Chorley medic remembered


A soldier on a photograph taken close to Pilckem Ridge near Ypres in Belgium on 1 August 1917 has been identified as William Barker from Chorley, Lancashire. He was the manager of the grocery deptartment at Chorley Co-operative Society and enlisted in the town on the 28th August 1915 at Lancaster House, Devonshire road – still an Army Reserve centre today, and home to 64 Medical Squadron 3 Medical Regiment.

William was aged 34 when he enlisted and married with three young children. William was initially posted to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) Training Centre in Sheffield as Private 67160 before being attached to 5 Company, travelling to France on the 9 November 1915 with the 96th (County Palatine) Field Ambulance. His unit were with the 30th Division on the Somme on 1 July 1916, supporting the Manchester and Liverpool Pals as they attacked the village of Montauban. At the end of September 1917 he was admitted to No. 14 General Hospital at Wimereux on the Channel Coast having sustained a fracture to the left forearm, resulting him in being treated at Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley before returning to the Front a few months later. William was discharged from the Army on 24 May 1919 with his last unit being recorded as 19 Company RAMC.

Pte Barker is pictured in the centre of the photograph, facing the camera. According to the Imperial War Museum, three out of the seven men carrying the stretcher through the mud have now been identified – Private Cecil Hawkins (106th Field Ambulance) is third from the left and George Tite (46th Field Ambulance) extreme right with gas mask on his chest. The photograph was taken near Boesinghe by official photographer Lt J.W. Brooke.

William Barker’s daughter married a Chorley man, Frank Clitheroe, who served with RAF Bomber Command in World War Two. In 1945, Frank flew in Lancaster Bomber NN742 that bombed Hitler’s lair at Berchtesgarden on the 25th April 1945; two days later he dropped food to starving Dutch people at The Hague.

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