16028, 11th Bn., Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) who died of wounds on 2nd October 1916, aged 28.
Remembered with Honour
Barrow Hill Memorial
Staveley Parish Memorial
(Pier and Face 10 C, 10 D and 11 A)
Jonathan Vardy was born in Barrow Hill, the son of coal miner, Frances, and his wife Hannah. In April 1881, he was working as a labourer at one of the Staveley Coal and Iron Company’s foundries. His future wife, Georgina Luke, had moved to the Staveley area with her family from Durham and was then working as a domestic servant at Handley Wood in Barrow Hill.
The couple married on 29th November 1881 when Jonathan was 30 and Georgina 21. They made their home with Jonathan’s parents at 25, The Blocks, Barrow Hill, a 3 bedroomed cottage on the top row of workmen’s dwellings belonging to the Staveley Company, and remained there with Frances after Hannah died in 1886.
Labourer Jonathan and Georgina had 4 children in the next ten years: Elizabeth was born in 1882, Arthur in 1885, WILLIAM in the Spring of 1887 and Elvira in 1889. With 72 year old grandfather Frances, still working as a coal miner, and lodger William Roe, the small cottage was home to eight people. Frances died in 1898 and Jonathan took over the tenancy of the Block house.
Georgina gave birth to two more children who survived childhood; Lily in 1893 and Reginald in 1899. By 1901, Jonathan was working as a foundry boiler cleaner and both 15 year old Arthur and 13 year old William had by this time left the school at Barrow Hill and were employed at a local colliery, working underground as pony drivers.
The couple had been married for 30 years in 1911. 60 year old Jonathan was employed at a local colliery as a boiler cleaner whilst 23 year old William worked as a plate layer at the Markham No1 Colliery for the Staveley Company. Lily was still living at home and 12 year old Reginald was at school. Elvira had married Percy Fern in 1908 and was living in nearby Whittington whilst Arthur, who was also employed as a plate layer, had recently married a local girl, Edith Carley, and was living at the newly built Devonshire Cottages.
The family attended the Zion Primitive Methodist Chapel, on what is now Campbell Drive, where William was a member of the Chapel Choir for many years.
According to a local newspaper, “William enlisted [at Chesterfield] in the Sherwoods soon after the outbreak of War and was drafted to France in August of the following year.” The 11th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) was raised at Derby in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Third New Army and became part of 70th Brigade in 23rd Division. They undertook training in Derby then moved to Stanhope Lines at Aldershot in December 1914, and then to the staging post for troops destined for the Western Front at Shorncliffe in Kent in February 1915. In May, they moved to Bordon near Aldershot before embarking for France, landing at Boulogne on 27th August 1915. Within the month, the 11th Battalion was engaged in a minor role in the Loos Battle.
The battalion transferred with 70th Brigade to 8th Division on the 18th October 1915, in an exchange with 24th Brigade allowing the inexperienced troops to learn from those who had battle experience, returning to their original divisions in June 1916.
In 1916, the 11th Battalion took part in the opening day of the Somme offensive on 1st July when, during the attack on the Leipzig Salient, they suffered such grievous losses they were relieved that night. They returned to the bitter struggle in late July at the Battle of Pozieres (23rd July – 3rd September) and again at the Battle of Morval (25th – 28th September).
In October 1916, in a final attempt to break through the German rear position, the Battalion was engaged at the Battle of Le Transloy. On the 1st October 1916, with worsening weather and dreadful battlefield conditions, “the Battalion was involved in the final push to capture the Flers-Le Sars line. The attack was made on a front of over a mile and involved the 23rd Division on the left and the 50th Division on the right. The 11th S/F formed the right Battalion of the 70th Bde. with the 8th KOYLI on their left and the 50th Division on their right. Two Companies of the Battalion, “A” (left flank) and “D” (right flank) were involved in the attack on Flers Trench and Flers support near Le Sars.”
At 9.15 a.m. “A” and “D” Companies moved from Tangle Trench to Destremont Trench, whilst “B” and “C” Companies were in a second trench 50 yards behind.
At 3.15 p.m. “A” and “D” Companies advanced in two waves under a barrage of artillery, with “C” Company in support and “D” Company in reserve. After advancing 400 yards the Germans began an artillery barrage which fell harmlessly on the assembly trenches. The attacking waves passed over and consolidated the first and second objectives and the occupying troops fought off three counter attacks during the evening.
Battalion casualties were: Officers killed – 3, Officers wounded – 2, Other Ranks – 12 killed, 137 wounded (some of whom later died of their wounds) and 13 missing. Source
One of those wounded during the battle on 1st October was William Vardy, who, according to a local newspaper, “died of his wounds the following day.” The newspaper also described him as a Lance Corporal which could have been a temporary role and states that he “was well-known and esteemed at Barrow Hill.”
William Vardy is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, on which almost 65,000 of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.
*William’s nephew, Percy Fern, son of his sister Elvira, is also named on the Barrow Hill Memorial as a casualty of WW2
*William’s cousin Florence was the widow of Reginald Maddams who was killed in December 1915.
© Ann Lucas