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Remembered Today:

"Accidental Death" — BARKUS


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Shmorganzola

Pte William Joseph BARKUS (266679) served in multiple regiments according to his MIC. He died in the 10th Bn Welsh Regiment on the 18th Sept 1917, and is buried at Y FARM MILITARY CEMETERY, BOIS-GRENIER.

 

His death is recorded as 'Accidental' on a couple of sources:

  • Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects.
  • The WO Weekly Casualty List, 4th Dec 1917.

 

The 10th Bn War Diary states that they were at Fleurbaix (south of Ypres) and that his death day was a 'peaceful' one.

 

Questions

  1. Are there any other source(s) I might be missing to clarify how he died (sniper, friendly-fire, weapon malfunction, suicide)?
  2. If I were to order his death certificate, would this reveal anything?

 

I strongly suspect that nothing can be gleaned, but thanks if you can help.

 

Regards,

 

Ant

 

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ss002d6252
19 minutes ago, Shmorganzola said:

If I were to order his death certificate, would this reveal anything?

Possibly but there's no guarantee as they typically show only minimal details.

 

21 minutes ago, Shmorganzola said:
  1. Are there any other source(s) I might be missing to clarify how he died (sniper, friendly-fire, weapon malfunction, suicide)?

If it's not noted in the diary then, unless you can find a service record, you may be out of luck.

 

 

Craig

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Shmorganzola

Thanks Craig, pretty much as I feared, but appreciate the thought (no, there is no Service Record either).

 

Regards,

 

Ant

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Matlock1418
49 minutes ago, Shmorganzola said:

Are there any other source(s) I might be missing to clarify how he died (sniper

His Pension Card [thanks to WFA/Fold3] records "Killed in Action"

Sniper - would be generally be classed as KiA as enemy related

"Accidental" death - would seemed to be non-enemy related

= ???

:-/ M

Edited by Matlock1418
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voltaire60

A very interesting problem which has beset me before.  British officialdom, let alone Army officialdom, has a long tradition of euphemism and covering up stuff by the use of bland phrases. I give 2 examples below from my own local casualties

11) A 17 year old private in 1/18th Londons (London Irish) who was officially "Killed in Action" near the Hohenzollern Redoubt on Christmas Eve 1915 - a British mine was detonated under the German lines and the plan was for London Irish to rush forward and occupy the lip of the new crater.  Slight problem was that a section of men, including the local lad were smothered by falling mud from the explosion. The War Diary hedges its words to make it appear that the men were killed in the rush to secure the lip of the crater-rather than drowned in mud.

     The giveaway source here was an account of the London Irish in the front line kept by another soldier-available on the London Irish website. I would suggest that a search for any contemporary accounts  might be useful- roughly a 50-50 chance. 

 

2) A private in 1st Londons (Royal Fusiliers) listed on MIC  and SE as "accidentally drowned". Uh? On the Somme in August 1916?  Thought he may have slipped on the soap in a shower when behind the lines- The truth was he was drowned in mud after British heavy artillery accidentally bombarded his battalion frontline trenches-23 men were buried- 2 died. Again, (thanks to a GWF colleague) the story was better dealt with in a diary kept by the battalion Medical Officer, Captain Charles Wilson (later Churchill's doctor)- and contained in his handwritten diary kept at the Wellcome Library. Unusually,the War Diary does actually "fess up" to it being British artillery but moves my man to the day before as a casualty. Naughty,naughty,

   So, any other accounts,printed or manuscript, offer the best chance. There is always the strong possibility that the man's descendants may know the truth-as a bit of folk history handed down. Again, I have a casualty where the family tradition is that the man was killed on the Somme in 1916 during an attack when a grenade he was trying to throw exploded prematurely.

    The use of the term " peaceful" is a little concerning. Sniped would go down as KIA- suicide almost invariably the same.  One small thought on this- When I had to read the War Diary for 13th Essex on the Somme (West Ham Pals), they lost half a dozen men to carbon monoxide poisoning  in a dugout. CO poisoning is the only realistic  cause of death-other than heart attacks,etc-that might be listed as peaceful.

     Might I also suggest that you look up SE and MIC for any other casualties in your man's unit at the same date. There may be a wider story to tell.

 

 

    

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Matlock1418
1 hour ago, voltaire60 said:

Might I also suggest that you look up SE and MIC for any other casualties in your man's unit at the same date. There may be a wider story to tell.

Voltaire's suggestion is a good one.

Looking at CWGC - only James Hockey 30224 from 10WR that same date https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/193211/JAMES HOCKEY - and in same cemetery in adjacent graves [so could perhaps be from same incident ?? - that said the GRRF has Hockey as 10 Sept and Barkus's grave position would seem to fit a purely sequential date sequence for burial ???].

Looking at Hockey's pension card from WFA/Fold3 also describes him as "KiA"

I've always felt [without my evidence recorded] that KiA was quite commonly used as a quiet way of making a bad job sound less so - especially of there might have been a possible muck up and even if no enemy involvement.

So can understand your enquiry and interest.

Same as Voltaire identified - for folks back home KiA / a hole in head from a sniper probably sounds [marginally] better than one from a tragic suicide or a Negligent Discharge whilst he / someone was cleaning a weapon [though got to say I again feel the latter seem often described as an 'accident']

Please keep us informed.

:-) M

Edited by Matlock1418
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voltaire60

Wholly agree with Matlock. Another-outside edge-possibility is to work out which brigade this battalion was with- if there was an untoward incident of some sort, then there is a possibility of a board of enquiry report being in the brigade war diary- which should be available free from The National Archives at the moment.

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david murdoch
2 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

Wholly agree with Matlock. Another-outside edge-possibility is to work out which brigade this battalion was with- if there was an untoward incident of some sort, then there is a possibility of a board of enquiry report being in the brigade war diary- which should be available free from The National Archives at the moment.

Looking at his medal roll he appears to have been attached to 114 Coy MGC (while with 10th Welsh Regiment) they being part of 114th  Infantry Brigade in turn part of 38th (Welsh) Division. I looked up 114 Coy war diary around date of his death but this does not reveal any casualties or cause of his death.  

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voltaire60
28 minutes ago, david murdoch said:

Looking at his medal roll he appears to have been attached to 114 Coy MGC (while with 10th Welsh Regiment) they being part of 114th  Infantry Brigade in turn part of 38th (Welsh) Division. I looked up 114 Coy war diary around date of his death but this does not reveal any casualties or cause of his death.  

Excellent- covers one base. I should have addeed that brigade and division as well might prove fruitful.  I am away from FMP at the moment but another long shot might be the (20/100 chance) medical records online. 

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5 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

 CO poisoning is the only realistic  cause of death-other than heart attacks,etc-that might be listed as peaceful.

 

Maybe I a wrong, but my impression is that the war diary is stating that it was a peaceful day, rather like "All Quiet on the Western Front", as opposed to saying that his death was peaceful.

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voltaire60
22 minutes ago, Wexflyer said:

 

Maybe I a wrong, but my impression is that the war diary is stating that it was a peaceful day, rather like "All Quiet on the Western Front", as opposed to saying that his death was peaceful.

   Very much agreed- the War Diary does indeed say 17th-18th September were peaceful, rather than applying that term to the death of Barkus.   Another small enigma is that the next casualty of 10th Welsh, Private Joseph Hockey is on the Final GRU form as 10th September- but on the one before that he is also listed as 18th September and it has been corrected-made more mysterious that the headstone record-which appears to be later than the GRU reports similarly says 18th September. So we might have 2 non-battle casualties for the same day-so worth a scout around for more about Joseph Hockey.

   Hockey could not have been "Killed in Action" on 10th September 1917 as the WD records no casualties specifically-it was pulled out of the line and relieved by a battalion of DCLI without incident. Thus, 2 awkward fatalities to explain away-both of which may actually be on 18th September.

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Shmorganzola

Dear All,

 

Many thanks indeed to all of you for this stellar quality additional information. I was not even aware of diaries other than the Battalions', so this new level is unchartered territory for me.

5 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

Wholly agree with Matlock. Another-outside edge-possibility is to work out which brigade this battalion was with- if there was an untoward incident of some sort, then there is a possibility of a board of enquiry report being in the brigade war diary- which should be available free from The National Archives at the moment.

 

Sorry if I led you up the garden path with the peaceful (I had always assumed this referred to the day and not the death, but that clearly didn't come across...

 

2 hours ago, david murdoch said:

Looking at his medal roll he appears to have been attached to 114 Coy MGC (while with 10th Welsh Regiment) they being part of 114th  Infantry Brigade in turn part of 38th (Welsh) Division. I looked up 114 Coy war diary around date of his death but this does not reveal any casualties or cause of his death.  

Thank you for going to the trouble, and knocking that one on the head.

 

Very interesting about Hockey. I am afraid I don't know what GRU means? Sorry to ask.

 

Thanks again.

 

Regards,

 

Anthony

 

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Shmorganzola
7 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

2) A private in 1st Londons (Royal Fusiliers) listed on MIC  and SE as "accidentally drowned". Uh? On the Somme in August 1916?  Thought he may have slipped on the soap in a shower when behind the lines- The truth was he was drowned in mud after British heavy artillery accidentally bombarded his battalion frontline trenches-23 men were buried- 2 died. Again, (thanks to a GWF colleague) the story was better dealt with in a diary kept by the battalion Medical Officer, Captain Charles Wilson (later Churchill's doctor)- and contained in his handwritten diary kept at the Wellcome Library. Unusually,the War Diary does actually "fess up" to it being British artillery but moves my man to the day before as a casualty. Naughty,naughty,

   So, any other accounts,printed or manuscript, offer the best chance. There is always the strong possibility that the man's descendants may know the truth-as a bit of folk history handed down. Again, I have a casualty where the family tradition is that the man was killed on the Somme in 1916 during an attack when a grenade he was trying to throw exploded prematurely.

    The use of the term " peaceful" is a little concerning. Sniped would go down as KIA- suicide almost invariably the same.  One small thought on this- When I had to read the War Diary for 13th Essex on the Somme (West Ham Pals), they lost half a dozen men to carbon monoxide poisoning  in a dugout. CO poisoning is the only realistic  cause of death-other than heart attacks,etc-that might be listed as peaceful.

     Might I also suggest that you look up SE and MIC for any other casualties in your man's unit at the same date. There may be a wider story to tell.

 

 

    

The Wellcome is an untapped source for me, so I will try and mine that, thank you. Naughty indeed.

 

A good idea about the descendants, but he is a family member (we have his Penny and the original death notification roll) but no stories passed down :( .

 

Sorry to ask but what is SE ?

 

I am impressed by the lateral thinking, thank you.

 

Best regards,

 

Ant

 

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voltaire60
6 minutes ago, Shmorganzola said:

Very interesting about Hockey. I am afraid I don't know what GRU means? Sorry to ask.

Grave Registration Unit- Apologies-it is my shorthand way of referring to any of the burial,concentration,etc reports on CWGC

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voltaire60
1 minute ago, Shmorganzola said:

Sorry to ask but what is SE ?

Soldiers effects- the registers of monies paid over to a soldier's family and the War Gratuity. Very useful as it often gives a more accurate record of place,date,cause of death-and the unit served with on the day-based on the original soldier files destroyed in the Blitz in 1931. It can be searched on Ancestry,

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Shmorganzola

Thank you, but for once (!) I already did that (as mentioned in original post — easy to miss though). No additional info, sadly.

A

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headgardener

It’s not that uncommon for men to have been killed or wounded ‘in action’ while their battalion was out of the line - for instance, they could have been attached to an associated unit like a TMB or Divisional Signal Coy, or something similar, or be caught in an enemy barrage while acting as a messenger or as part of a rations party (like my grandfather, who was ‘wounded in action’ while his battalion was in the 2nd line) etc etc etc. Several people on this thread are suggesting that you review military sources, but it may be worth checking a local paper. I have a medal to an officer who was seriously wounded on a day that his battalion was well to the rear - his service papers simply recorded that he was wounded on that particular day, but the local newspaper recorded that he had been placed in charge of a working party engaged in some sort of repairs (Wire? Trenches? Roads? can’t remember what it was) which had been caught in an artillery bombardment.

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david murdoch

If he was attached to 114 Coy at the time of his death. there is no mention of casualties. They were in the line over the  week around his death  "Holding the line" and undertaking night fire on enemy roads and trenches.

Soldiers effects notes him accidentally (killed).

Soldiers died in the Great War has him "died"

Pension card has him Killed in Action.

CWGC shows he was not a reburial from a battlefield grave.

From experience with accidental deaths - they normally show up in a war diary if being "unusual" events as opposed to  "3 casualties" or "one other rank killed by shellfire" when things otherwise quiet. Usually I've seen accidental shootings or drownings  enquiry is in soldiers record as one page note or a couple if there are witness statements. It's a harsh reality of the times that a man's death often doesn't warrant a line in a war diary unless there was some doubt about the circumstances of his death - it was more about establishing blame or lack of blame  - for example due to a negligent discharge of a weapon. If a man fell off a duckboard and drowned in a shell hole basically that was the end of it. "Bathing accidents" were a fairly common occurrence - men drowning in canals or rivers. I have one casualty broke his neck falling off the roof of a farm building - climbed up to patch a hole and slipped and fell.  

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114 Brigade war diary on the 18th notes ‘Parties clearing drains and C.Ts.’ (C.T. = Communication Trench).

 

Although relevant Diaries Record ‘a quiet day’115 Brigade diary notes on the 17th an aeroplane bombed the transport lines and the following day they relieved 114th Brigade the 115th recorded over the next few days  ‘enemy active shelling from Pilckem Ridge’ and recorded a number of casualties.

 

Were the 115th just unlucky, or were the guns zeroed on the position?

 Location given as Canal Map Ref C19 c.5.2 1/2

 

No conclusions but opportunities for mishaps.

 

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Matlock1418
9 hours ago, kenf48 said:

114 Brigade war diary on the 18th notes ‘Parties clearing drains and C.Ts.’ (C.T. = Communication Trench).

Yes and also described therein as a "Quiet day"

In fact both Bde and Bn WD have a Peaceful/Quiet period of a few days

Of course it may have been a bit of British Phlegm and based on experience - c/w a hurricane barrage the odd shell or two might be a peaceful/quiet day

{I have a personal war diary with "Rained heavily" one day and "Shelled heavily" the next day - hardly a differentiation!]

:-) M

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Shmorganzola
12 hours ago, headgardener said:

Several people on this thread are suggesting that you review military sources, but it may be worth checking a local paper.

Thanks for the good thoughts. I have checked numerous newspapers, thanks, but nothing coming up. He was first reported KIA (both to the press and to the family), it was later that they changed their tune and corrected that.

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Shmorganzola
11 hours ago, david murdoch said:

If he was attached to 114 Coy at the time of his death. there is no mention of casualties. They were in the line over the  week around his death  "Holding the line" and undertaking night fire on enemy roads and trenches.

Soldiers effects notes him accidentally (killed).

Soldiers died in the Great War has him "died"

Pension card has him Killed in Action.

CWGC shows he was not a reburial from a battlefield grave.

From experience with accidental deaths - they normally show up in a war diary if being "unusual" events as opposed to  "3 casualties" or "one other rank killed by shellfire" when things otherwise quiet. Usually I've seen accidental shootings or drownings  enquiry is in soldiers record as one page note or a couple if there are witness statements. It's a harsh reality of the times that a man's death often doesn't warrant a line in a war diary unless there was some doubt about the circumstances of his death - it was more about establishing blame or lack of blame  - for example due to a negligent discharge of a weapon. If a man fell off a duckboard and drowned in a shell hole basically that was the end of it. "Bathing accidents" were a fairly common occurrence - men drowning in canals or rivers. I have one casualty broke his neck falling off the roof of a farm building - climbed up to patch a hole and slipped and fell.  

Thanks for the reality check, sobering as it is.

Technical question if I may: from the Medal Roll, how do you conclude that he was in the 114 Coy when he died (and not the MGC, or even the 10th Welch)? To me it looks like the 10th Welch, but I must be misreading it. Thanks.

Screen Shot 2020-08-21 at 10.26.01.png

10 hours ago, kenf48 said:

114 Brigade war diary on the 18th notes ‘Parties clearing drains and C.Ts.’ (C.T. = Communication Trench).

 

Although relevant Diaries Record ‘a quiet day’115 Brigade diary notes on the 17th an aeroplane bombed the transport lines and the following day they relieved 114th Brigade the 115th recorded over the next few days  ‘enemy active shelling from Pilckem Ridge’ and recorded a number of casualties.

 

Were the 115th just unlucky, or were the guns zeroed on the position?

 Location given as Canal Map Ref C19 c.5.2 1/2

 

No conclusions but opportunities for mishaps.

 

Thanks Ken, I have just downloaded this and will peruse in depth.

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Shmorganzola
16 minutes ago, Matlock1418 said:

Yes and also described therein as a "Quiet day"

In fact both Bde and Bn WD have a Peaceful/Quiet period of a few days

Of course it may have been a bit of British Phlegm and based on experience - c/w a hurricane barrage the odd shell or two might be a peaceful/quiet day

{I have a personal war diary with "Rained heavily" one day and "Shelled heavily" the next day - hardly a differentiation!]

:-) M

Thanks M, for not only the advice but a wry humour in your posts that I both share and admire ;-)

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voltaire60

The letters "Att."- short for  "Attached" He was still nominally on the books of 10 Welsh but serving with MGC. The only problem would be-worth checking- is if 114 MGC were in a markedly different place on the day he died.  

    As the war progressed, most battalions in the front line were supported by specialists to provide other services-  Rations might be brought up by out-of-line men from a relieved battalion, there might be Royal Engineers - men were split off into Trench Mortar Batteries which then usually stayed with the same  battalion. It would be quite normal that if an attached/supporting platoon/company of the Machine Gun Corps were a little short-numbered for them to borrow a few men  from the main battalion.  Thus, all casualty reports for numbers of men killed or wounded in any particular infantry action should be taken with a pinch of salt,as there were usually umpteen others involved badged for other units.

 

    British Newspaper Archive (Not a subscriber until cataract op.) suggests that  Private Hockey was first reported as 2Died", not KIA

 

image.png.8afe138b7c475323fa2148ec507a7cad.png

Edited by voltaire60
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