17670 PTE. A. H. WHARTON. K.O.S.B.
Alfred Harling Wharton was born on 3 May 1886 in Bamber Bridge and baptised at St Saviour’s on 9 May. His father was James Wharton (b. 1855 in Bamber Bridge), a general labourer. His mother was Mary Ellen Harling (b. 1853 in Preston). James and Mary Ellen were married in 1882 and they had three children, losing one in infancy. Alfred had a sister, Emma (b. 1894). In 1911, the family was living at 47 School Lane, Bamber Bridge. Alfred was a general labourer in a cotton mill.
As the newspaper article tells us, Alfred enlisted soon after the outbreak of War. He joined the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and was assigned service number 17670 and posted to 1st Battalion. 1Bn KOSB had been serving in India but returned to England and were ready for service in January-March 1915. 1Bn came under orders of 87th Brigade in 29th Division. Originally intended for France, pressure on Lord Kitchener to launch a ground attack at Gallipoli forced him to deploy the Division there. 29th Division embarked at Avonmouth on 16-22 March 1915 and went via Malta to Alexandria. On 7 April the first units to have arrived at Egypt began to re-embark for the move to Mudros, the deep water harbour at the island of Imbros that was going to be used as a forward base for operations at Gallipoli. The Division landed at Cape Helles on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. According to Alfred’s Medal Index Card, he landed on 9 May. He served through the Gallipoli campaign. He wouldn’t have been aware of it, but his cousin, William Parkinson, landed with 6Bn L.N.LAN.R. at Suvla Bay on 4 August 1915, only to be killed just five days later.
Alfred survived the Gallipoli campaign and was evacuated with his Division on 7-8 January 1916, when all units returned to Egypt. Orders were received there on 25 February for a move to France. Embarking in March the Division arrived at Marseilles and moved to concentrate in the area east of Pont Rémy between 15 and 29 March. The Division remained on the Western Front for the remainder of the war.
Alfred fought with his Division on the Somme at the Battle of Albert (1-13 July) and the Battle of the Transloy Ridges (1 October – 11 November).
In 1917 they fought in the Arras Offensive in all three phases of the Battle of the Scarpe (9 April – 14 May), and then in several phases of the Third Battle of Ypres – at Langemarck (16-18 August), Broodseinde (4 October), and Poelcapelle (9 October).
In mid October 1917, 1/KOSB removed to billets at Bailleulval, about 10 miles south-west of Arras. There they rested and engaged in specialist training – they would have known that some new attack was being planned. On 17 November, they prepared to move, and marched first to Boisleux-au-Mont where they entrained for Péronne, and from here they marched north to Fins. On 20 November, they moved to the front line at Gouzeaucourt, just south of Havrincourt on the map. The Battalion’s objective was Marcoing. Their advance was preceded by tanks and they encountered little resistance until they reached a railway bridge at Marcoing where several machine guns had to be put out of action before the bridge could be crossed. The advance continued on 21 November, with tanks taking out machinegun posts so the infantry could advance. They spent the next two days consolidating their position and were in the Masnières sector of the line on 26 November when they were relieved in the line and able to retire to Marcoing. But on 28 November, the enemy bombarded them with gas shells – a counter-attack was on its way. On 30 November, they heard that the enemy had broken through on their right and the Battalion was forced on the defensive. The War Diary reports that on that day 3 officers and 11 other ranks were killed, 4 officers and 79 other ranks wounded, and 1 officer and 40 other ranks missing. Among them was Alfred Wharton. He was 31 years old. The Battalion was forced to withdraw behind a new defensive line, near Ribécourt. CWGC confirms that between 20 November and 1 December, 61 officers and men from 1Bn lost their lives, including 40 who were killed on 30 November.
The Battle of Cambrai had seen a spectacularly rapid advance, followed by an equally rapid counter-attack. Although little, if anything, was gained in terms of territory, the battle signalled a new form of warfare, using tanks in massed numbers to lead infantry attacks, which heralded a significant change in military tactics which would finally break the sterile war of attrition of the previous 3 years.
Service Number: 17670
Date of Death: 30/11/1917
Regiment/Service: King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 1st Bn.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 5.
Memorial: CAMBRAI MEMORIAL, LOUVERVAL