Bertie Harper Darling
Date of birth: 1898
Date of death: 14.7.1917
Regiment: King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of George and Charlotte Darling
Service number: 200335 (2146)
Before the outbreak of war, he had joined the Wakefield Territorials, which was later to become part of the 1/4th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. When the 1/4th KOYLI moved to France, to join the British Expeditionary Force, on 13th April 1915, Bertie Darling was not yet seventeen and remained behind. However, early in 1916 he was posted to France, possibly as a battalion replacement, but later transferred to the 2/5th KOYLI. However, in the absence of his service record, the dates of these events are not known. At this time, soldiers who were away from their battalions for long periods, because of injury, or sickness, were often posted to other battalions.
The 5th (Reserve) Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was formed at Doncaster, in October 1914, to act as a reserve battalion and provided replacements for the first line Territorial battalion. Later, the battalion was to become the 2/5th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and brigaded with similar Territorial units, in 187th Brigade, 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division.
The 2/5th KOYLI landed at Le Havre on 16th January 1917, and went into the front line four weeks later, at Mailly-Maillet. The weather was very bad and ground conditions atrocious, such that relief from the front line duties was taking place after 48 hours. On being relieved on the night of 22nd/23rd February, the 2/5th KOYLI had 43 men suffering from trench foot.
The German Army was now showing signs of retiring from this section of the line. However, pursuit of the withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line was disrupted by the enemy, who was setting booby traps and destroying everything useful in its path.
The 2/5th KOYLI was in Reserve during the Battle of Arras, which commenced on the 9th April 1917, but their services were not called upon. The 187th Brigade spent the rest of the month between tours in the line and practicing for the forthcoming attack at Bullecourt. The attack at Bullecourt, on the 3rd May was un-successful, with the 2/5th KOYLI incurring 271 casualties.
Following the attack at Bullecourt the two KOYLI battalions had several weeks of routine trench life, before moving to Bihucourt for training. At the end of June 1917, the 62nd Division took over the Noreuil-Lagnicourt sector, with the routine being one of trench repairs, reconnaissance and fighting patrols.
During the evening of 5th July 1917, the 2/5th KOYLI moved into the front line positions at Noreuil. During this tour, which was to last one week, the battalion had several men wounded and some hospitalised through sickness. On 12th July, a German patrol attacked one of their posts in the railway cutting near Queant and though they were beaten off and a prisoner taken, the battalion incurred six casualties. The following day the 2/5th KOYLI withdrew to support positions, where they sustained another five casualties due to enemy shelling and rifle fire.
It was at this time that Private Bertie Darling received the wounds from which he died, on 14th July 1917. He was buried in the communal cemetery extension at Achiet-Le-Grand, a village and important railway centre 19 km south of Arras. At this time, the 45th and 49th Casualty Clearing Stations were established in the village and these medical units used the communal cemetery extension, for their burials. There are 1424 Commonwealth burials in the cemetery extension, of which 200 are unidentified.
Bertie Harper Darling was born in the spring of 1898, the eldest son of George and Charlotte Darling, formerly Harper, of Potovens Lane, Outwood. At this time his father was working as a brewer’s labourer, but later obtained work as a colliery labourer. Bertie Darling, on leaving school, obtained work at the nearby Lofthouse Colliery.