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Willie Vose Baines (1893-1968)


Willie Vose BainesWillie was born in Sale, Cheshire, on 26 September, 1893, the second son of TD Baines, a local shop-owner, poulterer and fishmonger and his second wife, Mary Ann Elizabeth (nee Hill).


After school and a short period in an engineering firm, in 1908 he joined Refuge Assurance Co Ltd as a clerk at its chief office at Oxford Street, Manchester. He was a member of the Church Lads Brigade, the local Band of Hope and a choir: so a non-smoker and non-drinker.

On 22 November 1914, Willie volunteered and was enlisted in the 22nd Pals Battalion The Manchester Regiment (7th City) as a Private No 20141, probably little realising that he would serve with the Colours until 5 April 1919, and not be formally demobilised until 31 March 1920. Not only that, but during that period he would be in France & Flanders from 11 November 1915 until July 1918, except for ‘suffering’ an extraordinary stroke of luck for 5 weeks due to being a ‘casualty’.

We have a Willie billeted in Morecambe in early years of the warcopy list of those who volunteered for the Pals from the Refuge. Initially, the 22/7nds trained at Morecambe. They were present at a parade in Manchester on Sunday 21 March in front of Kitchener before moving to Belton Park, Grantham on 4 May 1915.The final move was to Salisbury Plain in early September.

He was promoted Lance-Corporal, Corporal and then on 1/11/1915 to Lance-Sergeant just 10 days before he left for Boulogne from Folkestone. The Battalion moved to Pont Remy,SE of Abbeville and thence to Albert. With the 22nds he was part of Platoon III in A Company, commanded by Captain C C May, who was featured in a TV documentary some years ago. Within a short period he was promoted Sergeant.

Then, thWillie outside hute stroke of luck, The next information is from the records of No 34 Casualty Clearing Station (possibly near Rouen?) that on 21 June 1916 Sgt Baines was admitted suffering from PUO (fever of unknown origin) and was transferred to No 9 Ambulance Train on the 25th. On the 27th he was admitted to No 5 General Hospital suffering from debility and transferred to the Sick Convoy on 1 July (in retrospect, a good day to be sick!) On the 3rd he was admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital, Tootal Road, Manchester suffering from trench fever and discharged to duty Class D on the 12th. Although the records are blurred he returned to France towards the end of the month via Mrs Hammond of 'Alvisham, Grove Street, West End Road, Morecambe.


How many remained of those he knew in his platoon, Company or regiment is not known, but the 22nd Manchesters suffered horrific casualties totalling 700 during July. Michael Stedman in ‘Manchester Pals’ records that on the 1st alone ‘eighteen of the officers were casualties, ten being killed. Among the men 472 casualties, 241 wounded,111 missing and 120 killed. The 7th Manchester City battalion ceased to exist in any recognizable form’ The Army rushed in 434 replacements which Stedman calculates only contained 105 from the Manchesters, creating inevitable tensions.

'Sergeants of A Company 22nd Service Battn Manchester Regiment, France'.
Willie is on the back row third from the right. Perhaps others can identify when it was taken and the fellow sergeants with Willie? The same applies to any photo!

Sergeants of A Company 22nd Service Battn Manchester Regiment, France'.   A group including Willie are in front of a hut

The next photo is more poignant. A group including Willie are in front of a hut on which there is written:
The tray held by the soldier at the front says '1 July'
Willie is on the front row: the third cross-legged from the right-marked by an asterisk
The Battalion's action from Summer 1916 for the following year is well documented, However on 1 September 1917 he was transferred and posted TRR (does this mean Regular Reserve?)

Finally,his connection with the Manchester Regiment was severed when the record shows Sgt Baines was transferred to Border Regiment as No 36305 on 12 December 1917.The following March he was admitted to a casualty clearing station following a mine explosion.

He was in France until July 1918, but on the 20 May 1918 he was charged with committing a civil offence, assault contrary to the Army Act s 41.There were 2 witnesses and he was ‘reduced to the ranks’ (ie private) on 14 June. By the 21 July he was working at the Border Regiment Depot at 150 City Road, London and by the 21st August he was ‘reappointed’ acting Corporal (paid), and that is the rank with which he ended his Army ‘career’.

He was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on 5 April 1919 and by 15 August 1919 had an application before the Disability Board. The main ground seems to be ‘Neurosthenia’ which in some cases appears to be ‘shell shock’ and in other cases an after-effect of trench-fever’ The date of origin was 1916 and the degree of disablement was 40%. He was stated to be ‘...generally tremulous...emotional..’ There appear to be medical reports until 30 April 1931-disability claimed related to .curvature of spine (pre-existing):trench shins: ‘heart tremble’.

He was finally demobbed on 31 March 1920, returning to the Refuge and working as clerk and senior clerk until he retired in 1958. On return to Sale he now enjoyed a drink and a smoke, and was a confirmed bachelor. However, on the early death in 1926 of his elder brother, Henry, my father’s father, he was ‘encouraged’ to marry the widow, Doris my grandmother, to keep the child, Ronnie, then aged 18 months, in the family. So, he became the man I knew as Grandad Baines until his death at the age of 75 in 1968, by when he and Doris had been married for 40 years.

On the outside to a young boy he was great company to all, a jolly and a marvellous Grandad, and talked only occasionally of the war, mainly the conditions in the trenches (for many years I thought he had had trench foot!) .Only once did he talk of ‘action’ when he related being the last of 3 in a tunnel, his 2 colleagues were buried in a collapse and he was pulled out. Whether this incident, wounds, or ‘reduction to the ranks’ was the cause of his return to England in 1918 I do not know, but I would like to think that his rapid reappointment to ‘Corporal’ showed that others thought quite a lot of him.

What thoughts and memories of 1914-1919 he carried with him, I cannot begin to describe. However, my father recalls that in 1939 he built one of the best air-raid shelters in Sale!

Willie Baines in his civviesWillie with his father, Thomas Baines and Stepson Ronnie BainesWillie Baines with grandson, Edward BainesMedals of Willie Vose Baines

Any errors are the author's. Feel free to send any ideas , comment or correction to him at 
© Edward Baines October 2012