Fred GARDINER
Rank: Private
Number: 29562
Unit: 2/6th Battalion ROYAL WARWICKSHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 1 April 1918
Age: 35
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

Fred was the son of Joseph and Agnes Gardiner who farmed near Wildboarclough. Joseph had died by the time of the 1901 Census but Agnes continued to run the farm and the family continued to live at Bank Top Cottage. Fred, the eldest son, was not at home when the census was taken and was probably working and living at another farm. His siblings, Mary, Harold, Maggie and Sidney, were at home.

By the time of the War, Fred had moved to High Lane and was working at Brookside Farm, owned by a Mr Taylor. It was while working there that he and Elizabeth Taylor met and, in due course, got engaged. They married locally, at St Thomas' Church in 1917 just before Fred went overseas on active service. For some reason, he didn't enlist locally but chose to travel to Chester where he found himself assigned to the South Lancashire Regiment (service number 40336).

Fred's transfer to the Warwicks must have been very shortly before he died, as his medal entitlement records at the National Archives only mention service with the South Lancashires. His commemoration by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission does record that he was serving with the Warwicks when he died.  Two South Lancashire battalions were disbanded in France in the middle of  February, with troops being sent to other units.

On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched an anticipated attack on the British over what had been 1916 Somme battleground. What was unexpected was the strength and ferocity with which it was delivered. Within hours, many Tommies were dead, wounded or prisoner. Many more were engaged in desperate attempts to retreat. The Warwicks lost about 75% of their strength and, over the next few days, retreated many miles.

On the 27th, they were ordered forward again to take up a defensive position near the village of Marcelcave and were urgently driven there by lorry. In the chaos that followed over the coming days, there are scant details recorded in the Battalion's War Diary. It notes only that they were engaged in heavy fighting that day. By evening, they withdrew to a new position to the rear of the village and "dug in" for the night. Nothing is recorded of events over the next few days and it is not possible to know exactly what happened to Fred - or when.

It is known, from Regimental records published after the War, that he was not killed outright but died later of wounds he'd received. It may be that he was wounded on the 27th and taken prisoner, only to die a few days later in captivity. Alternatively, he may have been wounded by enemy action on one of the days afterwards and died at the dressing station a few hundred yards behind the front line. What is certain is that his body was never recovered and identified and he has no known grave.

Further information about Fred can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

   
           
   
     
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