Edward Frank PONTING
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Unit: 21st Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 5 October 1918
Age: 29
Cemetery: Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gouy, Aisne, France

Edward Frank Ponting appears to have had only a brief connection with the Romiley area whilst addresses in southern counties are often mentioned in his service file at the National Archives.

He had been born in Wiltshire on 13 October 1887 and when the 1901 census was taken was living with his family at 17 Islington, in Trowbridge. He was the second child of Edward and Ellen, having an older brother, Arthur and four younger siblings - Henry, Emma, Louise and Lydia. The 13 year old future soldier was working as an office boy. He had been educated at Trowbridge British School and, later, at the town's Technical School.

In the late summer of 1913, he married Eva Frances Talmage Street at Chippenham where it is thought she originated from. The following year, their daughter, Mary, was born in the Stockport area. When Edward enlisted into the army in 1915, he gave his address as 7 Lyme Grove, Romiley. Edward worked as a clerk and salesman although his employer is not known. He may be the F Ponting listed in the Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour as being an employee of the Co-operative Wholesale Society. This would suggest he was known as Frank (perhaps to distinguish him form his father) but as this cannot be confirmed this article will continue to refer to him as Edward.

He attested for the army on 10 December 1915, confirming his willingness to serve, but was not called up until 29 May 1916. On that day, he attended the recruiting office in Lower Broughton, Salford and became 92978, Gunner Ponting, Royal Garrison Artillery. His recruitment papers show him to have been 5' 7" tall and weighing 119 pounds.

He served abroad with the artillery and was promoted to Bombardier (the equivalent of a corporal) but he soon applied to become an officer. On 5 May 1917, he returned to the UK and joined No. 19 Officer Cadet Battalion at Purbright, becoming a 2nd Lieutenant on 28 August.

He left Folkestone for Boulogne on 20 October, joining the 21st Battalion on the 24th. Within a month, he was on his way to Italy as the Battalion was reassigned to that sector. Between 11 August and 5 September 1918, he had a period of leave back in the UK.

On his return, Edward will have seen that the British Army had made great advances and whilst there would be weeks of hard fighting left, there would be no more major defeats. Overnight on 4/5 October, the Battalion settled into assembly positions for the continuance of the advance the next morning. The Manchesters would act as the reserve Battalion for their Brigade, following closely behind the leading units. For "A" and "B" Companies, the objectives were the villages of Ponchaux and Geneve. "B" Company would attack Beaurevoir, whilst "C" would act as the Battalion's own reserve.  

The attack started at 6am and, immediately, "A" and "D" came under very heavy machine gun fire from both villages. They were stopped in their tracks and had to then retreat.

"B" also came under machine gun fire. The Battalion History records "All the houses on the south side of the village appeared to shelter machine gunners and the attacking force was also fired on from the Cemetery." Edward is understood to have been leading one of the platoons of this Company and was shot and killed by a machine gun bullet.

He was buried near to where he fell but after the War many of these small front line burial areas were closed as the land was returned to civilian use and this is when Edward's body was moved to Gouy.

In 1919, Eva and Mary were living at "Lynton", Downhays Park, Trowbridge. Whilst there, she wrote to the Battalion's adjutant asking about Edward's missing effects which had not been returned to her. She received a reply saying they had been "bagged up" with those of the other casualties and had been sent to the reserve area, but they couldn't be traced. Two years later, the Pontings had moved to The Vicarage Gardens, Pevensey, Sussex.

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