14543 Private William Gardner, 15th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry died of wounds 3 May 1917 and is buried at Bucquoy Road Cemetery, France.[1]  He was 25 years old and is commemorated on the West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour in West Auckland Memorial Hall.

Family Details

William Gardner was born 1892 at St. Helens the son of James and Margaret Ann (nee Jackson).[2]  There were 7 children, all born at St. Helens:[3]

  • John Robert bc.1890
  • Mary Hannah bc.1891
  • William born 1892
  • George bc.1894
  • Margaret Elizabeth bc.1897
  • Florence Mary bc.1900
  • Edith bc.1905

In 1901, the family lived at Cross Row, St. Helens and 38 year old James worked as a coal miner (onsetter).[4]  By 1911, the family lived at Lockeys Yard, West Auckland and James still worked as a coal miner (onsetter).  John aged 21 and 19 year old William worked as coal miners (putters) and 17 year old George as a coal miner (datal hand).[5]

Service Details

William Gardner enlisted at Bishop Auckland into the Durham Light Infantry [6] being given the regimental number 14543.[7]  He served with the 15th (Service) Battalion.  The battalion was formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part of K3, Kitchener’s New Army.  It came under the orders of the 64 Brigade, 21st Division[8] together with:

  • 9th, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI)
  • 10th, KOYLI
  • 14th, Durham Light Infantry (DLI)
  • 1st, East Yorkshire Regiment (EYR)
  • 64th Machine Gun Company (MGC) joined 4 March 1916
  • 64th Trench Mortar Battery (TMB) joined 16 June 1916

The service record of Private W. Gardner has not been researched but it is known that he entered France with his Division 11 September 1915 immediately seeing action at the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915. [9]  It is probable that Private W. Gardiner would have seen action in the following battles. [10]

1915: The Battle of Loos 25 September – 8 October [11]

1916: The Battle of the Somme, the following phases: [12]

  • Albert: 1-13 July
  • Bazentin Ridge: 14-17 July
  • Flers-Courcelette: 15-22 September
  • Morval: 25-28 September
  • Le Transloy: 1-18 October

1917: [13]

The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line: 14 March-5 April

The Arras Offensive:

  • 1st Battle of the Scarpe: 9-14 April
  • 2nd Battle of the Scarpe: 23-24 April
  • Bullecourt: 3-17 May

Bullecourt 1917: 15/DLI in action [14]

14 April 1917: 15/DLI at Blairville bivouacking in a huge cave.

17 April: draft of 75 men arrived.

25 April: took over trenches in the captured Hindenburg Line.

28 April: 4 bombing squads were lent to KOYLI battalions and involved in an attack south-eastwards towards Fontaine-lez-Croisilles.

29 April:  German attack in retaliation.

2 May: evening, men in the foremost barricades were withdrawn while the German front positions were shelled for 2 hours.

3 May:  the British advance extended over 16 miles of the front and 15/DLI was ordered to bomb down the Hindenburg system which was held by the Germans west of Fontaine-lez-Croisilles.

3.50am:  The first wave met with a very heavy German barrage which caused many casualties.  The company attacking on the left down the support trench were held up by strong wire defences and machine guns.  A tank was expected to assist the attack but did not arrive until about 5.00am.  When it reached the road running due east into Fontaine it began shooting down the trench but the enemy concentrated trench mortar fire upon the tank and crippled it.

5.45am: Captain Thorne and 8 men stormed the German barricade but most of the party were either killed or wounded.  The stranded tank attracted all kinds of fire.  Capt. Thorne’s company was reinforced by the company in support and ordered to attack over open country between 2 trenches.  The assault was delivered under heavy fire and failed.

“In the front line the fight swayed to and fro.  By mid-day we were holding our own in both trenches but the long morning’s struggle under a hot sun had left the troops very exhausted and in the afternoon the battalion were relieved.  2nd Lieut. C.W. Baildon and 10 others had been killed; Capt. W. Edmenson, Lieut. C.S. Herbert, 2nd Lieuts. E. Lyall, M.H. Grant, W. Bigg and W.I. Curnow and 68 men were wounded; 2 Lieut. J.H. Baille and 28 men were missing.”[15]      

4 May: in divisional reserve.

5 May: 15/DLI re-occupied the trenches after a thunderstorm rendered the heat a little less oppressive.  No further attacks were made but snipers on both sides were active, the distance between the lines being about 100 yards.

Later research records that between 3 and 5 May, 15/DLI lost 2 Officers and 17 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds including Private William Gardner.[16]

Private W. Gardner was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[17]

Private M. Heaviside V.C.

May 6: morning, a wounded man was seen waving a water bottle in a shell hole in No-Man’s Land about 40 yards from the German line.  To send out a stretcher party was impossible during daylight hours due to enemy fire. But stretcher bearer Private Michael Heaviside volunteered to take water and food to the man.  Crawling from shell hole to shell hole he miraculously escaped the sniper’s bullet and reached the wounded soldier to render aid.  When darkness fell he returned with a stretcher party and brought the man in.  Private Heaviside’s deed won him the Victoria Cross.[18]


14543 Private William Gardner is buried at grave reference I.D.21 Bucquoy Road Cemetery, France.  Hid headstone bears the epitaph: [19]

Gone but not forgotten by Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters

There is a family headstone in West Auckland cemetery which bears a memorial to William Gardner.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England Selected Births & Christenings 1538-1975: baptised 6 March 1892 Note: CWGC, SDGW & 1901 census spell the name Gardner but Ancestry Christenings & 1911 census spell it Gardiner

[3] 1911 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[7] Medal Roll card index


[9] www.warpath.orbat/battles_ff/1915.htm & and Medal Roll


[11] http://www.warpath.orbat/battles_ff/1915.htm

[12] http://www.warpath.orbat/battles_ff/1916.htm

[13] http://www.warpath.orbat/battled_ff/1917.htm

[14] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-1918: The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” Captain W. Miles 1920 p.140-143

[15] Miles p.142

[16] ODGW & SDGW

[17] Medal Roll

[18] Miles p.143

[19] Commonwealth War Graves Commission


GARDNER W. Headstone


GARDNER W. Medal Roll

Medal Roll

GARDNER William Family Headstone

Family Headstone