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War Memorials



In Memory of
REGINALD HORACE BARKER
Sergeant 265254
1st/7th Battn/Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who was Killed in Action on Friday, 29th June 1917
Age 22

No Known Grave - Panel 7
Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
&
Remembered with Honour
Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial, Arras, France1

Reginald Horace Barker was born in Loughborough, Leicestershire in 18952, the eldest son of John Thomas and Annie (née Clowes) Barker. Around 1901 they had lived for a time at 72 Fisher Street, Nottingham where John Thomas had traded as a grocer3 but, by 1911, the family was living at 40 Leopold Street, Loughborough, where he was trading as a baker, assisted by his wife. Reginald Horace, then 15, was apprenticed to a printer4. By around the end of the war, the family had moved to 22 Mona Street, Beeston, Notts5.

Although his Army Service Record has not survived, it appears likely that both Reginald Horace and his brother Albert Ernest were already active with the Territorial Force in the 7th (Robin Hood) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment). In the last week of July 1914, the battalion was in camp at Hunmanby, near Filey in Yorkshire. Talk of war was on everyone's lips and, on their arrival back at Nottingham Station on the 3rd August, they were greeted by dense crowds. For the moment, the men were dismissed to return to their homes but, when war was declared on 4th August, they were mobilised immediately and the whole force assembled the following day at their Derby Road Headquarters. Both brothers became part of 1st/7th Battalion. In the months up to February 1915, the battalion was engaged in initial training, moving to Derby, Luton, Harpenden, Harlow and Braintree.

On 25 February 1915, Reginald was with those in the battalion which left Southampton and landed in France on 25 February 1915, as part of the 139th (Forester) Brigade and soon saw action in the trenches in the Ypres salient, incurring substantial casualties. In July the battalion was in action around Sanctuary Wood, facing terrifying flamethrower attacks and very heavy fighting and casualties which continued throughout August. In September/October of that year, the battalion was involved in the Battle of Loos, another period of terrible fighting with huge losses, rightly described at its height, by one soldier, as "Hell with the lid off". During an attack on the Hohenzoltern Redoubt on 14th October, Captain Charles Geoffrey Vickers, the son of Charles Henry Vickers, the Nottingham lace manufacturer, displayed gallantry in the face of the enemy for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

For Private Barker and many of his colleagues, these first few months had been a terrible introduction to trench warfare - but the worst was to follow in the months that came. In the last days of June 1916, the Battalion was in position, as part of 46th (North Midland) Division, for what was to be the great Somme offensive against the German held Leipzig Salient. During this time, the German lines were pounded by artillery fire which was so intense at times that it was thought that the enemy defences would be so destroyed as to make the intended major attack possible. Bad weather had delayed the attack intended for 28th June and the Battalion was held in the Foncguevillers area, at the northern end of the line, opposite Gommecourt, awaiting orders to move forward for the attack. At 7.27am on 1st July, smoke was discharged and the battalion attacked in five waves at 7.30am with 5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters on its right. In the confusion of heavy smoke and unexpectedly strong German counter-attacks, only a small number of men were able reached the German line, having found gaps in the wire. Overall, the men faced very heavy resistance, heavy machine gun fire and bombing attacks which made significant advances impossible and there were very heavy casualties during the first hour. German artillery fire bombarded the trenches all morning resulting in many more casualties. By the time the battalion was withdrawn in the late evening, casualties totaled 19 officers and 424 other ranks. Of these, about half were known to have been killed or were missing. Private Barker - who at some point was promoted through the ranks to Sergeant - was very fortunate to have survived that terrible day.

Much of the remainder of the year was spend in replenishing numbers and re-training but also with inevitable periods in the trenches - in increasingly difficult conditions with cold, rain, snow and flooded trenches making everyday life a miserable experience. During the first part of 1917 the battalion took part in a number of operations against the enemy8, notably at Biez Wood near Gommecourt and near Loos. In June, on the night of 29/30th, it again advanced against the enemy at Lievin, near Lens, north of Arras, with some success but with about 40 casualties, of which Sergeant Barker was one. As the battalion diary records :

Sgt Barker was shot dead by a sniper whilst taking instructions from Major Venn M.C. who was standing close to him.

Although these circumstances imply that his body would have been recovered and buried, it appears that his grave was not found subsequently. Now with no known grave, his name is listed in Bay 7 of the Arras Memorial. He was posthumously awarded the British Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1915 Star9.

Reginald Horace's Army financial effects of 16 13s 9d were paid to his father on 12 November 1917 and he received his War Gratuity of 16 10s on 25 October 191910.

John Thomas & Annie Barker, having lost two of their three sons in the war, continued to live at 22 Mona Street up the John's death in 193311. Annie died in 1941, from 193 Leigh Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire, probably having gone, as a widow, to live with a relative12. They are buried together in Beeston Cemetery, where a memorial stone survives..
Footnotes
1The photograph of the Arras Memorial, France is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered, in Loughborough Registration District in Q2 1895 (Ref 7a 143)
31901 Census, Piece 3184 Folio 132.
41911 Census, Piece 19109 RD405 SD1 ED11 Sched 196. Reginald Horace's then surviving siblings were Albert Ernest (b. c1897) and Arthur Bryan (b. c1909). A further sibling had died in infancy.
5This Beeston address is given on both sons' memorial pages on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. As their youngest son was born in Beeston in 1908, it seems probable that they had spent some time there between living in Nottingham in 1901 and Loughborough in 1911.
6Their approximate enlistment date has been calculated based on the amount of their War Gratuity. The brothers' service numbers, in the same regiment, are only 67 apart
7Details of 1st/7th Battalion's formation and deployment in 1914-1916 are based on "The Robin Hoods", 1/7th, 2/7th & 3/7th Battns., Sherwood Foresters, 1914-1918" by Horace Smith-Dorrien, 1921.
8Details of the battalion's operations in 1917 and Sergeant Barker's death are from its War Diary, available on ancestry.com.
9Reginald Horace's medal awards are recorded on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com.
10Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.
11He died on 10 June 1933 (Probate Calendar).
12She died on 18 February 2041 (Probate Calendar).

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