Robert Ward

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Number:16126                    Unit: 7th Lincolnshire
                                                        Regiment

Rank: Private                          Commemorated:
                                      Theipval Memorial France

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PERSONAL DETAILS.

Married to Alice, Robert resided in Mill Lane Kirkstead prior to the war.  He was the third son of Mr. W. Ward, Farmer of Witham Road, Woodhall Spa.  He left 3 children and was 28 years old when he died.  He was a member of Kirkstead Wesleyan Chapel where, following his death, a memorial service in his honour was held as conducted by Mr. R. Curtis

SERVICE DETAILS.

After enlisting at Lincoln in 1915, Robert was drafted into the 7th battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment.  Raised following Kitchener's call to form a new army, the 7th battalion was in the 51st Brigade of the 17th (Northern) Division.  The division began its formation in September 1914 and comprised of units from the Midlands, the North of England and Dorset.  It was based around Wareham Dorset.  The division soon received its orders to proceed overseas and, on the 6th July 1915, divisional advance parties left Southampton.  The remainder of the division began its embarkation for France 6 days later.  When in France, it concentrated around St. Omer.  By the 19th July it was being sent to the front in the area around Ypres.  Instruction into trench warfare was soon complete and the division saw its first major action in August 1915, when it attacked the village of Hooge.

By 1916, the British were being placed under intense pressure by the French, to launch their Spring offensive, thus relieving the French armies at Verdun.  Haig managed to stall the French until the 1st July 1916 when the bloody battle of the Somme commenced.  This was to be the blackest day in British military history for, at the days close, British casualties totalled some 60,000.  Although not concerned with the opening attacks,  on the afternoon of 1st July the 17th division received orders it was to clear the village of Fricourt the next morning.  Intelligence gleaned from prisoners soon established the enemy were withdrawing from Fricourt and, although in a ruinous condition, the Lincolns occupied the village with relative ease.  Immediately they were ordered to press on to take their second objective, Fricourt Wood.  The Lincolns prepared to attack whilst the South Staffords sent out patrols.  Whilst meeting minor resistance, it was again found the Germans had, by 3pm on the day, evacuated the woods.  So far the division, and the Lincolns, had been very lucky.   The next day, the 3rd July, the division was ordered to, again, attack the enemy.  It was a fine, bright, sunny day.  The Lincolns were sent to capture Crucifix trench, which lay west of and parallel to the road from Fricourt to Contalmaison.  There was no preliminary barrage, which worked in the Lincolns favour, for when they sent in their bombers, the enemy was taken by surprise.  On seeing the success of the bombers, the rest of the 7th went over the top to secure the trench, only to be met by a hail of machine gun bullets.  In spite of dreadful casualties, the Lincolns pressed on, finally driving the enemy out.  By early afternoon, all the objectives of the 17th Division had been taken and secured.  The 7th Lincolns had, however, suffered heavy casualties - 4 Officers and 36 other ranks being killed; 6 Officers and 160 other ranks wounded or missing.  Robert was one of those who had fallen.

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