NAME: BARKER Joseph Henry photo
DIVISIONAL UNIT: 3rd Canadian Infantry Division
9th Infantry Brigade
58th Battalion - Central Ontario
Canadian Infantry Corps
SERVICE NO: 654005
RESIDENCE: Wingham – Ontario
DATE OF BIRTH: September 5, 1893
Hampshire – England
DATE OF DEATH: October 26, 1917 24 years 1 month
MEMORIAL: Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial – Ypres –
West Vlaanderen – Belgium
Panels 18-24 + 26-30
MOTHER: Mrs. Annie Barker – Wingham
Occupation: Farmer. Religion: Salvation Army
Enlistment: Wingham - November 29, 1915 - 161st Huron Battalion
Enlistment Age: 22 years 3 months
Private Barker along with his unit moved to the east coast boarded their ship and departed Canada on November 1st and arrived in England November 11, 1916. Private Barker when in England transferred to the 58th Battalion and joined his unit in the field on December 30, 1916.
The summer of 1917 was wet and so was the battlefield in front of the Canadian Corps. Trenches were no more. The battlefield was unable to rid itself of the water and as a result everything was a sucking, sticky field of mud that in places was waist deep. This is what the Canadian Corps had to deal with even before reaching the enemy positions. As they advanced they had to deal with much weight from a shovel, rations, water, rifle, shovel, ammunition plus other necessities and their advance was slow. They also had to deal with many thousands of rotting corpses and if they slowed their advance or paused it was possible the mud would suck them to their death.
Private Barker had previously been reported as missing on October 26, 1917 and had presumed to have died during that day. From reports received the information received said he had died from fatal wounds to his head.
October 26th was the first step in taking Passchendaele from the enemy. They began their advance in the thick mud along the totally destroyed Gravenstafel-Passchendaele road and Bellevue Spur. Considering the conditions of the battlefield they 3rd Division still overran the enemy front line positions and pushed ahead. The enemy reply was quick with a devastating artillery barrage coming down upon the Division. They originally were able to hold their ground but the enemy barrage forced them to withdraw. The 3rd Division on this opening day in the fight for Passchendaele did not achieve their objectives. They then had to dig in and find whatever cover was available to them from the enemy barrage and wait for the next advance to begin. The Division losses on this day were 2,900 with 600 men killed. The advance for the day was approximately 1,000 yards.
The Battalion was at Wieltje Dugouts under heavy rain in the morning and much cloud during the day. Winds were south at 10 mph. At 5:40 am the 58th Battalion & 43rd Battalion attacked with artillery and the 52nd Battalion was supporting with the 116th Battalion in reserve. Enemy artillery replied in the Havebeck area causing casualties.
When the Battalion artillery lifted it was seen to be advancing slower on the right than the left and was distributed to a depth of 300 yards and this caused a number of casualties in the first assaulting waves. The advance went on and the infantry took three “pill boxes” at Lamkerk with Dad Trench. The advance then came under heavy enemy machine-gun fire from the German trenches along with enfilade machine-gun from Bellevue Farm to the left of the Battalion front during the attack. More heavy enemy fire came from Crest Farm causing the men to find shell holes for cover, which was followed by a heavy, severe and bloody fight for Contour Trench. At 2:30 pm 64 Germans stood up and surrendered and following this the Battalion was able to gain control of the enemy trenches.
The casualties during this advance were severe. On the night of the 26th machine-gun posts were established in front of Contour Trench. The enemy did not make a determined effort to recapture their lost positions.
On this day 500 men were involved in the advance and by the end of the day 303 were killed, wounded or missing. This was a 61% casualty rate.