James Harding. Source Virtual War Memorial Australia

ANZAC DAY 2021 | James Harding

As we commemorate Anzac Day – I’m sharing some local stories to recognise and remember those who sacrificied so much, so we can enjoy what we have today.

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James Arthur Harding, a corporal No. 218 of the 14th Battalion, was the first soldier with a connection to Dubbo to be killed in World War I.

James first arrived in Dubbo with his parents during his younger boyhood years, and attended Dubbo District School, the same school he then sent his children to.

James worked as a grocer and a labourer before enlisting shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, at the age of 28.

At the time of his enlistment James was married to Eva, who lived in Dubbo with their four children.

At the end of 1914 he sailed to Egypt, where the AIF underwent a period of training and preparation for the landing at Gallipoli.

James quickly rose through the ranks and was a corporal when the dawn landing took place at Gallipoli on April 25.

He spent that day in a troop ship collecting wounded coming off the beach, so was well aware of the dangerous situation he was heading into.

At midnight, under the bombardment of fire, the battalion started to go ashore.

On April 27, James was at Quinn’s Post, where he was only separated from the enemy trenches by about 15 metres, and much less in some places.

Communications were almost completely cut, and runners were sniped at while trying to get messages through to headquarters.

Any attempt to move forward was met with a volley of fire.

James was hit by a bullet, and buried at the foot of Quinn’s Post on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The Defence Department gave Reverand Thomas, the rector of Holy Trinity, the sombre task of notifying James’ family of his death on May 25, thus making Eva the “first Dubbo lady widowed through the war”.

Only two days before, his four children had sent James letters wishing him “many happy returns” for his approaching birthday.

Several weeks later Eva received an official letter notifying her that he had been killed four weeks prior to the date previously given.

Dubbo rallied to support the family – holding many fund-raising events; the most popular being movie and benefit nights held at the Empire and Monarch Theatre.

In the confusion of war his grave was lost, but he is commemorated at the Lone Pine Memorial.

Commemorating those who served, and remembering those who died.

Lest we forget.

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