43009 Private Herbert Richard Barnes was severely wounded in the latter stages of the 1916 Somme battles and left his entry in Nurse Oliver’s album in March 1918. It reads:
43009 Pte H.R. Barnes
13th Essex Regt.
Wounded on the Somme. Nov 13th 1916 & still going strong at Beechlands.
March 18th 1918
Herbert shares this page in the album with 326251 CSM John A C Wilson of the Royal Garrison Artillery, 43262 Private Robert Vinton of the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment and Sergeant J Stewart of the 84th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.
Herbert was born in Clapton, East London around May 1894, his birth recorded in Hackney district in the September quarter of that year. He appears on the 1901 census living at 68 Goldsmith Road, Leyton with his parents and two sisters. The household comprised: Richard Dean Barnes (head, married, aged 41, running his own French polishing business), his wife Annie P Barnes (aged 38) and their three children: Herbert (aged six), Laura Barnes (aged five) and Florence Barnes (aged three). Richard had been born in Bethnal Green, his wife in Mile End. Herbert and Laura were born in Clapton while Florence was born in Leyton. This suggests the family probably moved from Clapton to Leyton around 1896/1897.
Another household is noted at the same address and presumably the two families lived in a typical Victorian terrace – one family upstairs and the other downstairs. Henry and Lydia Simson are the only members of the other household noted at that address and interestingly Henry’s trade is recorded as a cabinet maker. It seems likely that Henry Simson and Richard Barnes may have also had a business arrangement.
Herbert’s documents survive in a badly burned condition at the National Archives in London (WO 363 series) and from these it is possible to piece together more of his First World War service.
He attested at Lea Lodge, Leyton with the 3/8th (Cyclist) Battalion of the Essex Regiment on 11th August 1915 giving his age as 21 years and three months. He was passed fit and given the regimental number 2207. His enlistment was approved at Colchester three days later and he would remain in England until 30th July 1916.
On 27th April 1916 he was posted, probably to the 1/8th Battalion, and sailed for France on the 31st July 1916. While in France on 1st September 1916 he was transferred, presumably to the 13th Essex Regiment as his album entry (and his medal index card) gives a different number: 43009.
Herbert was wounded in the thigh and right arm on the 13th November 1916 by either shell or gunshot – his surviving records note both at different points – when the 13th Essex launched an attack on a German position known as The Quadrilateral and four lines of trenches south of it. The battalion war diary reports 323 casualties for the 13th November 1916 and in his day-by-day account of action on the Somme in 1916, the author Chris McCarthy has this to say:
“The Division [2nd Division] attacked Redan Ridge with 5 Brigade on the right… On the left, 6 Brigade led with 13th Essex and 2nd South Staffords, with 1st Kings and 17th Middlesex in the rear… The Quadrilateral was the main problem, the wire being mostly intact and because of fog and mud, progress was slow. Some of the Essex and King’s on the right pressed on to the first objective with 5 Brigade. They then formed a block at the junction of Beaumont Trench with Lager Alley… At 7:30am only 5 Brigade was ready to attack their second objective. There were only 120 men from 17th Royal Fusiliers and 2nd Ox and Bucks LI and, on the left, a few Essex and King’s of 6 Brigade. There were not enough to hold any of the footholds but they managed to reach Frankfurt Trench, gradually falling back first to Munich Trench and then Wagon Road and Crater Lane…”
As Herbert himself says, he was a long time in hospital and although his entry is dated 18th March 1918 it would be over a year later (28th March 1919) that his discharge would be approved by the Essex Regiment in Warley, Essex. Even then, right up until the 15th of that month, it appears from what is left of Herbert’s papers that he was still under the care of the Number 2 Eastern General Hospital at Brighton.
Herbert’s discharge papers give his home address as 17 Beaconsfield Road, Leyton, Essex (the same address he had written on his attestation papers nearly four years previously). His next of kin is given as his father – Richard Dean Barnes. Herbert’s character is noted as very good and his length of service in the army is recorded as three years and 230 days.
On 17th April 1919 a Pensions’ Board agreed that Herbert’s degree of disability amounted to 40 per cent, that it was permanent and that it was attributable to war service. The Board members awarded him a pension of 11 shillings per week, effective from 29th March 1919 but to be reviewed in 26 weeks. Herbert’s papers do not give details of subsequent Board meetings but the likelihood is that his award was probably scaled down over the coming years.