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Charles George Barnett

Rifleman 7940
1st Bn King's Royal Rifle Corps

Killed in Action on the Menin Road near Gheluvelt, near Ypres (Belgium),  02/11/1914, aged 28.

No Known Grave, but Remembered on :
Ewhurst War Memorial,  Memorial Plaque and Book of Remembrance
Ellens Green Memorial Tablet
Alfold War Memorial, West Sussex
Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Ypres, Belgium (Panel 51 & 53)


The Menin Gate at Night, Ypres, Belgium
 

 

CHARLES GEORGE BARNETT was born in Loxwood, Sussex, in 1886, the second of three sons of Frederick and Emily Barnett. He had an elder brother, Frederick (b. 1873) and a younger brother, Ernest (b. 1889). In 1901 the family lived at Pigbush Farm, Loxwood, West Sussex, where his father and elder brother were farm labourers whilst Charles was a house servant (1).

On 22nd January, 1907, at the age of 20 years and 8 months Charles enlisted in the Army at the depot of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment at Stoughton Barracks, Guildford. His attestation form
(2) notes that at this time his stated occupation was that of a gardener, he was just short of 5ft 8 inches tall, with a dark complexion, dark brown eyes and black hair. His religion was Church of England. Charles had attested for 12 years service, of which 7 years would be “with the colours” (in other words as a regular soldier) and the remaining 5 years would be with the Reserve. He became Rifleman 7940 with the 1st Bn Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

The next 7 years saw Charles serving at the depot of the KRRC until 30th October 1907, when the battalion moved to serve in Egypt. Here they remained until returning to the UK on 12th February, 1909. In 1911 Charles and his battalion were stationed at The New Barracks, Alverstoke, Gosport. On 13th July 1912 Charles wed Isabel Emma Prevett at Farnham Registrars Office, with E Barnett, presumably his brother or mother, as a witness. On 29/12/1912 the couple's son, Charles James Barnett was born.

On 22nd January, 1914, Charles transferred to the Reserve list, his stated occupation being as a gardener and his address as Pounds Cottage, Alfold, near Billingshurst, Sussex. His service record notes that in his period of service with the regular forces he had been awarded two Good Conduct Awards, Class 1 Proficiency Pay, attained a 3rd Class Education Certificate and achieved the standard of marksman. His character is noted as:

“the very best type of man: smart, sober, honest and absolutely reliable & trustworthy; hardworking and (conscientious). Should be most useful to any employer in civil life. Has been the regimental librarian . Three and a half years as a gardener before enlistment. His official military character is exemplary.”
(3)

With the commencement of the First World War, all reservists, including Charles, were mobilised with their former battalions. 1st Bn KRRC departed Salamanca Barracks, Aldershot, for France on 12th August, arriving at Rouen on 13th August, 1914 as a part of 6th Brigade. On the 23rd August, 1914, the battalion saw action at the Battle of Mons and then took part in the retreat from Mons. They arrived in the Ypres area on 20th October 1914.
(4)
 

 
 

   THE FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES  
 

 
 

On 1st November 1914, 1st Bn KRRC were involved in the First Battle of Ypres on the Menin Road between Gheluvelt and Hooge. The day had seen them acting as Divisional Reserve at the north west corner of Polygon Wood before being moved, along with three companies of the 1st Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment, to the area of Hooge Chateau. At 9pm the battalion moved forwards to trenches south of the Hooge-Gheluvelt road.

 On the 2nd November, the French were to commit to an offensive to the centre of the British line. This French attack, commanded by General Vidal, was to move in a south easterly direction towards the German line near Gheluvelt, passing between the Menin Road and Polygon Wood and to the left of 1st Division. Simultaneously, the 1st Division was to attack in an easterly direction. The attack was scheduled to commence at 10am following artillery preparation, however, confusion led to the attack not actually commencing until noon. To prevent the possibility of casualties, the 1st Division artillery was ordered not to fire towards the Menin Road after 10.30, and this provided an opportunity which the opposing German forces exploited. The German 30th Division, with the XXVII Reserve Corps to the north advanced along the Menin Road, towards the three companies of 1st Bn KRRC, the 1st Bn Coldstream Guards (short of a company of men and led by only two officers) and one company of the 1st Bn Royal Berkshires. In support stood the remaining company of the KRRC and two companies of the Royal Berkshires (5).

 
 


Action of the 1st Bn King's Royal Rifle Corps on the Menin Road near Gheluvelt, near Ypres (Belgium), 
2nd November, 1914

 
 


The men had arrived in their position straddling the Menin Road by night only twelve hours before. They found that the entrenchment was shallow and dislocated and lacked any wire defences or dugouts. Crossing the road was a barricade, held by the 200 strong unit of Coldstreams, 100yards south of which stood half of B Company, 1st Bn KRRC. Then came D and C Companies KRRC, with one company of Royal Berkshires on their right flank. Slightly behind the centre of the line stood the remaining half of B Company as a support, with the remaining two companies of Royal Berkshires approximately 300 yards to the rear of the trenches, at the crossroads.

The men were already exhausted, but worked hard to improve their position, only to find, with the break of day, that their field of fire was limited by terrain to between 50 to 150 yards and obstructed by hedges. At this stage the battalion headquarters moved from a dugout 60 yards behind the firing line to the basement of the chateau in the woods. At approximately 11am word arrived at the head quarters that the barricade across the road was blown away. The Germans then succeeded in establishing a machine gun in a small house by the road at less than 100 yards range from the British line and commenced firing into the flank of the KRRC. At this stage the line was supported by two guns from 116th Battery, approximately 200 yards behind the line. These guns ceased firing according to their orders, and the German 30th Division, covered by the machine gun began to advance along the road. They engaged and overpowered the Coldstreams, before turning their attention to the already engaged companies of the KRRC. The left two companies were overcome quickly, the right hand company holding against the attack a little longer. Re-enforcements eventually arrived from Hooge and the line stabilised along the eastern edge of the wood, approximately 300 yards to the west of its original position.

The Battalion Headquarters had remained unaware of the fate of the three companies of the KRRC as the original frontline was totally obscured by the slope away from the wood edge. The action cost the battalion 9 officers and 437 men from three companies killed or captured, including Rifleman Charles Barnett (6).

In May 1915 Isabel, Charles’s widow, was awarded a pension of 18 shillings and 6 pence for herself and two children. In 1916 Isabel married Victor Hope Sherlock, whose family lived in Ockley Road, Ewhurst. With Victor, Isabel had two further children. On 5th July, 1919  V Sherlock, of Cox Green, Rudgwick signed a receipt for a 1914 Star awarded to Charles posthumously for his service, and the same person was the recipient of his scroll in November 1919.

Isabel died in 1918, aged 28. In June of 1920 a letter from the Surrey Sub Division of the Soldiers and Sailors (Dependents) Association the Officer Commanding Records, KRRC, enquires as to a possible next of kin or family contact for Charles, as his widow, Isabel, had married again but died soon after, and Charles’s two children remained in the care of their step father’s elderly parents. In August 1920 a request was lodged for Charles’s Personal Effects to be forwarded to Mr V H Sherlock of Cox Green, Rudgwick, Surrey. This was followed in 1921 by receipts for a British War Medal, a Victory Medal and a Clasp to the 1914 Star (2). Victor married Alice Weeks in 1924.
 

 
 


Rifleman Charles Barnett's name on the Ypres Memorial

 

 
 

It is not apparent what Charles’s connection with Ewhurst parish is, other than the fact that Cox Green, the residence Charles's widow, when remarried to Victor Sherlock and hence Charles's children, falls within the parish. Whilst much of Charles’s life was involved with Rudgwick, his name is not mentioned on the village Plaque of Remembrance. He is, however, remembered on the Alfold Memorial in West Sussex.

Charles is incorrectly noted as having been killed in action in France in the Ewhurst Book of Remembrance.
 

 
 

Follow this Link to details about First World War Medals

 

 


Rifleman Charles Barnett, Remembered on the
Alfold War Memorial, West Sussex

 


Notes:
(1) from 1901 census
(2) from Public Records Office Personal Service Records WO363 B2637
(3) from Public Records Office Personal Service Records WO363 B2637 (Army Form B2065)
(4) from The King's Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle, 1st Bn War Diary
(5) from The Official History of the First World War
(6) from  The Battalion War Diary of the 1st Bn KRRC

 

 

Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey
andy@ewhurstfallen.co.uk
Copyright©2005