Willie was born in Marple in 1895, the son of George William Barnes and Elma Barnes, 21 Lockside.
His on-line medal entitlement records at the National Archive indicate he had two very early service numbers – 14309 and 15317. Both were issued in September 1914. They are consistent with Willie joining one of the newly formed “service” Battalions, such as the 9th, that had been formed for the duration of the War. He probably went overseas in the middle of 1915.
His six-digit service would have been issued sometime after 1 January 1917 and indicates that, at that time, he was serving with the local Territorial Battalion – the 6th Cheshires. Possibly he had a period of illness and, when he had recovered, the Territorials were more in need of replacement troops. Willie was reported to have been wounded in the leg on 31 July 1917. This was the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres and the 6th Cheshires suffered many casualties.
It was probably after his recovery that he was reassigned once more, this time to the 9th Cheshires. By early November 1918, the German army was in its final retreat and was being engaged on a daily basis. On the 1st and 2nd of November, the 9th Battalion was part of this engagement and, by the evening of the 2nd was at Sommaing, perhaps 30 kilometres north east of the French town of Cambrai. The next day, the Cheshires two leading companies pushed forward again, coming under fire from German machine guns near Jenlain. One platoon managed to force its way forward into Jenlain. This caused the Germans to withdraw. The Cheshires were then able to occupy positions on the edge of the village. The Regimental History records that “All these movements were carried out not only under hostile but also under friendly artillery fire”.
Willie had been seriously wounded in the head. After treatment in military hospitals in France, William was brought back to Britain and was in hospital in Camberwell. His condition had been slowly improving, but suddenly deteriorated and he died.
Much more information about Willie, including a photograph, is contained in the book “Remembered”, by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.