This week we are remembered Bourne and 5th Lincolnshire regiment man, Percy Victor Barsby, who was died of wounds 101 years ago on the 25th April 1917.
Percy Barsby was born in Bourne late in 1897 to John Edward Barsby, a postman born in Bourne and his wife Ada Jane Hall also of Bourne. They were married in 1871 and had 4 children;
Ethel Valentina Barsby, 1896, Bourne
Percy Victor Barsby, 1897, Bourne
Thomas William Barsby, 1899, Bourne
Leonard Barsby, 1905, Bourne
Percy was living with his parents on West Street Bourne in 1911 aged 13.
Percy enlisted in the army in Lincoln to the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment and although the exact date is not known newspaper cuttings would indicate that he first saw action overseas just after Christmas 1916.
The same newspaper report indicated that he spent several weeks in hospital and his army effects papers also show that although he was originally in the 4th battalion, he had been transferred to the 5th battalion before his death.
As it is not possible to follow his movements through his army career due to lack of official record, we can follow the 5th Battalion through April of 1917 through the Battalion diaries, hence giving an indication of what life was like for Percy before he made the ultimate sacrifice. Unfortunately the writing in this diary is not the easiest to transcribe and so some words may be lost.
April 1st 1917 –
Church parade at 11:30 AM attended by Joint Officer Commanding 46 division. Who Afterwards presented a Gallantry medal to Lance Corporal S Parr. Platoon training half hour each platoon. Weather cold and showery, snow in evening.
April 2nd 1917 –
Weather very cold, ground covered with snow. Battalion carried on for hours training in the morning. Lecture by Brigade joint commander 138 Brigade to all officers at 4:30 PM.
April 3rd, 4th 1917 –
April 5th 1917 –
Brigade route march via Flechin, Cuhem and Laires starting at 9:30am. A fine day, march completed 1.30pm
In the afternoon rounds were played for the company football cup given by BJC 138th Brigade. A beat C (3-1) and B beat D (2-0)
6th April 1917 –
Training in trench attack carried out by whole Battalion on > area from 9am to 3pm. Weather showery.
7th April 1917 –
training on ? area – weather fine. Advance in artillery formation through wood was practiced under general supervision of J.O.C, who insisted on a repetition and consequently left the battalion out until 4pm. Very valuable instruction but the fact that the Battalion was left without food until 4pm breakfasts being at 7.30am, and that the final match in the inter company was fixed for 2.30pm, rather affected the morale. The match was played at 4.30pm, when A beat B by 3 goals to 2.
8th April 1917 –
Easter Sunday – Very fine day. Church Parade at 10.30pm. Lecture by the adjutant to NCOs at 2.15pm.
9th April 1917 –
Weather fine but very cold. Divisional route march, battalion started at 10.25am. March via Auchy to Estree Blanche, after home via Cuhem and Flechin arrived at 3pm. Corps commander inspected the Division en route. C.Os conference at Brigade HQ 6pm.
10th April 1917 –
Weather bitterly cold, snow during night; frequent blizzards with bright intervals during the day. Al companies performed 3 hours training in artillery formation and extended order. Divisional tactical? Of Estree Blanche for COs , brigade staff. ‘?’ disinfector allotted to battalion from 7.30am onwards, it arrived at 8 without coal, there was ? delay. A certain amount of good was finally accomplished but ? the disinfector is allotted for a reasonable time, the whole process is a farce, and the time spent wasted: both clothing and blankets must all be disinfected under general conditions of care this is ?
11th April 1917 –
Weather very cold, ground covered with snow this morning. Battalion paraded at 8am and took part in Brigade scheme of open attack: corps commander, and J O C 46th Division were present. Operation over at 12.30pm, when dinners were eaten (the cookers having met Battalion at 12.30 at Cuhem) in pouring rain, which continued until billets were reached at 2.30pm, and for the remainder of the afternoon. Warning order was issued that Brigade would move to fresh billets tomorrow, near Bethune; this was subsequently cancelled.
12th April 1917 –
Weather still very cold, ground covered 2 to 3 inches with snow, but sharp thaw during the day. Only ½ hour platoon training performed, remainder of day spent in interior cleaning. All men bathed.
13th April 1917 –
Weather fine. Battalion marching in Brigade at 500 yard intervals, left Fervin-Palfart at 8am and marched via St Hilaire, Lillers and Busnes to Hollanderie and La Pierriere. Good billets but practically no training ground. Battalion arrived in new area about 1pm, being inspected en route by GOC 46th Division, who afterwards forwarded advise ? of the Battalion.
14th April 1917 –
Weather fine. Companies performed 3 hours training during the morning, with bayonet fighting, musketry, physical exercises, ?. lecture to officers at 6pm. Officers drill under brigade? at 2.30pm.
15th April 1917 –
Weather very wet all day. Church parade cancelled. ½ hour platoon training only performed following order to move sent day received.
16th April 1917 –
Battalion marching in Brigade at 500 yard intervals, left Battalion starting point at 10.10am, and marched via L’Ecleme and Chocques to Vendin and Oblinehem (Near Bethune) arriving at 1 pm. Fairly good billets but men split up into small parties. Weather bright and fine.
17th April 1917 –
3 hours training carried out during morning in spite of bad weather. In afternoon each company carried out a small outpost tactical scheme with officers and NCOs. In addition a CMS ? ? staff took a class of NCOs – 2 from each platoon. Weather cold and showery. CO 2nd in command of brigade inspected ? training grounds.
18th April 1917 –
A warning order was issued at 9pm last night and definitive orders at 3am, for the Battalion to move at 1pm to take over, proceeding via Bethune, Noeux Les Mines, Bully Grenay to Brigade HQ at Meroc. Portion of Battalion is in old German front and support lines. HQ in old British front line opposite Cite St Pierre, North West of Lens. Battalion relieved 8th Royal West Surrey(Queen’s), relief being completed about 2am on the 19th.
19th April 1917 –
CO and Company commanders reconnoitred during the day positions to be taken over at night in front line from 9Th East Surrey Regiment. Relief began at 9pm, and was completed by 2.15am, D and B companies in front line. With three platoons in posts and 1 in support, and A and C companies in reserve in cellars in Cite St Pierre. In front line parts arer in places in trenches and others in houses, all lately vacated by the enemy who hold a line approximately 400 yards away. Weather fortunately fair, but cold.
20th April 1917 –
Very heavy shelling of both front line companies and also Battalion HQ during the day, and specifically from 10pm to midnight. Battalion HQ is an abandoned former Regimental HQ at crossroads and is especially marked. Gas Alert ordered.
21st April 1917 –
Weather fine. Started shelling ? afterwards both by day and night. A few ?
22nd April 1917 –
Weather and other conditions as yesterday. Orders received that the attack on Hill 65 would take place by Brigade on our right (139th) at 4.45 tomorrow and that co-operation by patrols from this Battalion was required. Arrangements made to push forward the line if the attack succeeds.
23rd April 1917 –
At 4.45 three patrols (with the bombing portion of a platoon) supported by the remainder of the platoon, were pushed forward but all were met by heavy machine gun and rifle fire? ? our trenches in strong points before reaching their objectives. These patrols were found by A and C companies which relieved B and D companies last night. Two Patrols of C company was cut off by heavy fire and took refuge till dusk in a hole 50 yards from our line, and then returned ?
A company patrols returned without casualties, C company two wounded only. The Battalion was relieved at night by the 1/4th Lincoln Regiment, relief being completed at 1.30am and proceeded to Brigade reserve in cellars in Cite St Pierre.
24th April 1917 –
Sudden orders received at 9am that Battalion would relieve 1/5th South Staffords on the sector on immediate right at night. Officers went to reconnoitre as usual. Posted 1 company as a outpost company, 3 platoons in posts and 1 in support in Cite St Theodore North West of Lens. One company in support in Crimson trench and Crook Redoubt, and 2 companies in Lievin (with Battalion HQ) in reserve. Relief completed at 2.15am.
25th April 1917 –
Weather bright and fine. A comparatively quiet day, some shelling on support line and in Lievin, but much less than usual. Quiet night.
The Grantham Journal on Saturday 5th May 1917 carried this report.
BOURNE, ANOTHER war fatality – News was received on Thursday morning the Private Barsby, son of Mr and Mrs J Barsby, West Street, Bourne has been killed in action. He was mortally wounded by a bursting shell on 24th April, and died before regaining consciousness. Private Barsby went out just after Christmas and for several weeks was in hospital. Latterly, he had been in action with other Bourne boys.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In Memory of Private Percy Victor Barsby, 242390, 5th battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 25th April 1917, aged 19
Remembered with honour, Maroc British Cemetery, Grenay
We will remember them.