Private Harry A. C. Woodward, 2156, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 1st/4th Battalion
Harry Anderson Clifford Woodward was born in Ossett on the 4th January 1894, the illegitimate son of 19 year-old Harriet Woodward whose home was at Dewsbury. Harry was baptised at Ossett Holy Trinity Church on the 16th December 1895.
In 1901 Harry, aged 7, is living close to Bridle Lane, on Dewsbury Road, Ossett as the adopted son of William Pollard and his wife Mary (nee Lodge), who had married in 1872 in the Dewsbury Registration District. William Pollard is a hewer in a coal mine and also has three children in the household: Alice (22), Benjamin (24) and Jane (27). In addition, a 10 year-old grand daughter, Elsie Pickard and a one year-old visitor, Doreen Lawton, are also living in the household. All of the family were born in Ossett except for Harry who was born in Dewsbury.
William and Mary Pollard's eldest daughter, Jane, died in Spring 1901, aged 27. Their eldest daughter, Alice, married John Ellis in 1905 and they were to live on Greatfield Road, Ossett.
At the age of 17, in 1911 Harry is living, as an adopted son, with 64 year-old William Pollard and his wife of 39 years, Mary who is aged 71. William is still working as a hewer and Harry is a colliery scale picker (above ground). The Pollards have had four children, but only two, Benjamin and Alice, have survived until 1911. The couple also have a "grandchild", Elsie Pickard, aged 20, living with them together with an 11 year old "visitor", Doreen Lawton, who is at school. The family are living in a three-roomed home at Well Green Cottages, Dewsbury Road Ossett, situated two doors away from the Flying Horse Public House.
Harry’s adoptive father, William, died in 1911 and his adoptive mother, Mary, died in 1913. Their granddaughter, Elsie Pickard, married Willie Halliday in 1914 and thus became Mrs. Halliday who is mentioned in Harry Woodward's "Ossett Observer" obituary, but is described as his sister.
Private Woodward died on the 19th December 1915, aged 21 years, the adopted son of William and Mary Pollard of Ossett, Yorkshire. He was killed when the Germans shelled the 1/4 KOYLI trenches, near Wieltje, to the north east of Ypres, with a deadly 80:20 phosgene/chlorine gas mixture. Many soldiers from the battalion were affected and several, like Harry Woodward, died.
The British were warned that this attack was at hand. French took a German Sergeant Major prisoner a few weeks before the attack, near Steenstrate, and he gave a first warning. The day before the attack, another German prisoner informed the British of an attack at hand.
During the attack, the British soldiers were ordered to put on their gas masks. These were very primitive affairs and had not really been tried and tested. As a result some soldiers ripped off their masks because they were unable to breath properly. Another soldier in the same KOYLI battalion as Harry Woodward, Private Edgar Margrave, from Horbury, wrote a note on Christmas Day 1915 to friends at Horbury W.M.C:
"I'm sorry to say that I had the misfortune to be gassed on Sunday the 19th. It was in the same position that they used gas last year. I might tell you that it was awful stuff too, as it turns everything green. I think I was very lucky to get out of it alive, because when we were coming out they were shelling us all the way down to the dressing station. I think there are a lot more of our lads lost, but they (the Germans) have lost a lot this time. They came over on our left, but soon went back again, I can tell you, as our lads were waiting for them. I am going on very fair at present, and am at the base."
The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this obituary for Private Woodward:
"Death Like a Hero - The news of the death from gas poisoning on December 19th of Private Harry A. C. Woodward was received from Lieut.-Col. Haslegrave by his sister, Mrs. Halliday, of Heathfield-road, Dewsbury-road, Ossett. In his letter Lieut.-Col. Haslegrave said: 'Your brother was a company runner, taking messages from headquarters to the front line, and what work he had to do, he did it like a hero. He was a brave lad, and met his death like a hero, fighting against one of the most deadly of enemies, who uses all the scientific devices he can think of to destroy mankind. All possible medical aid was rendered immediately to try and save his life, but all of no avail.'
Private Woodward was 21 years of age. He had joined the Territorials only a few weeks before war broke out, and was having his first experience of camp training when the battalion was recalled from Whitby and a few days later mobilised. At that time he was working on the L. and Y. Railway as a plate-layer, and lodged at the house of Mr. Frank Bentley, Station-road, Ossett. Before that he was employed for some years at Low Laithes Colliery, Gawthorpe. He was unmarried, and his parents are dead, but he has three sisters living in the Gawthorpe district."
Above: A rare aerial photo showing a poison gas attack in progress--in this case by the Allies against the Germans. Both sides routinely used gas attacks as the war wore on, and the initial shock value lessened somewhat with the development of gas masks.
Private Harry Woodward is buried at grave reference I. A. 22. at the Bard Cottage Cemetery, 2 Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The Cemetery is located on the Diksmuidseweg road (N369) in the direction of Boezinge.
For much of the First World war, the village of Boesinghe (now Boezinge) directly faced the German line across the Yser canal. Bard Cottage was a house a little set back from the line, close to a bridge called Bard's Causeway, and the cemetery was made nearby in a sheltered position under a high bank.
Burials were made between June 1915 and October 1918 and they reflect the presence of the 49th (West Riding), the 38th (Welsh) and other infantry divisions in the northern sectors of the Ypres Salient, as well as the advance of artillery to the area in the autumn of 1917. After the Armistice, 46 graves were brought in to Plot VI, Row C, from the immediate area, including 32 from Marengo Farm Cemetery (this was located a few hundred metres to the south of Bard Cottage, on the same side of the road. It was used from June 1915 to August 1916).
There are now 1,639 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 39 of the burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate three casualties known to be buried among them.
1. "Ossett Observer", 1st January 1916