WOOLLARD, Frederick

No.16704, Private, Frederick WOOLLARD
Aged 23

2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
Killed in Action on Sunday, 9th May 1915

Frederick Woollard was born in Woodditton (Newmarket Q3-1892 3B:515) son of John and Ada Mary WOOLLARD (née CHAPMAN).

1901 census...Aged 8, he was in Little Ditton, Woodditton with his father John [36] a life insurance agent; his mother Ada Mary [31]; brother William [10] and sisters Winifred M [6] and Elsie Mary [1], also uncle Frederick WOOLLARD [54] a roadman. The entire family were born in Woodditton.

1911 census...Aged 18, a manservant, he was at School Cottages, Woodditton with his parents, brother William (groom/gardener), sisters Winifred Martha and Elsie Mary, and brothers Frank Redvers [9] and Thomas Kilburn [7] and sister Ada Tamar? [3], the new comers also born in Woodditton.

The following letter was received by the Rev. A.D.Taylor the vicar of Wood Ditton, from Private Woollard, written while he was in training at Weymouth prior to departing for the front.

Dear Sir
15th February 1915.
I thought you would be interested to hear a little of the conditions of soldiering. As you may know, I find the conditions of soldiering rather hard at times, but on the whole it is a very good life, in fact the only one for a young healthy single man, as it is the duty for every one of us to put up with hardships and do our very best to bring this terrible war to a speedy close. I find the most impressive thing at present the Church Parade of the soldiers, to see about 800 to 1,000 of them going to church is a sight one seldom sees in times of peace.
We get a lot of rain here and the mud is awful, but we are getting quite used to it now. They are constantly sending large drafts from here to the front, and it will require all the men Britain can get to finish once and for all the Kaiser and his followers, who have done their best to crush religion and civilisation.
I am glad to say I am in good health, trusting you are the same.
I am sir, yours faithfully
Private Frederick Woollard 16704 ~ 3rd Northants Regiment

He enlisted in Northampton
9 May: The Battle of Aubers Ridge,which was really a continuation of the Battle of Neuve Chappelle. It was a pincer movement with the 1st Northants in the southern pincer and the 2nd battalion coming from the north. At around 5 am the northern pincer of the attack was preceded by an artillery barrage which unfortunately resulted in many 4.7 shells falling short, even on or behind the British front lines. This was later attributed to faulty ammunition and excessive wear to gun barrels. At this stage in the war there was a dire shortage of ammunition.
At 5:30 am the attack went in. The artillery had opened some gaps in the wire and the 2nd Northants as part of 24th Brigade set out across no man's land which was only 100-200 yards across in this area. Many never got further than 30 yards from their own trenches. One party did reach the German front trench.
By 8:30am three small lodgements had been made in the enemy positions but they had no contact which each other. The attack came to a standstill and moving anywhere became impossible. General Haig ordered IV Corps to press home the attack, but German artillery was pounding the assembly area and many troops suffered before even reaching our own support lines.
By 6 pm there was chaos in the trench system and it was clear that a planned bayonet attack scheduled for 8 pm could not take place. It was decided to renew the attack on the next day, meanwhile to try to reinforce the lodgements in the German trenches.
Around 7:30pm 26 men (10 of them wounded) of the 2nd Northants returned to the British lines.

It was a terrible day for the Northamptonshire Regiment, the 2nd battalion alone lost 196 killed. Only 9 of these have identified graves, the rest are named on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

photo: Rodney Gibson

Frederick Woollard is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium- panel 7

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details