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War Memorials

In Memory of
Rifleman R/7074
4th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps
Who Died of Wounds on Thursday, 7th November 1918
Age 26

Plot I Row D Grave 11
Dourlers Community Cemetery Extension, Nord, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
 Dourlers Community Cemetery Extension

Dourlers Community Cemetery Extension1

Harry Barnes was born in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire in 18862, the fifth of six children of George (b. 1861 Whittlesey) and Ruth Barnes (b. c1858, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, née Moore3). In 1901, the family was living at Peterboro End, Whittlesey with George and John William, his eldest son, working as brickyard labourers4. In 1906, tragedy hit the family when Ruth died, aged only 485 and it is likely that it was around that time that the 14-year-old Harry joined the Midland Railway as a porter. By 1911, he was working in that position at Beeston Station and was boarding with Ann Murden, an elderly widow, at 83 Chilwell Road, Beeston6.

Later that year, Harry married Emma Taylor (b. 1889, Beeston), and set up home at 25 Chestnut Avenue, Beeston. Their son, George Charles, was born in February 1912 and a second son, Harry, was born in August 19137.

Harry enlisted with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and joined it for training at Winchester in November 1914 8 and, at first, was attached to its 6th Battalion. On 29 April 1915, he left for France with 3rd Battalion but was wounded almost immediately. After his recovery he joined 4th Battalion in early June as part of a draft of reinforcements to strengthen the battalion following the tremendous losses it had suffered during April and May while taking part in the Second Battle of Ypres9. In November 1915 the Battalion were ordered to Salonika and sailed from Marseilles on the 19th, arriving on the 25th, reinforcing a combined Franco-British force which had landed at Salonika (now called Thessalonika) in October to assist the Serbs against Bulgarian aggression. Although the force arrived too late to prevent the defeat of the Serbs. it was retained there to counter further Bulgarian aggression. In the pause that followed, in the early months of 1916, the British units, later joined by French, Italians and Russians, dug-in to prepare for further attacks, with a major trench system reinforced by vast amounts of barbed wire. A Bulgarian attempt to invade Greece in July was repulsed near Lake Doiran and, early in October, in co-operation with her allies on other parts of the front, the British began operations on the River Struma towards Serres. The campaign was successful with the capture of the Rupell Pass and advances to within a few miles of Serres.

Although the campaign in Salonika was to continue for the rest of the war, it remained relatively stable. This made it possible to withdraw some of the units as replacement manpower following the losses during the German Spring Offensive of 1918. Consequently, 4th Battalion embarked for France in June 1918 and joined 151st Brigade of the 50th Division on the Western Front in July, in time to take part in what became known as the 100 day offensive that led up to the end of the war in November 1918. Happily, on 30 August 1918, Harry was granted 28 days leave.

At the time of his return on 28 September, the battalion was taking its part in the Battle of the St Quentin Canal, an important turning point which resulted in the breaching of the Hindenburg Line in early October. But German Army resistance continued relentlessly while the Allied forces - which included 4th Battalion - continued their advance, taking Cambrai by mid-October and Valenciennes at the beginning of November. In the days that followed the Valenciennes battle, the battalion was in action in the region around Le Cateau facing an enemy which was determined in its defence. The men were tired, the weather deteriorated and, in difficult circumstances, meals were delayed or didn't appear. Nevertheless, the men fought bravely despite facing shelling and heavy machine-gun fire10. It was in these circumstances that, on the 7th November, Rifleman Barnes was wounded and died shortly afterwards, probably in a Forward Dressing Station. Having served for four years, he had died just four days before the Armistice was signed. He was buried originally near to where he died but, in September 1919, his body was exhumed and reburied in Dourlers Community Cemetery Extension where it now lies11.

Doulers (previously Dourlers) is a small village on the D33 off the main road N2 between Maubeuge and Avesnes-sur-Helpe. It was in German hands during almost the whole of the First World War. It was taken on 7 November 1918, after heavy fighting, by the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 1st King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. The communal cemetery was used by the Germans during the war, but in November 1918, a small extension was made by Commonwealth troops at the west end. After the Armistice, the German graves from the communal cemetery and others from the battlefields, together with Commonwealth graves from isolated positions and from several small cemeteries, were brought into the extension, The Extension contains 161 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 14 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to four casualties known or believed to be buried among them12.

Rifleman Barnes was posthumously awarded the British & Victory medals and, probably, the 1915 Star13. His Army financial effects of 27 3s 5d, which included his War Gratuity of 23, were paid to Emma, his widow, as his sole legatee, on 24 May 191914.

Emma and their family of two children had moved to 16 Broughton Street, Beeston, where she continued to live for the rest of her life. Sadly though. their son Harry died in Nottingham General Hospital on 9 October 1915, having sustained an injury to his knee which became infected. In 1928, Emma married Telford William Needham. Telford died on 26 September 1951, aged 65. Emma died on 12 March 1976, aged 86 13.

1The photograph of Dourlers Community Cemetery Extension is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was recorded in Whittlesey Registration District in Q2/1892 (Ref 3b 579).
3Their marriage is recorded in Whittlesey Registration District, Cambridgeshire in Q2/1879 (Ref 3b 924)
41901 Census, Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire : Piece 1552 Folio 25. Harry's siblings were George (b. c1880), Caroline (b. c1883), John William (b. c1888), Minnie (b. c1890) and Florence (b. c1895).
5Her death was registered in Whittlesey Registration District in Q4/1906 (Ref 3b 333).
61911 Census, Beeston, Notts : Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Sched 194.
7They married at Beeston Parish Church on 21 October 1911. George Charles was born on 15 February 1912 (or 6 March, later records vary) and Harry on 20 August 1913.
8Details of his enlistment and postings are from his surviving Army Service Record which may be seen on-line at ancestry.com.
9Details of 4th Battalion's movements are from the Forces War Records website (www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/1508/kings-royal-rifle-corps/).
This account of the Salonika campaign is based on that on the Long, Long Trail website (www.1914-1918.net/salonika.htm)
10There is a detailed account of this episode in the Battalion War Diary as well as a detailed list of casualties which includes Rifleman Barnes.
11Details of his exhumation and reburial are to be found as part of his memorial page on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
12This description of Dourlers Community Cemetery Extension is based on that included on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
13Harry's award of the British and Victory Medals is recorded on his Medal Rolls available on ancestry.com. Neither his medal card or his 1915 Star Roll entry has been found, although it appears that he would have been entitled to it.
14Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.
15This family detail are derived from standard genealogical sources, including the 1939 Registration.

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