The Life and Times of John Edwin Barnes

This is the latest and recently updated biography of my great-grandfather, John Edwin Barnes. It’s always good practise to periodically review and revisit your work and I have included here some new information and some additional records, plus I have been able to add some new photographs to my collection, all of which help to tell my great-grandfather’s story. I am also extremely grateful to Military Historian Paul Reed, who has kindly allowed me to share the links to his Old Front Line Podcast. The particular podcast episode, linked below, discusses at great length the Gallipoli campaign with specific reference to the landings at ‘W’ Beach, which is where my grandfather landed with the Essex Regiment on 25th April 1915 and where he was to sadly join the thousands of others who fell at Cape Helles. The Podcast gives you a real sense of the landscape of Gallipoli and the landings at ‘W’ Beach and the challenges involved.

Walking Gallipoli: W Beach on Spotify

Walking Gallipoli: W Beach Apple Podcasts

Walking Gallipoli: W Beach Blog

John Edwin Barnes was the very first ancestor that I carried out a fully detailed piece of research on and my investigation into his life was the inspiration and the catalyst for the next 25 years of family history research and he is someone that I have grown to know extremely well and someone who will always hold a special place in my heart. He was tragically killed in action at Gallipoli in WW1 and after my Nan died, I was the humbled recipient of his WW1 medals and it was these very medals, that inspired me to start tracing my family history. 

Are we allowed a “Favourite Ancestor?” Of course we are, so apologies if there is a lot of info in this blog, I have managed to discover a lot about John Edwin’s military career, in what was actually, an extremely short life. So sit back and take a glimpse into the life of my Great-Grandfather John Edwin Barnes.

John Edwin Barnes was born on 17th March 1890 at 49, Benledi Street, Bromley-By-Bow, Poplar, he was the fourth child of eight, born to Henry Barnes and Martha Barnes nee Harvey.

John Edwin Barnes Birth

(John Edwin Barnes Birth Certificate)

Within a year, we find John Edwin Barnes counted in the 1891 Census, still living at 49, Benledi Street, with his parents and three older Brothers.

1891 Census

John Edwin Barnes Census Return 1891

(Class: RG12; Piece: 327; Folio: 134; Page: 40)

Benledi Street Poplar

(Benledi Street – photo sent to me from a Barnes Ancestor)

By the time of the 1901 Census, the family home had moved to 50, Burke Street, West Ham and young John Edwin is still living at home with his parents and six siblings, Henry aged 17, Walter aged 13, Arthur aged 8, Edward aged 6, Martha aged 2 and baby Ethel aged just 5 Months.

1901 Census

John Edwin Barnes Census Return 1901

(Class: RG13; Piece: 1584; Folio: 34; Page: 6)

Whether he was inspired by his older Brother Harry Barnes, who joined the East Surrey Regiment, I can’t say for certain, but the next record we find for our young John Edwin Barnes is his Army attestation papers detailing his enlistment to the Essex Militia, Army Number 9431. He enlists in the 3rd Militia Battalion Essex Regiment, Number 9431, on 19th October 1906 and shortly after received the Army Recruiting Office seal of approval, on 22nd October 1906. Exactly one month later, on 19th November 1906, he attested for Regular Service with the 3rd Battalion, Essex Regiment.

JEB page 1

JEB page 2

JEB page 3

John Edwin Barnes Attestation Record

(W0 96 Militia Service Records 1806-1915, Box 755, Box Record Number 240, The National Archives)

The following information is taken from John Edwin Barnes Army enlisting documentation dated 19th October 1906. He was recruited into the Essex Regiment at the Frances Street Office, Woolwich, London. On the day he enlisted, he was 17 years and 7 months old, his height was 5ft 6 1/2″ and his weight 12st 3lbs. His chest measurement was 35″ and his complexion was listed as Sallow. He had brown eyes and auburn hair and his religion is listed as C of E. His occupation is listed as a Carman and he is listed as single.

He had the following distinguishing marks:

Scar left side of the forehead

Scar between shoulder blades

A Tattoo I Love F.Bevens front of left forearm

I should add here that I have no idea who F. Bevens was, but she obviously made an impact! I have tried a number of times to trace her, so far unsuccessfully, but it’s on my ever-increasing “to-do” list.

His address on enlisting was: 66, Hansworth Street, Canning Town, London.

His next of kin is listed as follows:

Father Harry, 66, Hansworth St. Canning Town Essex

Elder Bros Harry, Pte East Surrey Regt, Walter Jnr, Bros Arthur and Edward Sisters Martha & Ethel, all with father.

After completing basic training at the Warley Depot, at the end of 1907, he was posted to the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment, with Army Number 8987. He was posted from the 2nd Battalion to the 1st Battalion and is stationed at Quetta, Baluchistan, India on the 5th January 1911 and is counted in the 1911 Census in India.

1911 Census

John Edwin Barnes Census Return 1911

(Class: RG14; Piece: 34978; Page: 1)

He is stationed here in “C” Company and later in 1913 “C” Company was merged to form part of the new “Y” Company when the Battalion moved to a four Company structure in 1913. A helpful link to understanding Essex Regiment Service Numbers can be found here

Essex Regiment Service Numbers

It’s during this period in Ireland and specifically Dublin, that John Edwin Barnes meets and marries his sweetheart, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Daniels. They were married on 27th October 1909 at The Registrar’s Office in The City of Dublin, John Edwin Barnes was living at 6, Madeline Terrace, Golden Bridge, Dublin at the time and Lizzie’s address was 3, Woodroffe Cottages, Island Bridge. His occupation was listed as Private, Essex Regiment.

John Edwin Barnes Marriage

(Copy of John Edwin Barnes Marriage Certificate)

Between John Edwin Barnes enlistment and before he was sent to India, the Essex Regiment was stationed at The Island Bridge Army Barracks, in Dublin, the exact dates I can’t be sure. During this period there is also evidence of a Court Martial for John E Barnes, of the 2nd Battalion, at The Curragh Army Barracks, Ireland. The date of the trial was 5th December 1910 and the Court Martial took place on 20th December 1910, the outcome of the trial was a Court Martial for desertion and he was sentenced to 112 days. I would like to think that he was deserting for good reasons, to go and meet his Wife, Lizzie, who would have been pregnant at the time with their only child Martha Annie Barnes. I will never know for certain the reason for his desertion, but the sentimental part of me would like it to be for this reason.

Court Martial Record

John Edwin Barnes Court Martial 1

John Edwin Barnes Court Martial 2

(The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Judge Advocate General’s Office: District Courts Martial Registers, Home and Abroad; Series: WO 86; Piece Number: 58)

John Edwin Barnes and Lizzie Barnes only had one child, Martha Annie Barnes (My Nan), who was born on 21st April 1911, at The Stevens Hospital Dublin. Sadly John Edwin Barnes died at Gallipoli on this ill-fated campaign, on the very first day of battle, 25th April 1915. Whether he was able to see his only child, Martha Annie Barnes or not, between his service in India, with the Essex Regiment and the outbreak of WW1, I am unable to say for sure.

You might think that there is where the story ends for John Edwin Barnes, but far from it, over the years I have been able to piece together more and more information about his time at Gallipoli thanks to the wonderful help of sites such as The Long Long Trail, The Great War Forum and The Gallipoli Association.

So I have included some more detailed information regarding the Gallipoli Campaign, the part the Essex Regiment played and the part my Ancestor John Edwin Barnes played. There is a whole wealth of well documented books, blogs and research into the Gallipoli Campaign which would be far too lengthy to be included with this blog, but a very brief note of why the Allied Forces chose to attack the Dardanelles Peninsula is included here;

The eight-month campaign in Gallipoli was fought by Allied forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium, and open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea. The Allies landed on the peninsula on 25-26 April 1915; with the 29th Division at Cape Helles in the south and the Australian and New Zealand Corps north of Gaba Tepe on the west coast, an area soon known as Anzac.

From now on, we will concentrate on the 29th Division, which consisted of 12 Battalions: Border Regiment, 1st Battalion Essex Regiment, Hampshire Regiment, King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Royal Fusiliers – City of London Regiment, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1/5th Royal Scots – Lothian Regiment, South Wales Borderers and the Worcestershire Regiment. John Edwin Barnes was part of The Essex Regiment that landed at “W” beach on 25th April 1915.

Troops of the 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment landing at ‘W’ Beach, 25 April 1915.

(IWM Production date 1915-04-25 Catalogue number Q 37880 Part of BRIGHT F G (LT) COLLECTION)

The following is the actual transcript of the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment War Diary in the run-up to the landings on 25th April 1915 and the days after;

1st Battalion, The Essex Regiment War Diary

March 12th 1915

His Majesty’s Inspection

Battalion entrains at Milverton Station, Warwick:

“A” & “B” Companies 8-25 am.

“C” & “D” Companies 8-45 am.

Inspection by His Majesty on main Coventry – Rugby Road.

Return home.

March 21st 1915

Warwick, Warwickshire. Part of the 88th Brigade, 29th Division.

To Avonmouth and embarked on Caledonia.

April 2nd 1915

Arrived in Alexandria, Egypt.

April 6th  1915

Disembarked and to Mustapha Camp.

April 11th 1915

Embarked DONGOLA and sailed for Lemnos.

April 13th 1915

Arrived Mudros Harbour.

April 24th 1915

Set sail to Cape Helles.

April 25th 1915 09:00 hrs

The Battalion less Z Company transhipped from H.T. DONGOLA to a minesweeper and was conveyed as close to the shore as possible when they were transferred to boats. The landing was carried out under fire and there were several casualties in the boats that took place on W Beach about 9.30 am.

April 25th 1915 09:30 hrs

As soon as the first boats were beached, we received orders to connect between the Royal Fusiliers on right and Lancashire Fusiliers on left and as many as were available were sent to fill this gap, reinforcing as men arrived on the beach. On reaching the crest it was found that no one was on our right.

April 25th 1915 11:35 hrs

A message was received from G.H.Q. to report progress and reasons for not pushing on. Reply was sent, that we were waiting for our left to come up and would then advance. This was attempted but the advance was held up by very heavy fire and many casualties occurred.

April 25th 1915 12:30 hrs

Supported by 4th Worcester’s and after bombardment by Navy, which drove out the enemy, the Battalion took Hill 138 and redoubt beyond.

April 25th 1915 19:00 hrs

Received orders to connect with Worcester’s on right & Hampshire’s on left and entrench position.

Enemy attacked at night & came to close range with a Machine Gun, but inflicted no loss and were driven off.

Casualties during day, 2 Officers Killed, 4 Officers Wounded, 1 since dead, Other Ranks 15 killed, 87 wounded.

April 26th 1915

Continued to hold same position.

April 27th 1915 16:00 hrs

Advanced in Line 3 Brigades with 175th French Regiment on right and entrenched new position.

April 28th 1915 08:00 hrs

Advanced in same formation to take up a new position Pt. 236 – Knoll about 700 yds. N.E. of KRITHEA – Pt. 472 – X Coast Line in Sq. 184.R.8

April 28th 1915 09:00 hrs

Met with considerable opposition. The Battalion on the left of the 88th Brigade on reaching a point beyond which they could not advance owing to the right & left of the line being held up entrenched and held till 6 P.M. when it retired to another position in the line with the remainder of the Brigades the right of the line having retired. The enemy made very good use of their Machine Guns causing heavy casualties.

Officers Killed 2, Other Ranks Killed 12, Officers wounded 1, Other Ranks Wounded 75, Officers missing 0, Other Ranks Missing 33.

April 29th 1915 

Remained in position.

April 30th 1915

Remained in position, shelled by enemy causing little damage.

May 1st 1915

Remained in same position, Battalion relieved by 2nd Hants. Regt. in trenches and went into reserve.

May 1st 1915 22:30 hrs

Enemy attacked trenches in force. The Battalion was called out and ordered to retake trenches which has been evacuated and were held by the enemy. During the advance, the Battalion was subjected to heavy fire from the front and also from the rear by parties of the enemy who had broken through 1 Officer and about 40 Turkish prisoners were taken during the advance. X Company under Capt. Pepys found one trench occupied by the enemy and retook it with the bayonet. The remainder of the Battalion remained in support ready to strengthen any portion of the line.

May 2nd 1915 04:30 hrs

A Counterattack was ordered. This consisted of three companies under Captain Bowen they took a small redoubt killing and capturing some of the enemy, ordered to advance and entrench new position.

This was found impracticable owing to enemy’s heavy shell fire. The old trenches were occupied.

Officers Killed 2, Other Ranks Killed 12, Officers Wounded 3, Other Ranks Wounded 28, Officers Missing 0, Other Ranks Missing 5.

The Essex Regiment Diaries can be found on Ancestry and the links are attached here;

Essex Regiment War Diaries 1

Essex Regiment War Diaries 2

Essex Regiment War Diaries 3

Essex Regiment War Diaries 4

Essex Regiment War Diaries 5

Essex Regiment War Diaries 6

Essex Regiment War Diaries 7

(UK, WWI War Diaries (Gallipoli and Dardanelles), 1914-1916)

John Edwin Barnes is commemorated on the Helles Memorial alongside the names of his own Essex Regiment comrades and the other 20,000 plus soldiers, who sadly lost their life here at Gallipoli.

The CWGC record for John Edwin Barnes can be found here:

Private John Edwin Barnes - CWGC Certificate

CWGC Record

The Medal Rolls for John Edwin Barnes can be found here:


Medal Rolls 1

(The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls; Class: WO 329; Piece Number: 2746)


Medal Rolls 2

(The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls; Class: WO 329; Piece Number: 1376)


Medal Roll Card

(British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920)

He was awarded The Victory Medal, The British Medal, The 1914-15 Star as well as The Memorial Plaque (known as “The Death Penny”). Below you will see what these medals look like after I had them framed.

There are numerous Newspaper reports listing the wounding and death of John Edwin Barnes in various newspapers, these can be found on Find My Past and The British Newspaper Archive websites, the links are included here;


Sheffield Daily Telegraph 31st May 1915


Essex Newsman 5th June 1915


Essex Newsman 20th November 1915


Essex Newsman 20th November 1915 Additional Article


The Chelmsford Chronicle 3rd December 1915

I am very fortunate, over the years, I have accumulated a large number of Photographs from Gallipoli. I am eternally grateful to those that have allowed me to use their own pictures in my Family History Research. Credits for the images are listed below.

(Images kindly supplied by Sean Ryan)

(Images kindly supplied by Robert Pike)


(Images kindly supplied by Bob Cumberbatch)

After his death, John Edwin Barnes’ widow, Lizzie Barnes, was entitled to a War Gratuity benefit from the Army, which was duly paid to her on 15th July 1919 for the sum of £5. The payment sheet recording this is shown here;


Soldier’s Effects

(National Army Museum; Chelsea, London, England; Soldiers’ Effects Records, 1901-60; NAM Accession Number: 1991-02-333; Record Number Ranges: 164501-166000; Reference: 62)

A detailed explanation of how the War Gratuity was calculated and paid can be found here on a blog written by Craig from The Great War Forum. War Gratuity

John Edwin Barnes even managed to get a mention in a book by Trevor Royle entitled “Britain’s Lost Regiments, you can view the extract here;

Britain’s Lost Regiment’s John Edwin Barnes

A recent addition has been the framing of my Great-Grandfather’s Medals, a rather fitting tribute to the Memory of John Edwin Barnes


With thanks to all those that have kindly allowed me to use their photographs in this blog, it’s very much appreciated, plus special thanks to Military Historian Paul Reed for allowing me to share the links to his podcast and website.

My one lasting regret is that I don’t have a picture of my hero John Edwin Barnes……………..if only.

I will forever be indebted to my great-grandfather and all those that have served their country and given the ultimate sacrifice in defence of our Country

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5 thoughts on “The Life and Times of John Edwin Barnes

  1. Your great grandfather enlisted at such a young age – 17 – he may have thought he would have a life with a more promising future in the military, not foreseeing the Great War. How sad that he died at Gallipolli knowing that he may never have gotten to see his infant daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

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