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Geoffrey Hardy

Geoffrey Hardy. Second Lieutenant, "D" Bty. 312th Bde. Royal Field Artillery (RFA), died of wounds 27th May 1917, age 27 yrs


Geoffrey Hardy was born into a Quaker family in Banbury in 1889. The son of Josiah Patrick and Ellen Hardy, Geoffrey attended the Quaker boarding school at Sidcot, Winscombe, Somerset. A letter written to his sister Mabel in 1905 shows both intellectual ability and sporting prowess, he won the school athletics cup that year. After leaving school young Geoffrey settled down to a career in the insurance business, joining the "Friends Provident", how things were to change!

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/295166/HARDY,%20G

Unusually for a Quaker, he joined the Army and was gazetted 2nd Lieut. in the 2/4th West Riding Field Artillery (Howitzer) Brigade and ordered to report to his unit at Newcastle-on-Tyne on 12th January 1916. In a letter to his future sister-in-law, Ruth Isaac, he complains of the expense of his kit, but his main concern was to marry her sister, Mabel, before he was sent away to war.

""Titiotorris" Remarks on the Year", in the "Cartmel and Lower Holker Almanac" of 1917, describes the wedding without naming bride or groom!

"A granddaughter of W.R. Nash had a Quaker-Khaki Wedding at the Friends' Meeting House, Cartmel, on Sunday afternoon, on the 5th (March 1916). The bridegroom had only 44 hours' leave from Salisbury Plain for the event, so all was arranged without undue margin. After the pretty little Ceremony, everyone adjourned to Mrs. Bielby's Rooms, where, at short notice, she had got ready some very dainty grub and artistic Wedding Cake. The happy couple did not arrive in Camp quite up to time because their train was held up for 6 hours, while Zeppelins raided 8 counties and killed 18 people with bombs."


The "Barrow News" reported the marriage, stating that "Jeoffry" Hardy, 2nd Lieutenant, 2/4th West Riding F.A. married Katharine Mabel, daughter of the late John Clark and Mary Richardson Isaac. The bridesmaids were Miss Ruth Isaac, sister of the bride and her cousin, Teresa Teasdale, the best man was Mr. John Clark Isaac, the bride's eldest brother. Mrs. Teasdale, the bride's aunt, held the reception afterwards at the Priory Hotel. The train, mentioned above, left Grange at 5:00pm for Warminster and Salisbury Plain, where the groom was in training.


Mrs Bielby's Rooms are on the right, Teasdale's shop and home are at the top of the Square, to the right of the Market Cross.

Major Becke, in "Order of Battle of Divisions" (HMSO 1945) shows 2/4th West Riding F.A. as part of 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division, a second-line Territorial division. They were reserve division to the first-line 49th, which meant that their departure for the Front was delayed as 49 Div. took priority in manpower.

After their marriage Geoffrey and "May" spent a very happy time together in England, living in various places, including Amesbury and Beccles, as the battery moved around the country.


The divisional artillery was reorganised in May 1916, the 2/4th West Riding Field Artillery (Howitzer) Brigade was broken up and a battery added to each of the other brigades. Lt. Hardy's unit, equipped with 6, 4.5 inch howitzers became "D" Battery, 312th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, "A", "B" and "C" batteries of 312 Bde. being made up of 18-pounder field guns. A howitzer battery’s strength was originally 5 officers and 192 men.


In June 1916 the division moved to Norfolk and was inspected by the King on 26th July. In October they moved once again, to Bedford, Wellingborough and Northampton, where the artillery were billeted, finally leaving for France in late December and early January 1917, with Major-General Walter Braithwaite commanding. The division went into the line in February in the Ancre sector of the Somme battlefield, as part of V Corps, in Gough's Fifth Army.


Mabel Hardy moved to Cartmel at this time, she was expecting their first child in February 1917 and was to be cared for by Aunt Gulie and her husband Harry Teasdale, her own parents had died in 1906 and 1915. Her Grandfather also lived nearby at "The Mount", Cark; William Richardson Nash was very well known throughout Cartmel and Furness. He was a founder, and secretary for many years, of the Furness Building Society, a farmer (at Pit Farm), J.P., and local councillor, sadly he died on March 15th 1917 at the age of 82.


The 2nd West Riding division's introduction to the Western Front was most unpleasant. The winter of 1916-17 was one of the worst the area had endured, with frost and snow, mud and slush. The Battle of the Somme officially finished in November 1916, but vicious small scale actions continued in the villages of the Ancre valley.


The Hardy's daughter Winifred Mary, was born on February 23rd 1917 at Cartmel. The Teasdales sent a telegram to Geoffrey informing him of the happy event using the phrase "both topping". Geoffrey wrote a grateful letter back, "Just now I am very well off in the wagon lines & yet I am not quite pleased not to be facing the same dangers as my brother officers although I know I shall be with them again perhaps quite soon enough. Of course I cannot tell you where I am but I expect you have seen all the good news in the newspapers recently & will draw your own conclusions." A tender letter to "Maysie darling" on the eve of their wedding anniversary shows how he longed to be home, "I have been thinking such a lot all today of this time last year. Of course tomorrow is the date but it has seemed so exactly like it was a year ago today, it has been a lovely bright day & I remember so well the walk we went towards Grange to meet Jessie and Alec the sunshine and the sky and the earth all seemed so exactly like it was then. And then I have been walking through a wood which reminded me so much of the wood at the back of the Park, when I went there with Jessie and Alec and the boys, a few Autumn leaves are lying about and everything seemed so exactly the same only of course here it is not as nice as dear old Cartmel. I have been going over it all again in my thoughts ..........I receive cheerful notes from Gallimore (q.v.) and Swain1 sends messages that I am to "keep smiling" I haven't managed to see them yet. They have all sent me "hearty congrats. on the not unexpected event" as Gallimore put it!"

On the evening of 24th February General Gough was visiting the headquarters of 187 Brigade, one of 62nd Division's infantry brigades, when he was informed that a company of 2/4th York & Lancasters had penetrated 1000 yds towards Serre without encountering any enemy troops. This confirmed earlier reports that the enemy was withdrawing. The Germans were carrying out a withdrawal to the fortifications of the Hindenburg Line. This news was joyfully received at home, but the rejoicing proved to be premature.


The British advanced, but not unopposed, the recollections of Col. A. T. Anderson in "War Services of the 62nd West Riding Divisional Artillery",indicate heavy casualties were inflicted on March 5th to 9th at Miraumont, many horses and mules were killed and nine guns lost through artillery fire.


Some time later (20 March), Geoffrey was able to send an uncensored letter home by giving it to a friend who was returning to England. In it he describes this period. "My nerve did go dearie about three weeks ago - at least just before the baby was born; we all had some very rough times then and it was very nerve-wracking and I wasn't feeling fit. But I am quite alright now. How I loathe Beaumont Hamel that awful village of death and those ghastly trenches round it. (Lt. Valentine Braithwaite, son of the division's CO, and seventeen of his brother officers of 1st Bn. Somerset Light Infantry, were shot as they left their trenches on 1st July 1916 to attack Beaumont Hamel, his body was never recovered. General Braithwaite used to wander over the old battlefield looking for his son.) The Battery was in action at Mailly-Mallet and we used to have to go up through Beaumont Hamel to observe and do liaison officer with the Infantry. Since then we have advanced through Beaucourt and Grandcourt (our wagon lines were then at Mailly-Mallet) and Miraumont. Then the Boche retired a long way - it is supposed he has gone to Cambrai and perhaps further and so the wagon lines joined the Battery itself yesterday at Miraumont and here I am writing this letter in a tent by the side of the dugout.........The Battery goes as far as Gomiecourt tomorrow according to orders, all the places you will find on the map N.E. of Albert so you see dear we are on the Ancre and so right in the midst of scenes of devastation that truly beggar description. However soon I hope we shall have advanced beyond and into country behind the German line passed Bapaume and soon too dearie I believe the war will be over. I don't believe this because the Boche is retiring. As a matter of fact he is carrying out a wonderfully clever retirement and the newspapers as usual are absolutely telling lies when they speak of our being "hot on their heels". We do not know where he has gone to and for a few days we have been absolutely out of touch with him and he is just doing as he likes...."


The move did not go as smoothly as it should, "Weds. am. 7.30. The Bty. was supposed to move off at 5.30 am it is still trying to get away! You should hear the Major! But really it is all a bit pathetic after all the months of training we did and now the Drivers seem to be worse than useless - they are just fed up and that's the end of it. I am sorry for them but it doesn't pay to be sorry for anyone in the Army according to all Military teaching and experience........I must close now as Capt. Illingworth will be coming along very soon & also we have a good deal to do in the way of clearing up as soon as the Bty is out of the way. The lines are in an awful state!" They were not alone in having difficulty moving. The frosts had gone and March rain and gales had taken over, turning the whole area into a sea of mud.


Before their withdrawal the Germans had laid waste to the area between their lines, the devastation shocked the advancing British troops. Geoffrey Hardy was no exception, "22 IV 17. Today has been lovely again. This morning we had a big Church Parade and the General was present. This afternoon Gallimore, Sharp2 and I went for a ride, we had some glorious gallops across country & "Angela" simply flew off with me. We went to a town, which you have mentioned once or twice in your letters, just to see what the Hun had left it like. I must say it has left a great impression on my mind, the villages are bad enough, but that town (Peronne or Bapaume?) is pitiful to see & its big fine Church almost brought tears to my eyes. It has all been wantonly destroyed & it is difficult to imagine that only a few short weeks ago the place was full of civilians & business was being carried out there."


V Corps consisted of three divisions 62nd, 58th (2nd/1st London) Division, another 2nd line Territorial division and the unit which considered itself the Corps elite, the regular 7th Division. By March 21st 7th Div. were attempting to capture the villages of Croisilles and Ecoust. They were not successful and 7th Div's CO Major-General Barrow was removed by Gough and replaced, on March 29th, by Major-General Shoubridge, showing his commanders that a more aggressive attitude was required.

The 310th Brigade RA went into action to support these attacks on 27th March, D/312 followed four days latter and began shelling the enemy. On 2nd April Croisilles and Ecoust were finally captured, in a blizzard and the stage was set for the Battle of Bullecourt.

The Battle of Arras began on 9th April with the capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadians. Bullecourt was to be attacked as it was the junction of two German defensive lines south of Arras. It is not the purpose of this article to describe Bullecourt in detail, Jonathan Walker's"The Blood Tub" (Spellmount, 1998) and Graham Keech’s “Bullecourt” (Leo Cooper, 1999), do this more than adequately, so I will limit myself to brief descriptions of the actions involving 62nd Division. The division came to prominence on 10th April, when it was not informed that an attack on Bullecourt had been cancelled, this meant two of its battalions advanced with no support from the Australian 4th Division on its right, and suffered 162 casualties, this did not make the Australians popular. The next day they were to attack again, alongside Australian troops and supported by some tanks, if Bullecourt was occupied by the "Diggers", the tanks would be used by 62nd Division to attack Hendecourt. The Australian attack, and the supporting tanks, ran into difficulties on the snowy battlefield. They failed to enter Bullecourt and its protective barbed wire entanglements remained intact. 62nd Division did not, therefore, leave the start line near Ecoust, still losing 63 casualties. 12th AIF Brigade were calling for Bullecourt to be shelled but 4th AIF Brigade were furious with the Yorkshiremen's perceived lack of support. Some headway was made but German counterattacks were successful and very heavy casualties incurred.


62nd Divisional Artillery were in the thick of the action at that time. Geoffrey's friend, Ken Nicholson won the Military Cross, his citation reads, "On 13th April 1917, Lieut. K.B. Nicholson entered a dug-out in which both a gas shell and a high explosive shell had burst, and bravely attempted to save the men inside. Later on in the day, though suffering from the effects of the gas, he went to the O.P. with the Battery Commander, and while under heavy shell fire volunteered to go back over the wire, thereby keeping up communication with the battery. The following day, while still suffering from the gas, he again repaired to the O.P.under heavy gas fire, remaining there until he was finally wounded in the head by a fragment of high explosive shell. By his actions on the days under review this gallant officer showed a fine example of devotion to duty."


Lt. Nicholson was sent back to England to recuperate and visited Cartmel with his wife, in a letter to Aunt Gulie, Geoffrey says, "I have told May it seems a topsy-turvy world when a brother Officer can see my baby daughter before I can myself....The Nicholsons are nice aren't they? I hope Ken didn't say too much about things out here casualties and so on; we have had bad times but it might have been worse and I don't want May to worry about danger & all that sort of thing more than she will do naturally." The Nicholsons remained lifelong friends of the Hardys, Ken Nicholson was wounded again, on 25th September 1918 and left the army with the rank of Major.


A German attack followed on the 15th in an attempt to destroy the ANZAC artillery in Lagnicourt and the Noreuil valley, on the right of D/312, but, after initial gains, they were driven back to the Hindenburg Line by a magnificent Australian counter-attack. The vicious fighting carried on and the artillery were firing continually in diabolical weather conditions, with the only shelter available being holes that the men could dig in the ground.


Geoffrey's surviving letters provide a little insight but, because of the worries mentioned earlier, do not go into graphic detail, "22 IV 17. The Major is asleep also Gallimore. The Battery are all here & I hope they will be for some days longer and then after a little time I hope all of us will go out to rest properly. You will understand from what I have said before that the wagon lines were very close to the Battery and they still are but fortunately the Hun is a good deal further off than he was! At first we got shelled here and also we had a horrible experience in the explosion of an enemy mine in the village one night but all that is over now so you must not worry. Someday I will tell you all about that night. I shall never forget it. I wish I could..." On April 5th 1917 a mine had exploded in the village of Ervillers, killing 5 and wounding 7 men of D/312. Explosives had been buried by the Germans after their withdrawal and these were activated by acid slowly eating through a wire. The five men killed include Ben and Fred Whitaker, brothers from Otley, who joined up together and are buried with their comrades in the little cemetery close by.


The Australian 2nd Division and 62nd Division were to make another famous attack on Bullecourt at 3.45 am on 3rd May. An exceptionally heavy artillery bombardment was planned, with heavy guns being drafted in from other areas. The enemy had sheltered safely in deep dug-outs, but some Yorkshiremen managed to enter Bullecourt village and others penetrated North, but were captured or killed later. The 62nd Division lost 116 officers and 2,860 other ranks killed, wounded or missing on that day. Reinforcements were sent in and fighting continued, the enemy retreated to the northern edge of the village and remained there until the great offensive of March 1918. The Battles of Bullecourt officially ended on 17th May 1917. The British and Australian forces suffered about 7,000 casualties each, with the 62nd West Yorkshire Division's total losses being 191 officers and 4,042 men.


The view from the Crucifix at Bullecourt with Ecoust clearly visible across the fields.


Geoffrey wrote to "Very dear Aunt Gulie" the day the battle ended, Thursday 17/5/17. He was upset at not having seen his wife and baby daughter, and not likely to in the near future, this had contributed to his depression mentioned earlier. "Well it’s no good worrying & the war will be over sometime & meantime I am feeling more "fit" than I have done for 3 months past. There is nothing much doing around here at present, though we had a bad night a couple of days ago (This was the night of 14/15th the date of the final German counterattack. It had been postponed from 9th May to allow the shell supply to be increased to provide a heavier bombardment.) - Gas shell in large quantities but they did no harm. We soon forget that sort of thing though and we are a very merry party in spite of the absence of the Major. Two Hun prisoners dressed in khaki have just gone down the road!"....The use of British uniforms by the Germans is mentioned in Walker's book (p.183) quoting Private Moddrel, "We found in one German dugout, bundles of British clothing and equipment and there is little doubt that some of it had been used for the purpose of dressing Bosche soldiers as British troops." I have read of similar instances of Germans being captured in khaki, but no-one seems to have researched the subject and discovered how widespread it was. Were these men spies or was larger scale infiltration attempted? Who knows and is there any way of finding out?


After the fighting had subsided life at the front became more comfortable and boring. Geoffrey gives several descriptions in letters to his wife, "Monday aft. 21/5/17. My own Maysie,......Oh! I feel very clean! I had a wash down this morning and put on a pair of the new combs. They are awfully comfortable .......It is very warm and muggy and rains a little sometimes we have had this weather for a good number of days now & so we all lack energy & the feeling of boredom increases! I have just been across to see Major Fleming3 - he was lying full length on his bed smoking a pipe, bored like the rest of us.

"What wouldn't I give sweetheart to come back to you & hold you & little Bubbles* tight & never let you go again. 

(*Winifred's nickname, given by Uncle Harry Teasdale and used by her family.)


"Monday later: ....Dinner will be ready soon & I feel rather hungry, we have had quite an exciting afternoon as "Fritz" has been very busy - not near us, so that's alright, but we could see it from afar. We sat in the dugout & talked & smoked & drank tea. Isn't war a silly game! I have never told you have I that Gallimore and I share a dugout which is also used as a mess & Lloyd4 & Lintern5 share another dugout; they are comfortable places dug into a bank."

The Gallimore's wedding.

"23/5/17 My dear Mab (his sister Mabel) ...- the Capt. and I went up to the Observation point & basked in the sunshine & thought how nice it would be (as all was quiet) to have tea up there! Periodically we looked through our glasses at the land occupied by the Boche and fired at him thereby sending up clouds of dust & dirt & (we hope) annoying him! Now do you suppose anybody will ever convince me that this is anything but a silly war!


"We are bored stiff & that's a fact. Any curiosity I ever had was satisfied long ago - I'm a peaceful man & I want to go 'ome. Besides I am horrid frightened sometimes & that's very undignified."


Finally his dreadfully poignant last letter, "Friday evening 25/5/17. Dearest Maysie,....You won't worry about me dearie will you it would worry me if I thought you were, I have always said that people get quite a false idea of what this war really is, they don't realize some of the awfulness of it nor do they realize what a really comfortable time we have very often. Lately up here we have been having a very decent time & nothing to worry about. Of course the weather makes an awful difference, when we first came out it was hell in reality, & perhaps there are rotten times to come but we shall pull through somehow & meantime we are jolly well off. If only it wasn't all so utterly boring.

"Au revoir darlingest of little women. All my love to you, write and tell me all about yourself & our dear wee daughter. A kiss from your husband. Geoff."

On May 26th disaster struck. The camouflage covering one of D/312's howitzers caught fire and quickly spread amongst the dry raffia. Gallimore was in temporary command and he, Lt. Hardy and a group of NCOs and men heroically attempted to extinguish the flames before they reached the ammunition and it exploded. Tragically they were unsuccessful and all except Geoffrey Hardy were killed outright. Geoffrey was taken to Achiet-le-Grand where medical help was available but, sadly he died the next day.


62nd Division continued in action on the Hindenburg Line until the 27th of May, just after Geoffrey Hardy's death. The artillery, however, had to remain in action and were not taken out of the line until December 1917.


The local news, not the casualty reports, in the "Barrow News", June 1917 provided the following, " DIED OF WOUNDS - Geoffrey Hardy, 2nd-Lieut., RFA, youngest son of the late Josiah Patrick Hardy, of Banbury, and of Ellen Hardy, has died at the front of wounds while performing a particularly gallant act. On May 26th a fire broke out in the battery, and he with others tried to put it out to prevent a serious explosion at the gun. Unhappily he and the other brave men with him were not successful, and Lieut. Hardy was seriously wounded, and died on May 27th, aged 27 years. In March 1916, Lieut. Hardy married Katherine Mabel Isaac, a granddaughter of the late Mr W. R. Nash of Cark-in-Cartmel, in the Friends' Meeting House, Cartmel, and leaves a little daughter, born in Cartmel on February 23rd, 1917, whom he never saw."


He is buried at Achiet-le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension - Pas-de-Calais, Plot I, Row A, Grave 14. The 45th and 49th Casualty Clearing Stations stayed at Achiet from April, 1917, to March, 1918 and used the cemetery, the village station was also a British railhead.


Geoffrey Hardy’s grave.


Captain Henry Burrows Gallimore, Gunner John Boyd, Acting Bombardier George Ernest Bucknall, Acting Bombardier F. Hardaker, Serjeant J.H. Jenkins, Driver John Kemplay, Serjeant E.J.H. Knight, Corporal Bertram Jowett Pepper, Gunner H. Stott and Gunner N. Vaughan "D" Bty. 312 Brigade RFA all lie in Plot III, H.A.C. Cemetery, Ecoust St Mein, all died on 26th May 1917. Reading the cemetery register it appears that they were originally interred at Mory-Ecoust Road Cemetery No.1 or No. 2. and moved when the outlying burial grounds were concentrated after the Armistice.


The Cross of sacrifice at the Honourable Artillery Company Cemetery at Ecoust.


The 62nd West Riding Division has a memorial at Havrincourt, about 8km south-east of Bullecourt, which it captured in 1918.

Aunt Gulie and Uncle Harry begged Mabel Hardy to stay on in Cartmel with them, they had been through their own tragedy, losing three young sons aged 6, 9 and 12 one in 1913 and the other two 1915, but as a trained musician she wished to pursue her career. She first moved to Bristol and then taught in Bournemouth. Life dealt Mabel another blow. When Winifred was about 11 years old her mother was diagnosed with tuberculosis, she spent the next 3 or 4 years in a nursing home while Winifred went to Sidcot school, as had both her parents, she spent her holidays with her Mother's brother in Cornwall or her Dad's sisters - he had seven! Mabel was still very weak after leaving the nursing home and had difficulty walking, also, of course, her music had suffered as a result of years without practise, but she did manage to teach for a while. She died at the age of 86.Winifred married in 1940, during another war to another young Lieutenant who served in a West Riding division (this time the 49th), happily Mr and Mrs Williams celebrated their Diamond wedding surrounded by their family, sadly both have since died.


The Teasdales ran Cartmel Post Office until the early 1950s and are fondly remembered by those left in Cartmel who can.


1 Major G.A. Swain MC, battery commander, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre on 30th May 1917 and the Military Cross for his gallantry on 5th April 1918, when D/312 were south west of Les Essarts and despite heavy mustard gas shelling throughout the day, they never failed to respond when called on to fire. Almost all the men were blistered and some temporarily blinded by the gas but still managed to fire 2600 rounds. Hardy writes "...the Major he hasn't an atom of fear in him under any circumstances whatever & what we should do without him I really don't know."

2H.G. Sharp, Geoffrey wrote, "Sharp is in the Wagon Line and writes us 2 or 3 long screeds every day all about nothing at all! I told him before I left the W.L. that he was the biggest talker I had ever met! Poor old H.G.S. he means well! But he tires us with his talk!" H.G.S. reached the rank of Captain by the end of the war.

3Major G.R. Fleming, awarded the Legion of Honour 30th May 1917, referred to by Geoffrey Hardy as "the senior Major".

4 Lieut. Edward Stanley Lloyd MC was, according to Hardy's letters, the only bachelor among the officers. He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery on 27th July 1918 while the division was in action with the French 5th Army near Pourcy. Lt. Lloyd, battery signalling officer, became a victim of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 and died on 23rd November that year. He is buried at LE CATEAU COMMUNAL CEMETERY, Nord, France, grave I. 11.

5Lieut. E.E.C. Lintern MC joined the battery on 19th May 1917, he came from Frome in Somerset. Lintern was wounded during the Battle of Cambrai, at Bourlon Wood, on 25th November 1917 and won the MC for an uncannily similar act to that of Geoffrey and his comrades."When during night harassing fire one of the guns of D/312 burst, killing two and wounding two of his detachment and setting fire to the pit, he and a gunner at once went to the assistance of the wounded men. They removed burning charges which had been blown into the ammunition recess, and succeeded in preventing an explosion and keeping down the fire, until other help was forthcoming and the fire was put out. his prompt action prevented further loss of life." 

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