20353/ 267335 Pte William BARNES - Great War service 1915-1917

William Barnes 1885-1966 William and Emily Barnes circa 1950s

William Barnes enlisted in the 2/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on 13 December 1915. This was a territorial battalion, formed at Aylesbury in September 1914 as a second line unit. In January 1915 they moved to Northampton and became part of the 184th Brigade in 61st (2nd South Midland) Division: in April 1915 they moved to Writtle and quickly on to Broomfield (Essex): and in January 1916 they moved to Parkhouse Camp, Salisbury Plain. He was allocated the Number 20353 and underwent training, which for basic training etc., lasted about 20 weeks. The battalion underwent strenuous training in the neighbourhood of Chelmsford, and Parkhouse Camp on Salisbury Plain. In May 1916 the battalion was inspected by King George V as part of the 184th Brigade. On 25th May, the battalion left for France arriving at Le Havre and marched to Merville where they stayed about 10 days. (His record does not show if he left with the battalion on this occasion or joined them with a draft of 62 men who arrived on 5th August).

They then move to Laventie, where they took over part of the line in the Fanquissart Section. Soldiers spent 3 or 4 days in the trenches, then were relieved and this rotation was the pattern of trench warfare. In July after a week in rest billets at Laventie, they moved to the Ferme du Bois sector. On 18 July 'A' Company had lost 78 men gassed. On 19 July 1916, they took part in the attack opposite the Sugar Loaf salient, they went into action with 20 officers and 622 men. Casualties mounted till there were left just 6 officers and 300 men, the whole action being unsuccessful despite gaining German trenches, were unable to consolidate.

In September they were in the Moated Grange Section of the line where they served till the end of October, when they marched to billets at Robecq for intensive training, then at Barly. On Nov 19, they marched to billets at Albert; spent the next few weeks in the Martinsaart Wood rotating between there and Hedauville huts. The weather was very wet and muddy, and spent January and February in the same area until middle of the month then relieved the line at Deniecourt.

Sometime during passing months, Pte Barnes health must have broken down. Conditions in the area were bad through the winter weather and the amount of destruction carried out by the Germans with buildings burned to the ground, trees cut down, and the wells contaminated. The war Diary does not record sickness as there was constant action, though many men were ill all along the front that winter. Pte Barnes was discharged through sickness on 22 May 1917 and was given the Silver War Badge (No 195481) . This showed they had done their military service and saved them from abuse for not being in uniform. He also received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Research supplied by The Museum of The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust Harrisons Lane Woodstock, OX20 1SS. Registered Charity No: 1083387
and Lt Col Ian R Gumm of In the footsteps BATTLEFIELD TOURS

David Judd is the great-grandson of Emily Moss and can be contacted at .