18478 PTE. G. WILDING. L.N.LAN.R.
George Wilding was born on 11 October 1887 in School Lane, Bamber Bridge. His father was William Wilding (b. 1854 in Cuerden), a bobbin carrier in a card room in Dewhurst’s cotton mill. His mother was Mary Ann Addison (b. 1854 in Cuerden). William and Mary Ann were married at Brownedge St Mary’s on 31 May 1879. They had 8 children, 5 of whom survived infancy: William (b. 1880), John (b. 1885), then George, Henry (b. 1890) ad finally Ellen (b. 1895). George married in the third quarter of 1910. His wife was Elizabeth Battersby (b. 1889 in Higher Walton), a card room hand. In 1911, George and Elizabeth, and their infant son George Stanley, were living with Elizabeth’s parents and 4 of her siblings at 10 Lark Hill, Higher Walton. George was a weaver. George and Elizabeth had a daughter, Margaret Ellen, in 1912, but she died in a matter of weeks; they then had two sons: Joseph (b. 1913) and William (b. 1915).
From the newspaper article, we learn that George enlisted in December 1914. He joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was assigned service number 18478 and posted to 1st Battalion. It also seems he was allowed some home leave to see his new baby son in early 1915 before being posted to France on 16 March 1915.
1Bn L.N.LAN.R. came under orders of 2nd Brigade in 1st Division. In 1915, they fought at the Battle of Aubers Ridge (9 May). This battle was an unmitigated disaster for the British army. 1st Division had casualties of 160 officers and 3,808 other ranks, killed, wounded or missing. The Divisional History attributes the failure at Aubers Ridge to three factors: the strength of German defences and the clever concealment of machineguns; the lack of sufficient large calibre shells to deal with such defences; and the poor quality of the ammunition that was available. Reporting of these events back home eventually led to the so-called Shell Crisis and the collapse of the government.
During the Battle of Festubert which followed on 15-25 May, the Division was held in reserve and they were not called upon to fight. In June and July, the Division spent a period of relative quiet during which reinforcements arrived from home and they were more or less back to strength by the beginning of September. Plans were then afoot for a major British and French offensive which would be known as the Battle of Loos. The day of attack was set for 25 September and for the preceding 4 days a heavy artillery bombardment was laid on German lines. The advance was to have been preceded by a British chlorine gas attack. The attack was delayed on several occasions, but when it was finally released, at 6.34 on 25 September, the wind changed and much of the gas was blown back onto the advancing British infantry. The War Diary reports that in this attack 16 officers and 489 other ranks from 1Bn (approaching half the whole Battalion) were killed, wounded or missing. CWGC now records 123 officers and men from 1Bn killed that day; only 10 bodies were recovered for burial, the rest lay on the battlefield where they fell. George Wilding was among them. He was 27 years old and left a wife and three children under 5.
Service No: 18478
Date of Death: 25/09/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.
Memorial: LOOS MEMORIAL
Five years after George’s death his widow Elizabeth married William Henry Mather (b. 1891 in Farington) at All Saints Church in Higher Walton. Elizabeth and William Henry went on to have four children, two girls – Sarah Jane and Mary Elizabeth – and two boys – Ernest and Colin.