Walter BARNETT
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Number:
Unit: 6th Battalion Devonshire Regiment (attached to 1st Gloucestershire at time of death)
Date of Death: 22 November 1918
Age: 24
Cemetery: St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France

Walter had enlisted into the Army in September 1914 with the War only a month old and, as far as is known, survived unscathed until he was wounded just a week before it ended.

Born in Stockport, he was the seventh of the eight children of Henry and Sarah Barnett. In 1901, the family was living at 9 Holt Street, later moving to 15 Lyme Street. As a boy, Walter had furthered his education by attending Stockport Sunday School between 1900 and 1907. A committed Christian, he was an active member of St George's Church and a member of its Sunday School and church choir. He had also been a keen member of St George's Lads Drill Company and became its Quartermaster Sergeant.

When he left school, he went to work for one of Manchester's large trading companies - Morreau, Spiegelberg & Co, 121 Princess Street. When War was declared, he was employed in its South America Department. By now, he was an active member of Stockport Lacrosse Club and, as with many of the Club's members, he started to drill at the ground before enlisting into the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Some details of the Battalion's early War service will be found here. His service number was 2208 and Private Barnett would serve at Gallipoli as a stretcher bearer.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the Manchesters returned to Egypt and later moved to France. It is possible that Walter was wounded in 1917 or, perhaps, away from the Battalion for some considerable time due to illness. When he had recovered, it may be that another Regiment was in greater need of replacements as he was transferred to the Devonshires. His service number, 250404, confirms he was attached to its 5th Battalion. He was also promoted to Corporal and put in charge of a section of specialist grenade throwers. Later in the year, he was selected to become an officer and, in early 1918, was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant attached to the Regiment's 3/6th Battalion. This unit was a reserve home service Battalion and spent much of 1918 in Ireland (then, of course, still part of Britain).

On 14 October, Walter was posted abroad and joined the 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. Three weeks later, on 4 November, the Battalion received orders to attack German positions in the French village of Catillon-sur-Sambre. The specific objectives, as recorded in the Battalion's War Diary held at the National Archives, were "to seize that part of the town of Catillon which lies east of the road running north and south through the Church inclusive; secondly to force the crossing of the canal at the broken bridge...press forward to the road junction....form a bridgehead and then await the arrival of 1st Infantry Brigade and 32nd Division." The attack would be supported by tanks, trench mortars and heavy machine guns.

They took up assembly positions just before 5am with "C" Company leading on the right, "D" on the left. "B" Company would be a little way behind them "mopping up" any pockets of resistance. "A" would remain in reserve. The attack started at 5.25 and excellent progress was made, although there was thick fog and it was hard to keep direction. "D" Company captured three enemy machine guns and then made straight for the church. Here they met up with one of the tanks and pressed forward to the canal.

Meanwhile, "C" Company had come under very heavy machine gun fire from positions in hedgerows and nearby orchards but eventually 9 or 10 machine guns and their crews were captured. They also pushed on towards the canal but were held up by another machine gun which was eventually destroyed by one of the tanks.

"A" Company had worked its way carefully through Catillon and had taken many prisoners.

The Battalion had achieved all its objectives and the casualties had been extremely light. Only four men were dead. Another 38 were wounded, including Walter. He had been injured in the back and side and was evacuated to 2nd Red Cross Hospital at Rouen. There his condition was stabilised and even improved. There was hope that he would recover but he was never strong enough to be evacuated back to the UK and, on the 22nd November (eleven days after the ended), he died.

   
           
   
     
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