The Men from Hyde – Harold George Barney

Harold George Barney’s birth is noted for the 4th quarter of 1897 in Winchester.

In the census of 1901 he is aged 3 years and living at 14 Hyde Abbey Road with his father, George (40), his mother, Fanny (39) and siblings Elsie (7), Mary (6) and a boarder, Frank Lemmon who is a booksellers’ assistant. His father is a butler – the word ‘domestic’ is added presumably suggesting he worked for a local wealthy family but did not live in. He had been born in Binfield, Berks and his wife was from Staunton, Worcs. Perhaps they had met in service. They settled in Winchester bringing up their children here. It was to this house that news of their son’s death was delivered.

However, in the census of 1911 George is now 50 years of age and still a domestic butler. Fanny is still with him and of the 4 children she has borne, 3 are living. Presumably another baby was born after Harold but did not survive – one of the common tragedies experienced by families of this era.

Harold is now 14 years of age and attending school, Elsie Maud is now 17 years and a draper’s assistant and Mary Frances is 16 years and a shorthand typist for a grocer. Harold, would have been expected to leave school at about 15 years of age to contribute to the family income as his sisters already did.

According to the Winchester War Service Register, Harold signed up as a Territorial Soldier in October 1916.  He could have been only 18 years of age – technically too young to join up with 1/4th Battalion although he appears to be transferred to 2nd Battalion when he entered a theatre of war. Harold was a private with service number was 203399.  Possibly he was in the drafts of men arriving in June or July 1917. If so, his war service, and his life, was tragically short. His unit were moved from Parroy Camp on October 8th and according to the Regimental History ‘found moving up to into the assembly positions more than usually difficult: the expanded Steenbank had to be crossed and the German shelling as fairly heavy and caused both X and Y companies several casualties, while it rained hard all the time.’

Harold seems to have survived these conditions which the Journal describes as ‘could hardly have been worse’ to take part in the action at 7am the next morning advancing on enemy lines in thick mud.

‘The fire was heavy, but it was some compensation for the mud that it partly smothered the shell blasts.’

At some time in this action, Harold died, aged 19 years, on 9th October 1917, killed in action in the second Flanders Offensive near Poelcappelle, apparently having just passed his birthday in the trenches. He was one of 10 killed, 39 wounded and 4 missing in action on that day in his Battalion.

Harold was unofficially reported missing about 10th October and there were fears for his safety. In the Journal of September 1918 was this report:

‘Pte. Harold George Barney, Hampshire Regiment, only son of Mr and Mrs GH Barney, 14 Hyde Abbey Road, Winchester, who was reported missing in October 1917, is now reported to have been ‘believed killed’ on October 9th 1917 or since. Thus after a period of ten months’ anxiety, Mr and Mrs Barney have definite official information. Pte Barney was before joining up in October 1916, a dental mechanic, serving an apprenticeship with Mr L Balding. He was 20 years of age.’

One wonders if the family ever gave up hope. His death is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial and St Bartholomew’s Church, Hyde.  He was entitled to the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

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