Born at Badsley, Worcestershire on 26th January 1896, William was the only son of John and Phyllis Barnard. The family moved to Althorpe in the early 1900’s where his father worked as a farm labourer and William as a groom, most likely for the Stephenson’s.
William enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment at Epworth in late 1914. Probably the same day as William Crackle as they have consecutive service numbers. He went out to France on 16th April 1915 most likely as a reinforcement for the 1st Lincoln’s.
Sources in Badsey record that he was wounded in France in summer of 1915 and evacuated home to recover. In August he was reported to be in hospital in Halifax and in November ‘the vicar received a cheery letter from Corporal W. Barnard’.
When he returned to France William was posted to the 2nd Lincoln’s, serving with 25th Brigade in 8th Division. He was with them on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Albert when their objectives were the German trenches in front of the village of Ovillers. If possible they were then to continue through the German lines and capture the village itself.
The events of the day are told by their Commanding Officer in the Official History of the Battalion:
“As soon as the barrage lifted the whole assaulted. We were met with very severe rifle-fire and in most cases had to advance in rushes and return the fire. This fire seemed to come from the German second lines and the machine-gun fire from our left. On reaching the German front line we found it strongly held and were met with showers of bombs, but after a very hard fight about two hundred yards of German lines were taken about 7.50 a.m. Our support company by this time joined in. The few officers that were left gallantly led their men over the German trench to attack the second line, but owing to the rifle and machine-gun fire could not push on. Attempts were made to consolidate and make blocks, but the trench was so badly knocked about that very little cover was obtainable.
We were actually in the German trenches for two or three hours, and captured a lot more trench on our right by bombing as well as repulsing a German counter-attack from their second line. It was impossible to hang on longer owing to shortage of ammunition, and no more bombs, as we had used up all our own as well as all the German bombs we could find in the trenches and dug-outs, and were being gradually squeezed out by their bombing attacks. A company of the Royal Irish Rifles made a most gallant attempt to come to our support, but only ten or twelve men succeeded in getting through the zone of terrific machine-gun fire. We went into the attack with twenty-two officers, all of whom were killed or wounded, except Leslie and myself, and we had bullet holes through our clothing.
During the time I had the honour of commanding the 2nd Battalion I never saw the men fight better ; they were magnificent in the most trying and adverse conditions. The attack, though a failure, was a most glorious effort, and I was intensely proud of the battalion.”
The remainder of the 2nd Lincoln’s were forced to retire back to their trenches and were taken out of the line that evening. Their casualties whilst still severe were not the worst that day, 38 killed, 312 wounded and 104 missing, among whom was William Barnard.
Although officially recorded as missing after the Battle of the Somme, William was actually buried by the German Army in battlefield grave. His body was recovered after the war and he was reburied in Lonsdale Cemetery, Authuile.
Commemorated on both Althorpe War Memorials, William is also remembered on the War Memorials in St James’ Church, Badsey and Badsey County School.