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
put in hand immediately, but was considerably interrupted by preparations
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
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.
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.
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.