Lest We Forget -Charles Barnacle

This is the story of my Great Uncle Charles Barnacle my maternal Grandmother’s brother killed in action at Ypres during World War 1.


Charles Barnacle was born in Birmingham on 21 September 1897. He was the youngest son of Frank Barnacle and Esther Barnacle nee Green. At the time of his birth he had 4 older siblings (2 brothers and 2 sisters). His parents had 3 more daughters after Charles. His father was a Machinist in a Cycle Works.

Charles spent his early years in Birmingham and I found the family on the 1901 census in Hatchett Street, Birmingham. By 1905 the family are living in Coventry where Charles’s 2 youngest sisters are born. In 1909 when Charles is just 12 years old, Frank one of his older brothers dies. On the 1911 census Charles at 13 is at school and the family are living in Walsgrave, Coventry.

Charles Barnacle

At the outbreak of World War 1 Charles is working for Hillman’s Motor Company as a Fitter. He enlisted in early 1915 (I have found a will for him written while in service dated 4 April 1915) at the age of 17, one of the many underage recruits. He was a Driver in the 21st Divisional Ammunition Column of the Royal Field Artillery part of the 21st Division. The Division had arrived in France in September 1915.

Charles Barnacle in uniform with his mother Esther (Great Grandma) sitting centre and his sister Clara (my Grandmother) seated left.

During 1916 the 21st Division served in many of the Battles along the Western Front. This included several of the Battles of the Somme (Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Flers-Courcelette, Morval where the Division captured Geudecourt and Transloy Ridge). Between March and April 1917 the Germans withdrew to the Hindenberg Line and the Division saw action in the 1st and 3rd Battles of Scarpe and were involved in flanking operations around Bullecourt, all of these were phases of the Arras offensive.

By the end of July 1917 it became important to reach the Belgium coast to destroy the German submarine bases there. On the 31 July 1917 the 3rd Battle of Ypres or Battle of Passchendaele started. It became one of the most infamous battles of World War 1 not only because of the immense number of casualties but the awful rain, some of the heaviest for 30 years, turned the ground into a quagmire. Tanks became bogged down and the mud became so deep that men and horses drowned in it. Part of this offensive was the battle at Polygon Wood which started on the 26 September 1917 and lasted until 3 October 1917. It was here that Charles Barnacle was killed in action on 2 October at just 20 years of age.

Just some of the Memorial Panels at Tyne Cot.

Charles is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West Flanders, Belgium. In his will he left all of his effects to his mother Esther Barnacle.

Roll of Honour in the Midland Daily Telegraph.


Charles Barnacle’s Will

Photo of Tyne Cot Memorial from Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org

Newspaper extract copyright Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Taken from the website www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk


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