Major Warren Henry WARDELL
1st Battalion, 39th Garhwal Rifles

Date of birth: 30th August 1866
Date of death: 24th November 1914

Killed in action aged 48
Commemorated on the Neuve Chapelle Memorial Panels 31 and 32
He was born at St Helier in Jersey on the 30th of August 1866, the eldest son of Major General William Henry Wardell, Royal Artillery, and Emily Mary (nee Le Bailly)of Denholm Lodge, Shrewsbury Lane, Plumstead.

He was educated at the King's School Canterbury from September 1878 to July 1885, where he earned a Senior Scholarship in 1882. In 1884 he was appointed as a monitor and also played in the Rugby XV. After school he obtained an Open Classical Scholarship to Pembroke College, Oxford, matriculating on the 27th of October 1885 but did not take a degree.

Instead he decided on a career in the army and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion King's Liverpool Regiment (Militia) on the 21st of December 1889. He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 11th of March 1891, which was antedated to the 16th of January, and transferred to the 39th Garhwal Rifles in July 1891. He was seconded to the Indian Staff Corps on the 14th of August 1891 and was promoted to Captain in 1900 and to Major in 1907. He served mostly with the 1st Battalion where he was Adjutant but for six and half years he served as a double Company Commander with the 2nd Battalion, rejoining the 1st Battalion on the 21st of December 1912.

At the end of November 1891, as part of the Chin Hills Expedition, he commanded a column of 100 men who marched to Rumkalo in Burma to mediate in a feud between the Haka and Rumlako. He was successful in his mission. By January 1893 the Siyin tribe were attacking and harassing the British expedition and Lieutenant Wardell and his column attacked the rebel camps of Dimlo, Shwimpi and Dimpi. Five Chins were killed and their camps along with their entire stock of grain and livestock were captured.

For his actions he was recommended for a Distinguished Service Order and mentioned in despatches:-

"For his unceasing activity against some of the most troublesome of the Siyin tribe, which resulted in their being the first to surrender their firearms and submit to our terms."

On the 31st of January 1893 he and his men returned to India.

In 1897 he served in the perimeter camp at Nawagai, and subsequently with the Mohmand Field Force in the attack on the Bedmanai Pass, and in the operations in the Mittaiand Suran Valleys, and on the line of communications Tirah Expeditionary Force.

From December 1901 to August 1902 he served in the South African War where he was with the 15th Battalion Mounted Infantry in Eastern Transvaal. He was one of only fifteen Indian Army Officers asked for by Lord Kitchener and was awarded the King’s Medal with one clasp. In 1911 he was one of the officers selected to represent the Indian Army at the coronation of King George V.

He was serving as second in command of the battalion at Northern India when they were mobilised on the 5th of August 1914, landing at Marseille on the 13th of October.

On the 23rd of November at 4.15pm the battalion were at the village of La Couture and received orders to move immediately to Festubert to reinforce the Brigade there which had lost a portion of their trenches. Two battalions had been decimated attempting to regain it due to the Germans being present in large numbers and well armed with machine guns. Also due to a shortage of ammunition, there was no artillery support available. The battalion arrived at 7.30pm and after a number of conflicting orders were ordered to make an assault on the trench despite the few numbers of men available when compared to the previous, failed attacks.

At 3am the attack began when Lieutenant R.G.G. Robson of the Royal Engineers and Captain D.H. Ashworth and a party of seven bombers of the 57th Rifles lead a bombing attack traverse by traverse and drove the enemy back. They took 30 to 40 prisoners and as the bombs became exhausted Lieutenant Robson called on the Garhwals to attack.

Then Major Wardell's men took over, attacking "like tigers", according to Captain Ashworth. Bombing and bayoneting, they killed a number of Germans and captured 80 yards of trench as they went. They were slowed because of the large number of prisoners and casualties from both sides which now choked the trench. In the meantime Captain Lumb and his party came up the communication trench and jumped into the German held trench at the head of the now wounded Wardell's men and forced a further 105 Germans to surrender, the fighting being over at 6am. For his part in the action Captain Lumb was awarded the Military Cross and Naik Darwan Sing Negi who led the bayonet charge from traverse to traverse was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Of Major Wardell the battalion history has the following: -

"I do not think that it has ever been definitely decided how Major Wardell was killed. He was wounded in this attack and was, I believe, able to get back to the first aid post. On his way back in the dark he took a wrong turning and so went up a trench held by the enemy. This was not surprising as Major Wardell was short sighted and the trenches at that part were intricate owing to part having been captured and the enemy saps which ran up to our trenches. As his body was never found I fancy that this is what happened. He was a great loss to the regiment, being a capable and keen officer and one intensely interested in his men."

His medals were sold to a private collector in 2002.

He is commemorated on the war memorial at Pembroke College Oxford.