The Manchester Regiment 1899 - 1958

Private Wilfred Barnes 6460, 16th & 21st

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16th (Service) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. B Company, VI Platoon

 


My father, Private Wilfred Barnes (6460) was born December 1894 in Miles Platting, Manchester, second son of Edward and Mary. His pre-war occupation was that of ‘warehouseman’ with the company Holmes, Terry & Co. Ltd., which is still in existence today.

He enlisted on September 1st, 1914 in the 1st City Pals, 16th (Service) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He was posted to B Company, VI Platoon and, according to his records, trained as a signaller. Unfortunately, there is no mention of him by name in Sgt. T.E. Pennington’s account of ‘The Signal Section of the 16th Manchesters’ and I wonder whether he may have been among the …

… further batch of men (who were) posted to the Signal Section (on October 16th) for
training and was looked upon as additional reserves to fill the casualties in the Section
later. Unfortunately the names of these men are not now available. Their training was
put in hand immediately, but was considerably interrupted by preparations for the
departure for France, which took place shortly afterwards… (Chapter 1, pp 14.)

Just where he fitted into to the (signals) training program prior to embarkation for France on 8/11/1915 is unknown to me at this time.

He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal 1914/1918.

My father’s service records, fortunately located by Roy the Burnt Files section of the National Archives show, and I quote from Roy’s notes, that on…:

8/11/1915… he moved from U.K. (Folkestone) to France; was wounded on the 1st July, 1916 during his unit’s attack on Montauban; on the 2nd/3rd July he was moved to the 13th Casualty Clearing Post and from there to the 2nd Scottish Hospital at Abberville. On 3rd July he was transferred to the U.K. where he spent more than a year before returning to the Front.

On 7th August, 1917 my father embarked for France where he joined 30 I.B.D. (Infantry Base Depot. cch) at Etaples and, on 3rd November 1917, he was posted to the 21st Battalion, The Manchester Regiment. Unfortunately company and platoon number cannot be identified on his records.

Mid-November, 1917 the 21st Manchesters moved to Italy with the 7th Division where they were under the command of Lt. Col. C.E.N. Lomax. On the 20th January Wilfred was wounded again -however his injuries were slight… “a clip of Italian cartridges which had become buried in the ground near a brazier, exploded…. There was a report on this but he was found not to blame”!

On the 13th September, 1918 the 21st Manchesters moved back to France.

13th October, 1918 he was wounded in action again: gassed and with a gas shell wound. (GSW is usually Gun Shot Wound cch)

4th December, 1918 – leave to the U.K. for 15 days (4-18 Dec.)

24th December, 1918 – back from leave and on 26th December was charged with overstaying his leave by 5 days… his punishment was 21 days loss of pay!

23rd February, 1919 to the U.K. for demobilization to the Reserve. His Certificate of Demobilization indicates: ‘One Wound Stripe, Three Blue Chevrons’.

My father wasn’t a person who liked to reminisce and it is only the assistance I received firstly from David Hopkins and later Garry Smith, both of the Museum of the Manchesters, and then Chris and Roy, that has enabled me to develop a picture of sorts as to what his experiences may have been.

Two books in particular, namely Michael Stedman’s:

Manchester Pals – 16th - 23rd Battalions of The Manchester Regiment –
A History of the Two Manchester Brigades,

and Robert Bonner’s:

The 21st Battalion, The Manchester Regiment – A History.

… have been particularly helpful, providing an insight into what occurred in the period prior to the assault on Montauban – 1st July 1916 – when my father was wounded and spent over a year back in the U.K., and then on his return to France and posting to the 21st Btn.

Also, Capt. T.A.M. Nash’s edited account of his father, Capt. T.A.H. Nash’s diaries: The Diary of an Unprofessional Soldier has provided extremely interesting background reading about the life and times of a soldier during the First World War.

Soon after discharge from the army, my father decided Africa was the place to be; I guess he’d had enough of being cold and wet! He first went prospecting on the Lupa River gold fields in Tanganyika, also Nyasaland and Uganda… he never found gold in sufficient quantities to make him a rich man, but at least he was warm! In the mid-1920’s he went to Kenya where he worked for 20 years with (Kenya) customs.

Retiring to the U.K., he still couldn’t cope with the weather and decided Perth, Western Australia – with (the west’s) connection to gold – might be profitable as well as warm! He was never very happy in W.A. and after his daughter (me) left home to join the navy (and later engaged to be married) decided, in 1956, that he and my mother would go to back to Africa – the country he really loved. They settled in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe) where, after thirteen years, he died in 1969.

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My father’s elder brother Edward enlisted after 1915 in Salford, was posted initially to the Royal Shropshire Light Infantry then to The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. He was k.i.a. (near Polygon Woods) in October 1917, and is buried in the Hooge Crater Cemetery.

Younger brother Robert also served, however, being born about 1900 wouldn’t have seen a great deal of the war. I know he was quite severely gassed, but survived and after discharge made his home in America (California)… looking for a warm, but in his case, dry climate no doubt! To date I’ve made no progress at all searching for Robert’s records, not even where he first enlisted… that may come later.

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Here I would like to express my appreciation of those forum members who provided information regarding my father. Also to Chris and Roy for their help in clarifying facts that, over a period of many months, had tended to become mired in difficulties during efforts to locate information from other knowledgeable sources.

JayMayP