Arthur Barnett

Volunteering for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in early 1916, Arthur Barnett took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge with the 116th Battalion.

Arthur Barnett was born in 1883 at Brighton, Sussex UK to William and Esther Barnett.

In 1901 he enlisted in the militia battalion of his local infantry regiment for the standard term of five years. He would have served a term of six months at the regimental depot at Chichester before returning for a period each year. He served in South Africa, earning the King’s Medal for the Boer War and spent some time on St Helena.

(The 1st Battalion of the Royal Sussex, as the old 35th Foot, had served at Quebec with Wolfe and claimed a ‘Roussillon plume’ as the centrepiece of its cap-badge, the legend being that its grenadiers had taken similar plumes from those of the Roussillon Regiment in the battle.)

By 1908 he was married, to Florence Lily, née Dennis, with whom he had three children: Dennis born about 1908, Gordon born about 1910 and Nora born about 1912.

In 1916 the family was living at 389 Midland Avenue, Midland, Simcoe County, Ontario in company with Arthur’s mother, his father being dead by then.

He volunteered to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the beginning of 1916, at which time he was not far short of his thirty third birthday, old for a front-line infantryman. His original medical report appears to be missing but the one made at the time of his transfer (below) states that he was 5’6” tall with a 34” chest expanding 3”, a slight build to carry an infantryman’s load on the Western Front. He had a ruddy complexion, blue eyes and brown hair, and was a Methodist.

He joined a battalion based on the local pre-war 35th Militia Regiment, the Simcoe Foresters and was sent with them to the UK after about eight months training. Like many CEF battalions, the Foresters were used to supply drafts to the Canadian battalions in France and Arthur was part of one of unknown size sent to the equally new 116th Battalion (Ontario County). With them he went to France in time to take part in the fighting on Vimy Ridge.

Several days after the initial attack he was part of a working party behind the front line when he was struck by a shell fragment which penetrated his back at the line of the lowest rib and lodged there. He was evacuated in the usual manner from the battalion first-aid post back to a hospital on the coast near Boulogne then to the UK. He spent three months in various surgical and convalescent hospitals in which time he was struck off the strength of his battalion, although he would remain badged to it until his final discharge.

At about the same time as he was wounded, there are several possible dates, the earliest in March 1917 and the latest sometime around June, Arthur’s wife Florence returned to the UK and lodged with her Father (or maybe a Brother?), John Dennis at 1 Moorfield Road, Shrewsbury.

Arthur’s wound continued to trouble him, so much so that he would never return to the front line. He was subject to a series of medical examinations whilst in the UK, being graded C2 in the convalescent hospital, rising to B2 at the end of the year then B1 before falling back to C2 on final discharge. Class B was: free from serious organic diseases, able to stand service on lines-of-communication in France, or in garrisons in the tropics, and Class C: free from serious organic diseases, able to stand service in garrisons at home. He would have spent his time in light training and camp duties.

He was repatriated to Canada in September 1919 and discharged from the Army a day after landing at Quebec.

—Text by Kathleen Wolfe