SAMUEL FRANK BARNES
This soldier was usually known by his middle name. Frank’s story is what is commonly imagined to be typical of all British First World War casualties: he lied about his age and joined a Pals’ Battalion nearly a month after the declaration of war on 3rd September 1914, when he was only 17. He then trained in Britain until he went to France on 7th November 1915 and was killed as he went over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916. He either never received a proper burial or his grave was later destroyed because he is commemorated, along with the other 72,202 who have no known grave, on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing on the Somme.
Frank’s family were typical West Kirby residents of the time – comfortably-off, working or lower middle class folk who had come from Liverpool (in about 1886). His father, Samuel, a gardener, was born in Malpas in Cheshire in about 1850 and his mother, Elizabeth (née, Shingler) in Liverpool in about 1854. Frank had three brothers and two sisters; he was the youngest. When war was declared, Frank was as a clerk, working for Mr Woolcott, a solicitor on Dee Lane in West Kirby and, according to The Deeside Advertiser, “was making rapid strides towards a successful professional career.” He joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment in Liverpool and is recorded as having a fresh complexion, brown hair, grey eyes and a brown stain on his left thigh. He was 5’5¼” tall and had a chest measurement of 34½” with an expansion of 2½”; he weighed 110lbs.
Liverpool Pals battalions cap badge
His military career seems to have been relatively uneventful until he met his end. On the morning of 1st July 1916, Frank’s battalion was part of the 21st Brigade in the 30th Division. It faced the 6th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment who were entrenched just in front of Montauban. The initial French artillery bombardment was effective and the first wave of attacking Liverpool Pals was successful. The Germans soon recovered, however, and one well-placed machinegun is thought to have caused most of the 500 probable Liverpool casualties. Frank was one of the 164 men who died. The gun was silenced at about 8.35 am and the brigade went on to capture Montauban at about 10.05 am. It was actually one of the more successful sections of the British attack. A letter from an unnamed comrade appeared in The Deeside Advertiser: “He was hit whilst going over the top, and was killed instantaneously and absolutely without pain. I have tried my utmost to get his pocket-case, but I think someone must have sent it on to you. He was very popular in our platoon and is greatly missed by the few of us who are left. There is one consolation in knowing he died a noble death in the face of the enemy.” Frank’s sister Ethel wrote to the War Office on 18th July 1916 asking for confirmation of rumours that he had died on the 1st. The rumours were confirmed the next day. There is no record of his possessions being returned to his parents, even though they informed the War office that they had moved to 10 Hilbre Road, West Kirby on 28th November 1919.
Birth c.1897 in West Kirby
Death 1st July 1916, killed in action aged 19
Address: Hill Cottage Village Road, West Kirby (01), 7 Church Road, West Kirby (11), 20 Eaton Road, West Kirby (14-16)
Unit: 2 Coy., 7 Platoon, 18th Bn. King’s (Liverpool Regiment)
Number and Rank: Private 16435
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK, France: Somme, Thiepval Memorial: Pier and Face 1D 8B 8C
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, DA, BN, SR, GB, LP, Census: 01,11
ALBERT EDWARD BARTON
Albert was third of the eight children of William Henry (1868-1950) and Mary Jane (née Maxwell 1868-1912), who were born in Liverpool and Birkenhead respectively. William Henry was a builder’s labourer. The family moved around Hoylake quite a bit, from Hazel Road to Market Street and finally to Groveland Avenue. In 1901 they helped pay the rent by accommodating two Irish navvies – Patrick Garrity and Patrick Humphrey as lodgers. In 1911 Albert’s elder brother, Richard, was employed in one of Hoylake’s niche occupations – he was a caddie at the Royal Liverpool Golf. He served with the Lancashire Fusiliers during the War. The second son, Percy, served in the Royal Navy.
Albert’s is an unusual case: he had survived the Battle of the Somme and distinguished himself as a very competent young man, so much so that he was selected for officer training. He attended the 17th Officers’ Training Battalion at Kinmel Park near Rhyl. In June 1917 he was enjoying some leave at home in Hoylake before being commissioned and posted back to the front. On 13th June he had an early morning swim with his brother Fred and another friend at Hoylake baths. On the next day before 7 am, the three lads decided to swim in the sea. They jumped in and headed for a boat which was visible from the shore. Unfortunately, Albert was not a strong swimmer and lagged behind the other two; he got cramp. Fred swam back to him but was unable to keep him up. The third lad could not help either and Albert sank. His body was recovered later and Dr. Hablot Brown declared that he was dead. His funeral was held on the following Saturday, 16th June 1917. The Birkenhead News described him as “quite an exemplary young man”. He had been a choirboy at the parish church and worked as a seaman on board the Orduna of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company.
Birth: December 1896 in Hoylake
Death 14th June 1917, drowned in the sea at Hoylake aged 20
Addresses: 25 Hazel Road, Hoylake (01); 124 Market Street, Hoylake (11); 33 Groveland Avenue, Hoylake (17)
Occupation: Merchant Seaman
Unit: 22nd Battalion and 17th Officers’ Training Battalion Manchester Regiment, formerly Cheshire Regiment
Numbers: and Rank Lance Corporal and Officer Cadet 40757 formerly 2881
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, Hoylake Holy Trinity Churchyard E778
Sources: BR. CWGC, SDGW, MC, BN, LE, Census: 01, 11
ARTHUR SEFTON BATE
Arthur was born and grew up in Egremont, the son of Peter (born in Egremont c.1863) and Elizabeth (born c.1867 in Liverpool). His father was a council rate collector. Arthur had one younger sister called Elizabeth who was born in about 1899. Two other siblings had died in infancy. At some point the family moved to Great Meols. Arthur must have joined the Cheshire Regiment early on in the War because he was posted to France on 25th September 1915. By mid 1916 his battalion was on the Somme front and took part in the “Big Push” from 1st July. The 11th Cheshires enjoyed little success on that day and experienced terrible casualties: they attacked Thiepval from the direction of Authuille. Ineffective artillery support made them vulnerable to German machine gun fire, so, despite their “calm deliberate courage”, hundreds fell, including their commanding officer, Colonel R.L. Aspinall and every company commander. By 4th July, out of the original 20 officers and 657 men, only six officers and 50 men answered the roll call. Clearly, Arthur is one of the unfortunates who had disappeared during the previous day. His name, therefore, is one of the 72,203 inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.
Birth: c.1892 in Egremont, Wallasey
Death: 3rd July 1916, killed in action aged 24
Addresses: 5 Clifton Grove, Egremont (01-11), 7 Egbert Road, Great Meols (16)
Occupation: Insurance Clerk
Unit: 11th Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Numbers and Rank: 16542 Sergeant
Medals: 1915 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, Wy, France: Thiepval Pier and Face 3C and 4A
Sources BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, HCR, Census: 01, 11