Charles Wyndham Barnes was born in Westbury, Wiltshire, England in 1884. His father was Frank Barnes and at the 1911 census was 53. Charles’ mother was Helena Barnes, aged 52. The census records that Charles working as a law clerk to a barrister. He had two siblings, one named Nellie Barnes, 22, and another called Constance, aged 10.
His Father was an engine fitter at a railway station and his sister’s occupation was as a shop assistant.
Charles was a dutiful son, and sent over 160 letters home from the front to his mother between 1915 and 1918 which are held here at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre (Ref: 4104/1). From his letters Charles appears confident and considerate – he wrote at least once a week.
Topics he talked of were his health (he was alright), gardening, fresh fruit such as apples, and partridges. His favourite topic was the weather – snow, floods and the heat of summer. He also mentioned that he would be away from the trenches for some time in May 1917.
Information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission shows that Charles was married to Violet Blanche – known as “Blanche” who he mentioned in his many letters home.
Blanche Eyers was 24 when she married Charles on 24 December, 1914. The 1911 census shows Blanche living at home and working as a school teacher. She was born in Yarnbrook in 1891.
In the army, Charles joined the Wiltshire Regiment and served with the second battalion. Additionally, he had the rank of a Lance Corporal and his service number was 11257.
A week into the Battle of the Somme – called the Great Offensive by the public and the “big push” by the soldiers – Charles wrote a postcard giving an upbeat assessment of the battle.
He wrote: “What do you think of the push?” adding: “We shall push the Germans of the face of the Earth!” This quote suggests that despite the events that were occurring around Charles, he was still a level headed lad throughout the course of the First World War.
Unfortunately, Charles didn’t survive the War and was killed in action on 1 June, 1918. For that day the 2nd Battalion, Wilts Regt war diary records a major attack by German troops and heavy machinegun fire with 30 casualties sustained. Charles is not mentioned by name but it is likely that this is the action in which he was killed.
The unit was at Chambrecy in North Eastern France and took part in the action known as the Battle of the Marne. Charles’ name can be found on the memorial at Soissons memorial in Aisne, France. He died at the age of thirty three.
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