Jack’s story has been previously researched for the book “Remembered” by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff. The authors establish that Jack’s connection with High Lane was brief – in August 1914, he married Francis Goodall, the daughter of the local vicar. After the ceremony, they returned to live at Jack’s home in Barnet and, later, Farnborough. He was the son of George Hardy, a retired brewer who originated from Timperley and who is believed to have died by 1914. It has not been possible to establish the whereabouts of the Hardy family at the time of the 1901 Census.
The Germans first used poison gas as a weapon in April 1915 and it would be some months before the British technology caught up. The French Commander of Allied forces was determined to break through the German lines in France and plans were laid for the first “Big Push” of the War. The British would attack at Loos, a mining area to the north of the town of Lens.
Immediately to the north of the main attack, Jack and the other members of the British 5th Brigade would attack around the village of Givenchy. Their assault was intended to be diversionary and would start 30 minutes before the main attack. They went into their assembly trenches during 24 September.
At 5.50 the next morning, the gas cylinders (always then described as “accessories” to maintain their secrecy) were opened. The wind should have carried the gas across No Man’s Land and into the German trenches but, at the last minute, the wind died down. The gas just hung there in front of the British line causing more problems for the Ox & Bucks than it did the enemy. A few minutes later, Jack and his mates “went over the top”. “A” Company quickly made it to the first line of German trenches which they found empty. “C” was able to push to the second line of trenches. The two companies had about 200 grenades between them and used these to good effect, but there were nowhere near enough supplies to fight off the increasing German pressure on their position. By 9.40am, the Ox & Bucks and the two other Battalions of the Brigade had been forced to retreat and were back in their original trenches.
These troops were really the first to establish that the German style of grenade (bomb) was far superior to the British as recorded in the Battalion’s War Diary: “Once more, a shortage of bombs is one cause of our retirement. Another is that the match striker in use with these ball bombs was very much affected by the damp weather – the Germans use handle bombs and these undoubtedly carry further than those without handles.”
Once back in the hoped for safety of their own trench line, the troops were subjected to a couple of hours heavy artillery shelling and the casualties rose still further. By the end of the day, 36 men were known to have been killed but another 70, including Jack, were missing. His body was never found and identified.