Virgin, Luddenden.
He was awarded the Military Cross.
The Lieutenant-Commander of the Drake Battalion wrote:
The work for which [he] was awarded the MC was as follows: Stretcher-bearers had each case to carry over 2 miles over the most impossible ground before reaching a road or ambulance. [He] insisted on going into "No Man's Land" with the stretcher-bearers in search of wounded men under the most intense fire and in broad daylight, when he was exposed without cover of any kind, regardless of his own safety so long as he could be a comfort or of use to any of the wounded. Everyone was loud in his praises. It was just behind the line, while returning, that he was killed. No man could have done his duty more nobly than he has done since joining this battalion. He was always with the men, early and late, and in front of the forward posts. He was a great favourite among all ranks, always cheerful and self-denying under all conditions, and his devotion to duty was an example to us all. No M.C. was ever more thoroughly earned
Another Officer wrote:
Where the fight was thickest, there he was, and when he was with us, we knew no fear
The Senior Chaplain of the Division wrote:
For over two years, Capt. Harding had been a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps at the base, but his heart was at the front, for he followed the Drake Battn. to which he was attached, all through their wanderings into the trenches and back again. On his own initiative, he got a little 'dug-out' made in the 'Red Line' and set it apart as a church and reading-room, in memory of gallant comrades. When the Brigade moved, and sections of the men were set apart as stretcher-bearers, during a 'push' he immediately joined one of the squads, and whilst engaged in this work, a shell pitched amidst his squad and killed him. He was a general favourite and a splendid example. Such a capable, brave and experienced Chaplain is hard to replace. All who knew him found in him the man and padre. His body is buried near the spot where he laid down his life whilst serving his comrades
Revised 11:13 /5th June 2018 / mmh841 / 6147
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