James Henry Barnett, Private 6778, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 22nd October 1914 in France, aged 36
James Henry Barnett was born in 1877, in Hurdsfield, the son of Mary and Thomas James Barnett, a general labourer from Macclesfield. In 1891, thirteen-year-old James was employed part-time as a silk piecer, and living at 2 Princess Street with his parents and siblings Alice (23), Elizabeth Ann (17), Mary Jane (15), and Nathaniel (8). By 1901 the family had moved to 48 Cross Street and James was employed as a foundry labourer.
Ten year later in 1911, James, then aged 33, was employed as a general labourer and living at 53 Fence Street with his sister Alice, her husband John Henry Brindley, and their children Jim (19) and Arthur (4).
It is not known when James initially joined the Army, but it seems that he had served in the Army before 1914 and was then recalled as a reservist on the outbreak of war in August 1914. His medal index card shows that he arrived in France on 20th September 1914, so it is probable that he was one of many men posted as reinforcements to the 1st Battalion to France.
The 1st Battalion was stationed in Ireland before the War and landed in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 16th August 1914. It was soon deployed in action against the Germans to cover the withdrawal of British troops from Mons. On 22nd October the Battalion was in defensive positions around the village of Violaines. At 5.10 am in the morning, the Germans launched a heavy attack, and took the trenches at the point of the bayonet. Initially ‘D’ Company was forced to retire, which exposed the flanks of ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies, and without troops on their flanks they were also forced to withdraw under heavy enemy fire. At 8.00 pm the Battalion was withdrawn from the front line to a new position further east. Casualties were significant: 3 officers were killed, 20 officers and men were wounded and a further 200 were missing. It was later confirmed that 53 men, initially recorded missing, had been killed in action – including James Barnett.
Private James Barnett has no known grave, and his name is listed on Panel 13 of the Le Touret Memorial in Pas de Calais, France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private James Barnett, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.