Robert George Ward MM
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service Number: 13559
Date of Birth: 27 August 1890
Regiment: 2Bn Grenadier Guards
Date of Death: 26 May 1918
Age at death: 27
Cemetery / Memorial: Ayette British Cemetery
Grave / Reference: D.6
Relatives: Son of Anna Maria Ward and the late John Ward
Address: 1 Gallows Hill, Hadleigh
Robert was born in Hadleigh in 1890. The 1901 Census report him as being aged 10 and living at 1 Gallows Hill with his parents John (42) and Hannah Maria (39) and his siblings; John A (15), Henry W (13), Frederick (8), Ernest (5) and Kathleen (1). By 1911, Robert and brothers John and Henry had left home. John had married Alice Carter and moved to 5 Calais Street and Henry and Robert had both joined the Army.
Robert joined the Grenadier Guards on 15 January 1908 giving his age as 18 years and 4 months. In actual fact he was a year younger. He initially enlisted for 3 years and his enlistment record shows that he was 5ft 11 and 1/2 inches tall, he weighed 177 lbs and had a 40 inch chest. For 1908 he was a formidable fellow for a 17 year old.
Robert Ward had a lengthy military career and was in the habit of writing letters home to Mr Harris, his old school master at Bridge Street Boys School. Mr Harris would often publish excerpts from these letters and others that he received in the local newspapers. These newspaper articles along with other records found have allowed us to provide a detailed record of Robert's story.
Robert made an excellent start to his military career and was promoted to Lance Corporal on 22 June 1908. He then extended his length of service to 7 years. However, on 16 September that same year, he reverted back to the rank of Private at his own request. We do not know why, perhaps it was his inexperience. Is record goes on to show that he was promoted back to Lance Corporal a few years later on 12 August 1912, to Corporal on 4 January 1914, to Lance Sergeant on 13 June 1914 and to Sergeant on the 28 November 1918, while on active service in France.
At the outbreak of war Robert was serving with the 2 battalion the Grenadier Guards based at Chelsea. The 2nd battalion were part of 's battalion the 4th (Guards) Brigade of the 2nd Division. They were quickly mobilised and the battalion landed at Le Harve on the 15 August 1914. Although Robert's 'Medal Index Card' states that he landed on the 13th.
The battalion was involved in the opening engagements of the war and took part in the 'Retreat from Mons' when the battalion suffered many casualties. The following weeks saw the 'Race to the Sea' battles and the establishment of the Western Front and the Ypres Salient. When the First Battle of Ypres closed and the winter of 1914 / 1915 set in, only 4 officers and 140 men remained of the original battalion.
When the 2nd Battalion landed in France they were part of the 4th Guards Brigade in the Second Division. In August 1915, there was a reorganisation and they joined the newly formed 1st Guards Brigade in the Guards Division.
The battalion took part in the Battle of Loos and on 25 September 1915 Robert received a gunshot wound to the leg and was transferred to a hospital in Exeter. By mid November he was at home recovering from his injuries. While at home he visited his old school on Bridge Street and donated five battlefield relics to the school museum.
He did not return to his unit in France until 28 August 1916. According to his service record he was disciplined and reduced to the ranks for inefficiency on 7 November 1916. We do not know exactly what he did wrong. However March of 1918, newspaper articles refer to him as Sergeant and so he must have recovered his good record. Althoughit was March 1918 before the local newspapers referred to him as anything less than a sergeant. It could be that his award of the M.M. brought things out into the open as the award was Gazetted 15th March. Also he never sent the photo home until March although it was clearly taken before Dec 1917 as he is still a Private.
His award of the Military Medal was cited in the London Gazette of
15-3-1918. No citation exists for the award,this is not unusual, very
few do, but as it normally took about six months from the event to
the award being gazetted it seems likely it was awarded for gallantry
during Nov. 1917 at either Cambrai or Gouzancourt.
He was promoted to Lance Corporal 15-12-1917.
In a letter home in March 1918 he refers to a meeting with his brother
Henry in the 16th Lancers and mentioned that another brother Frederick,
with the 5th Suffolks, is in a convalescence camp in Cairo.
He was killed in action 26th May 1918 near Ayette in Northen France
and is buried in Ayette military cemetery, Plot D.6.The cemetery ,a small
one, was created by fighting units in March-June 1918.It contains over 50
The report on his death in the E & SFP of June 5th 1918 describes him as a fine upstanding soldier of powerfull physique who had several years service.A
man of resolute will and upright integrity with decided views on right and
wrong,kind of heart,generous in disposition, a good son and brother.
This high opinion was endorsed by Rev. C.F. Lyttleton chaplin to the
Grenadiers who in a letter to Mrs Ward stated he knew him well and that
he was a regular attender of services and was a real support and influance
in this way.
Death was said to be instantaneous.
The War Diary of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards for the 26th May 1918 reads:-
Front area barraged for about 20 minutes at 12.30pm, 2.45pm and 3.20pm. One post suffered a direct hit which killed or wounded every occupant.
Our guns still shooting short - one shell killed a Corporal, others only just escaped doing further damage. Everybody much exasperated. Casualties 3 killed 6 wounded.
Seems most likely the Corporal was Robert George Ward.
His medals were received by his mother. The Military Medal in Sept 1918,
the 1914 Star on 19th March 1919 and the British War and Victory medals
on 18th April 1921.
The War Graves Commission citation describes him as the son of Mrs
Hannah Ward and the late John Ward. This is because while his father did
not die until early 1922( of cancer ),the records reflect the situation at the
time they were compiled i.e. after 1922. Hannah Ward survived until 1934.
Lance Corporal Robert George Ward was born in 1890, lived at Gallows Hill and schooled in Bridge Street. He was keen to be a soldier and enlisted into the Grenadier Guards in 1908 while underage. He arrived in France with the 2nd battalion only a few days after hostilities began; he was awarded the 1914 star and could claim to be an Old Contemptible. Robert Ward was injured in the leg in September 1915 at the Battle of Loos and invalided home. He returned to the Western Front in August 1916 and was later awarded the Military Medal. On 26 May 1918 the front line was close to Ayette in northern France and they were moving forward following a creeping barrage which was meant to afford them some cover. Unfortunately the guns were dropping short and men were being killed, it is believed that one of those men was Robert Ward. He is buried at Ayette British cemetery just south of Arras.
Robert's story will be published soon