Private Daniel Ward, 5420, York and Lancaster Regiment, 9th Battalion
Daniel Ward was born at Grange Moor, near Wakefield in 1879, the son of George Ward and his wife Ann (nee Auty) who were married at Emley St. Michael's Parish Church on the 26th November 1873. George Ward was born in Epworth, Lincolnshire in 1851 and his wife was born in 1852 near Huddersfield.
In 1881, Daniel was living with his grandmother Hannah Auty (56) and her family at Town Street, Emley, near Huddersfield. His mother and father were living at Scunthorpe in 1881 with two of Daniel's elder brothers John T. Ward (born 1874) and Fred Ward (born 1877). George Ward was working as a general labourer and it is not known why Daniel was left with his grandmother.
In 1891, 12 year-old Daniel was living with his aunt, Ruth Auty (23) who was working as a domestic servant and living at Church Street, Emley. However, Daniel's mother and father are now living at Commercial Road, Skelmanthorpe with five children: John and Fred plus Arthur (born 1882), Charles M. (born 1885) and Hannah Jane (born 1888). George Ward is now working as a mason's labourer.
In June 1899, at the age of 20 years and 6 months, Daniel Ward enlisted with the York and Lancaster Regiment, Private 5420. He signed up for five years and, at that time, he was living at Grange Moor and working as a coal miner. In April 1904, after he had completed 4 years and 9 months service with the colours, and with good character, he agreed to extend his army service to 8 years.
In recognition for his period of service between 1900 and 1902 in South Africa and then the Transvaal from 1902 to February 1903, he was awarded the South African medal with clasp "Cape Colony, Orange Free State". He also had a "First-Class Musketry" classification. He was then transferred to 'A' Reserve on the 15th of June 1907 for four years, expiring on the 14th June 1911. On the 24th June 1911, he re-enlisted in 'D' Reserve for a further four years. Daniel Ward was then 32 years of age, 5ft 4 inches tall, 112 lbs in weight with a sallow complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He was now working as a coal miner again and living at 8, Gunson Row, Ossett. Ward had seen service not only in South Africa, but in India between 1902 and his return home in 1907.
Daniel Ward (28) married Winifred Rivers (27) on the 3rd of August 1907 at the New Wesleyan Chapel, Wesley Street, Ossett. Winifred was the daughter of John Rivers (deceased) and lived on Prospect Road, Ossett at the time of the marriage. Their daughter Annie Gertrude Ward was born on the 30th September 1908 and then a son, John Rivers Ward, who was born on the 30th August 1913, both in Ossett.
The 9th (Service) Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment was raised at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Third Army and joined 70th Brigade in 23rd Division. They undertook training at Frensham, Aldershot, Hythe and Bordon Before proceeding to France. They landed at Boulogne on the 27th of August 1915 and in October 1915 they transferred with the 70th Brigade to the 8th Division. On the 17 July 1916 they returned to the 23rd Division and saw action on The Somme in The Battle of Albert including the capture of Contalmaison.
The 8th York and Lancaster, along with the 9th Battalion of the same regiment, the 8th Battalion The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the 11th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters formed the 70th Infantry Brigade as part of the 23rd Division.
The 70th Brigade concentrated at Frensham on the 16th September 1915, but it was not until October that some old uniforms became available for the soldiers along with one hundred obsolete rifles per battalion 'for drill purposes only'. It was November before they received some modern rifles, but only eight per battalion for instruction purposes, such was the dearth of equipment caused by the overwhelming response to Kitchener’s call to arms. In December the brigade moved into barracks at Aldershot when they at last received khaki uniforms, but it was June 1915 before modern rifles were issued and proper training could begin.
On the 28th August 1915, the Brigade embarked for France, landing at Boulogne and moving on to rest camp at Ostrohove. Daniel Ward was a reservist and had been called back to his regiment in the early days of the war and by February 1915, he was again in a soldier in the 9th (Service) Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. His service record shows that he was in France from the 15th January 1915 to 20th May 1915, but was shot in the left calf on the 5th May 1915 during the Battle of Ypres and was hospitalised. He came back to England to recuperate from the 20th May to the 28th August 1915 and then returned to the western front until his death on the 1st July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.
On Midsummer’s Day 1916 the great artillery bombardment opened on The Somme. In theory the German front line was to be so pulverised that the British troops, whom Haigh seems to have considered incapable of little more than obeying simple instructions, could walk across and occupy the enemy's positions.
On the night of 29-30 June 1916, Private Ward's battalion moved forward to their assembly position. They had to wait over a day, but then July 1st dawned fine but misty, and at 6.25 a.m. the final bombardment began. At 7.30 a.m. all along the line of 15 divisions, men went over the top, each carrying 66lb of kit, and expecting little if any resistance. In reality, as John Keegan in "The Face of Battle" so elegantly shows, there was a race on for the top of the German front lines. Whoever arrived first had won: the loser would face annihilation. The awful reality was that that the Germans had largely survived the bombardment and were able to bring their machine guns to bear upon the advancing infantry struggling with the barbed wire that had also defeated everything the artillery could throw against it.
Meanwhile the 9th York and Lancaster’s were coming up in support. By then the German barrage was intense: one of the four companies losing 50% of its men before it left its assembly position. Ahead and to both left and right was severe machine-gun fire but the first wave gained the German line. By 10 am. all communication between British lines and the brigade headquarters had ceased since every telephone wire was cut and it was impossible to stand-up in no-man’s-land.1
South of the Shwaben Redoubt, the German-held villages of Thiepval, Ovillers, La Boisselle and Fricourt all resisted the British advance. Unusually the wire in front of the 70th Brigade was completely cut and the first and second German lines on Thiepval Ridge were captured. The 8th Battalion, KOYLI, starting from just outside Authuille Wood, managed to reach the third line of German trenches, but were beaten back. The 9th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, now following in support, was cut apart by machine gun fire from Thiepval Spur and 423 men of the battalion were killed on the 1st July 1916,2 including Private Daniel Ward from Ossett, who was aged 37.
During the night the battalion was relieved. Out of 25 officers and 736 other ranks of the 9th York and Lancs who went into action, 22 officers and 556 men were casualties in the bloodiest day the British Army has ever known, with 31,581 killed, wounded or missing.
Behind them was the sound of countless men lying out in no-man’s-land, described by one survivor like 'enormous wet fingers screeching across an enormous pane of glass'. Some of the wounded screamed, some muttered, some wept with fear, some called for help, other shouted in delirium or groaned in pain. Their Brigade Commander wrote:
"I cannot speak too highly of the gallantry and determination of officers and men. Artillery could not stop them, but with nothing on their flanks save German machine guns, with the support exhausted and German reinforcements coming up, they fought for over six hours in positions won by them from the enemy, until they died."
Above: Still from the film "Battle of the Somme", showing men going over the top on the first day of the battle.
The "Ossett Observer" 3 had a short obituary for Private Daniel Ward:
"It was officially announced yesterday that Private Daniel Ward of the York and Lancaster Regiment, whose wife lives in Ryecroft-street, Ossett has been killed at the front. He had previously been reported as missing since July 1st. The deceased soldier was a Reservist and was called up on the outbreak of the war. He took part in the South African war, and had been twice wounded during the present struggle, once during the battle of Ypres, after which he was invalided home for a while. He leaves a widow and two children."
Private Daniel Ward is buried at grave reference V. A. 9. at the Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood 3, Somme, France. Authuile (now Authuille) and Aveluy are villages 4 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. The Cemetery is situated in a valley half way between these two villages on the D151 (Cemetery is signposted on exit of Aveluy direction Authuille).
Blighty Valley Cemetery was begun early in July 1916, at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, and used until the following November. At the Armistice it contained 212 graves but was then greatly enlarged when 784 graves were brought in from the battlefields and small cemeteries to the east. Most of these concentrated graves were of men who died on 1 July 1916. The cemetery now contains 1,027 burials and commemorations of the First World War. 536 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 24 casualties known or believed to be buried among them, and to five others buried by the Germans in Becourt German Cemetery in the spring of 1918, whose graves could not be found on concentration.
2. "Forgotten Voices of the Somme", by Joshua Levine, Ebury Press (2009), ISBN-10: 0091926289
3. "Ossett Observer", 30th September 1916