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Will' and Herbert - Best Friends

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Pte William Martin Barker 1331

Written by Al Garrod (Webmaster)

My Great Uncle, Will' Barker was 19 when he went off to join the 1st/5th Battalion (a Territorial Army Battalion) of the Lincolnshire Regiment. The fact that he was stone-deaf should have excused him from active service, but all his mates were volunteering for service overseas, and Will' didn't want to be left behind. He lived at Mount Pleasant, Alford and despite previously being an apprentice stonemason, at the time of enlistment his occupation is recorded as labourer in the gas works. This makes sense, as his father, Horace Barker, had been foreman in the Gas Works. Later, Horace and Annie barker moved the family moved to 50 Stanley Street, Gainsborough. William enlisted, at Alford (Lincolnshire), to join 'B' (Louth) Company of the Territorial Force, despite being very deaf. Will' could lip read and he carefully and closely copied his friends - in this way he managed to get through his Army training without the authorities discovering his disability (or at least, if anyone did suspect that he was deaf, they kept it to themselves).

Will' was killed in action on 11 April 1915 in an area of Wytschaete that was overlooked by Kemmel Hill. They named their trenches, "Hell's Kitchen", "Cowslip Villa" and "E6". German snipers worked this area. On the day William was killed, he was re-arranging a cover over the dugout - to keep the rain out - when a bullet hit his ammunition belt, which exploded, causing fatal injuries. The incident is recorded in the local newspaper "The Gainsborough News" (7th May 1915 edition). A friend from Gainsborough, Pte Joe Gray, stayed with Will' and tried to comfort him as he died. On the same day, 4 more of 'B' Company died - including Robert Anderson (of the Horse & Jockey Yard, Gainsborough). William was 20 years old. Many of those boys were buried where they fell. Will's body lies in plot B3 at the Packhorse Farm Shrine Cemetary (Commonwealth War Graves Commission). The cemetary is 9 kilometres South-West of Ypres, Belgium, near the village of Wulverghem. The cemetery was made by the 46th (North Midland) Division who occupied this area in the early summer of 1915. It was used only from April to June 1915 and contains 59 First World War burials.


Will's family were all involved with the Salvation Army, and Will' had known Joe Gray before the War, because Joe had been a bandsman in the Salvation Army in Gainsborough. Joe and his wife had lived at 31 Waterworks Street - close to the Barker's family home.


Just 6 months after watching Will' die, Joe Gray recieved fatal wounds himself, during the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. At first, Joe's friends did not realise the severity of his wounds because he was conscious and walking (with the help of another soldier) but he was died the same day.


The Barker family had always told me that Will' and his comrades were killed by German snipers when disembarking from their boat. It is impossible to say why they changed the facts, perhaps to protect my innocence as a young child, or to avoid having to accept the full horror of what really happened. Will's Medal Record (obtained from the National Archives) gives 1/3/15 as his qualifying date and France as the theatre of war. This clearly states that Will' served in France and Belgium for almost six weeks before his death.

Al Garrod

In October 2008, I received an email asking for about a prayer or collect associated with the Lincolnshire Regiment. Although we had never met, it soon became clear that the enquirer - Katrina Bradley - was my second cousin (my grandmother and her grandfather were brother and sister). This chance contact led to two branches of the Barker family to be reintroduced to one-another.

Pte Herbert Frederick Pass 3463

Information and photographs provided by Katrina Bradley

Herbert Pass and William Barker were best friends as teenagers in Gainsborough before War broke out. Both were my great uncles. Both lost their lives in WW1.

Pte Herbert Frederick Pass, son of Frederick and Eleanor Pass, of 40 Trinity Street, Gainsborough, enlisted in November 1914 as a member of the Lincolnshire's, in this case the 2/5th Battalion as he had served in Ireland. In the summer of 1916 along with approx 200 other Lincolnshire soldiers he was transferred to the 8th Glosters. On joining the 'bombing section' of the 8th Service Battalion of the Gloucesters, his service number was changed to 37190.


Before the War, Herbert worked in Watson's Shipyards in Gainsborough. Watsons manufactured barges for use on inland waterways. The company that occupy the Old Shipyard today is John Brash Timber. Herbert enlisted into the Lincolnshire Regiment at the age of 18, on 23rd November 1914. He served with the Lincolns through the Sinn Fein Rebellion in Dublin before being posted to France with the Gloucesters. His father had served with the Lincoln's before him.

Herbert's Service records state that he served in France and Flanders and was Killed in action, aged 20. The letter that his Commanding Officer wrote to Mrs Pass said that he was killed instantaneously by a shell, near Oostaverne, on the evening of 8th June 1917.

Herbert has no known grave. The men of the Gloucesters are commemorated at panels 22 and 34 of the Ypres Memorial (The Menin Gate).


One of the things that sparked my interest in William and Herbert was the story I was told of how my Grandfather - Syd Barker and my Grandmother - Harriett Pass met. It was the fact that William Barker and Herbert Pass were such good friends, that led "the boys" to introduce my grandparents to each other. [KB]

Katrina Bradley

Katrina Bradley

War Memorial, Lincoln, 2008 War Memorial, Gainsborough, 2008 Garden of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey, 2008. Will' Barker, Garden of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey, 2008. Herbert Pass, Garden of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey, 2008. Packhorse Farm Shrine Cemetary, Ypres 1331 Private William Barker, Lincolnshire Regiment, 11th April 1915, Age 20 The RBL paying tribute to Will, Packhorse Farm Shrine Cemetary, Ypres Katrina Bradley with RBL Colours at William Barker's grave William Barker's grave RBL Standard over William Barker's grave The Field of Remembrance, outside the Menin Gate, November 2008. Buglers of the Ypres Fire Brigade play The Last Post at the Menin Gate every night at 8pm. Poppy Petals falling at the Menin Gate, 11am, 11th November 2008. The Lion at the Menin Gate is watching the troops leave. St George's Memorial Church, Ypres - Royal Lincolnshire Regiment 'Kneeler'. Ypres, 2009 (Photograph: Katrina Bradley) Packhorse Shrine Cemetary (Photograph: Katrina Bradley) Packhorse Shrine Cemetary (Photograph: Katrina Bradley) Packhorse Shrine Cemetary (Photograph: Katrina Bradley) Preserved WW1 Trenches, near Ypres, 2009. (Photograph: Katrina Bradley) Preserved WW1 Trenches, near Ypres, 2009. (Photograph: Katrina Bradley) Preserved WW1 Trenches, near Ypres, 2009. (Photograph: Katrina Bradley) Preserved WW1 Trenches, near Ypres, 2009. (Photograph: Katrina Bradley) Their Name Shall Liveth Forever (Photograph: Katrina Bradley) William Barker's Headstone, Packhorse Shrine Cemetary, Wulverghem (Photograph: Avalon Eastman) William Barker's Headstone (Photograph: Peter Bradshaw)
The Collect of the Lincolnshire Regiment
Cpl Frederick Stow - Farrier
Pte Harold Lee
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Battle of the Hohenzollern Redoubt, 1915
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