Donald Barten











Donald Barten


Donald Barten returned from Egypt to England, where he remained until 5 April 1916. Although there is no mention of it in his army record, it is possible that he had picked up an illness or wound in Egypt, as Donald spent some time at Fazakerley Hospital, Liverpool. It was common practice to send soldiers to hospitals some distance from their homes, possibly to cut down on travel by family members, which was seen as important in time of war. On 25 February 1916 the officer in charge certified him 'fit for light duty' (as opposed to 'fit for duty'). He was granted a furlough until 5 March.

Donald at Fazakerley Hospital

Donald at Fazakerley Hospital, Liverpool

Donald returned to France, as part of the British Expeditionary Force, on 6 April 1916. On 16 April he wrote a will, leaving everything to his mother.

After an initial period in the North near Ypres (the Battalion was in occupation of the Kemmel defences when Donald arrived), the Battalion joined the 4th Army south of Arras, at the start of July. This was the period of the Somme offensive. The British were involved in bitter struggles over tiny patches of land, finding it very difficult to break through the enemy defences. The Germans had perfected a technique of 'defence in depth'. They would absorb attacks by conceding a weakly-held front line and then counter-attacking with well-organised reserves from lines further to the rear. Losses were very high on both sides.

Nothing of Donald Barten's individual contribution is recorded, although the war diaries show that his Battalion was involved in some of the most well-known action of the battle of the Somme, at Bazentin-le-Grand, Delville Wood and Guillemont.

Conditions at the front line were often dreadfully wet and muddy. Soldiers lived with the constant fear of death from enemy shells, snipers, machine guns and so on.

Periods were also spent behind the front line, resting in camps or billets. Training took place and occasionally sports and other entertainments were organised.

Donald Barten's will

Donald's will

During his second period in France, Donald Barten was awarded the Military Medal. (The exact reason for the award is not known. The medal was given for 'bravery and devotion under fire'). His award was published in the London Gazette on 16 November 1916. (Donald was also awarded the following campaign medals: the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the Star.)

During his whole time in the army there were only two blots on his record. In May 1915 (while in Egypt), he was confined to barracks for three days for being absent from sergeants' mess fatigue at 5.30 a.m.! On 18 April 1916, shortly after returning to France, he was fined 7 days pay for absence.

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