ERNEST HARDING

Private, 315387, 16th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action on 6 November 1917 near Beersheba, Palestine, aged 42
He is buried in Beersheba War Cemetery: Grave M 18
 

Beersheba War Cemetery

Private Ernest Harding was born in Maresfield in 1877. He lived at 1, Marsh Green Cottages, Hartfield and enlisted in Coleman's Hatch. He was killed in action on 6 November 1917 near Beersheba, Palestine, aged 42, and is buried in Beersheba War Cemetery: Grave M 18.

He married Ellen Susanna Harding (née Brand) (1882-1967) in 1902 and they had the following children: John Ernest (b. April 1903), Edith Nellie (b. March 1904) and Gladys Evelyn (b. 1910). His pre-war occupation was gardener.

The 16th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment were involved in the Battle of Sheria in early November 1917. On 1 November they were in bivouac in the Wadi Saba and were helping to clear up the battlefield after the Battle of Beersheba. The following day they moved behind an old Turkish position and on the third they served as an advanced guard to the brigade.

Gravestone of Ernest Harding

On 6 November they formed part of the initial attack in the Battle of Sheria and came under heavy rife and machine gun fire. Interestingly Captain Hanbury Lewis Kekewich, who is commemorated on the Forest Row war memorial, was killed in the same battle: on 6 November 1917 he was in command of 'C' Company attacking the Turkish lines and defending Gaza with about 600 of the battalion.

Three officers were killed in the battle (including Captain Kekewich), 19 other ranks were killed (which included Ernest Harding), and 98 were wounded with two missing.

Map showing the Gaza to Beersheba line, Sheria and Edh Dhaleiriye (ad-Dhahiriya), Palestine
(Source: British Army Survey of Egypt)

XX Corps attack on 6 November 1917 stretching from Tell Khuweilfe westwards towards Hareira.
(Source: Cyril Falls, A. F. Beck "History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence Military Operations Egypt & Palestine from June 1917 to the end of the War", Vol. 2, Pt 1.) The 16th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment were involved in this offensive as part of the Battle of Sheria

Ernest Harding is listed on the war memorials in Coleman's Hatch and Hartfield. There is also a memorial plaque in St John's Church, Felbridge. His name was also added to the war memorial in Danehill in 2001.

 

Carol O'Driscoll