Joseph was born on the 15th May 1890 in East Wickham, Kent.
His father James Harding was then aged 24 and had been born in Benson, Oxfordshire. His mother, Esther was aged 23 and had been born in Hythe, Kent. At this time he had an elder sister Esther aged 2.
By 1901 he had another sister Annie aged 7, followed 4 years later by Elsie. At this time James was employed as a Labourer working at the Royal Arsenal Farm and later for the local Council. The family were living at Green Man Cottages, East Wickham. On the 8th April 1895 Joseph joined his sister Esther at Foster’s School, Welling. They were later joined by here by Elsie.
In 1908 Joseph’s mother died and by 1911 Joseph, his father and sister Elsie were living at 115 High Street Bexley. Joseph was employed as a Horseman on a local farm.
On 23rd November 1911 Joseph boarded the ship the Thermistocles at London Port bound for a new life in Australia.
Joseph enlisted with the Australian army on the 28th January 1915 at Liverpool, New South Wales.into B Company of the 4th Reinforcements for the 2nd Battalion Australian Imperial Force, Part of the 1st Australian Brigade, Service number 1750. At the time of his enlistment he gave his age as 23 years and eight months, which according to other records was one year younger than his actual age. (His age at death was therefore 26, not 25, as listed by CWGC). He listed his trade as a labourer.
Joseph joined his Battalion in Gallipoli on the 26th May 1915 after an extremely short period of training. The Battalion had landed on the first day of the landings and later took part in the famous and murderous Battle of Lone Pine. They were evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915.
On the 10th July less than six weeks after reaching Gallipoli Joseph received gunshot wounds to the abdomen and arrived as a casualty in Malta one week later. Here he stayed for two weeks before being sent to hospital in Hampstead where he arrived on the 28th August 1915. After recovering from his wounds Joseph rejoined his battalion in Gallipoli on the 20th November only a few weeks before the allies ignominious defeat by the Turks.
The Battalion arrived in Alexandria, Egypt prior to landing at Marseilles, France on the 28th March 1916 for action on the Western Front.
Joseph proved a reliable soldier receiving the following promotions during 1916:
15th February – Lance Corporal
7th July – Corporal
7th August – Temporary Sergeant
25th November – Sergeant
During this time Joseph’s Battalion were engaged in the actions during July 1916 in a number of the Somme battles. They then transferred to Ypres but returned to the Somme in late 1916. They stayed on the Western Front until the end of the war and were often used shock troops for difficult operations particularly during the British offensives that started in August 1918.
Joseph took leave in the UK from the 1st to the 16th December where we can assume he met his family for the last time.
At this time Joseph was also gazetted for receiving the Military Medal for bravery in the field. 19th December 1916.
Unfortunately on the 9th April 1917 Joseph was Killed in Action/Died of Wounds (the record varies on this). This was at the time of attacks by the Australian 1st Division and British Forces on the Hindenburg Line north of Bapaume, following the German withdrawal from the Somme area.
Joseph’s Military Medal was sent to his father with a letter of condolence on 28th December 1917:
Mr J. Harding
115 High Street, Bexley, England
It is with feelings of admiration at the gallantry of a brave Australian soldier who nobly laid down his life in the service of our King and Country that I am directed by the Honourable The Minister to forward you, as the next-of-kin of the late 1750 Sergeant J. Harding, 2nd Battalion, Australia Imperial Force, the Military Medal which his Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award to that gallant soldier for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty while serving with the Australia Imperial Expeditionary Force.
I am also to ask you to accept his deep personal sympathy in the loss, which not only you, but the Australian Army has sustained by the death of Sergeant J. Harding whose magnificent conduct on the field of battle helped to earn for our Australian soldiers a fare which will endure as long as memory lasts.
Major, Officer i/c Base Records.
Joseph left a will dated the 27th October 1916 leaving his property and effects to his Father.
Joseph is buried at Lebucquere Communal Cemetery, Bapaume, France, grave ref. I.C.1. He is also commemorated on the Australian War Memorial, Comm
emorative Area, Panel 32 in Canberra.
This story has been researched by volunteers. We have taken every effort to ensure its accuracy. If you are related to this soldier, or if you have any further information, please do get in touch.
The East Wickham and Welling War Memorial Trust will be adding Joseph Harding’s name to our war memorial over the centenary of the First World War.
Joseph Harding’s full service records: National Archives of Australia
Commonwealth War Graves Commission :cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/184492/HARDING,%20JOSEPH