15TH AUGUST 1917 AGE 23


I wonder if Private Bartlett's mother was familiar with the writings of Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)? His definition of a noble spirit would have pleased her:

"Every man rises superior to that which he can neglect or give up, when the good of his country requires it; but he who is incited by anger or revenge to war, is inferior to his own passion; and he whom ambition allures to battle, is previously subdued and made captive to the object of that ambition, while the man who prefers the public good to the indulgence of any of these mean passions, he is the man of a truly great and noble spirit."
The Compliant of Peace ... or The Plea of Reason, Religion, and Humanity Against War.

William Bartlett was a professional soldier who enlisted in January 1913 aged 18 and 4 months. He served with the 2nd Battalion the South Lancashire Regiment, part of 7th Brigade, and crossed to France on 14 August 1914, a week after the very first troops of the British Expeditionary Force had landed. Two weeks later, 23/4 August, they engaged with the enemy near Ciply a village just south of Mons. The 7th Brigade war diary reports that it was the South Lancashires that sustained the heaviest losses in the fighting.
It's possible that this is when Bartlett went missing. He is one of the few soldiers whose record file still exists and it includes two letters from his mother. Burnt, torn or nibbled, you can just make out that on 5 September 1914 she's enquiring for news of her son who she says she hasn't heard from for over 3 weeks, that his last letter came from Southampton, that she is very anxious about him, and that the suspense of waiting is terrible. Presumably she learnt that he was a prisoner of war because it was as a prisoner of war that he died three years later in a camp in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. After the war, his body was reinterred in Hamburg Cemetery.
The Bartletts had three children, one daughter and two sons - William and Arthur. Arthur joined the Royal Navy and served on HMS Natal. On 30 December 1915, whilst it was lying at anchor in Cromarty Firth, a spontaneous explosion in one of the ammunition stores tore open the rear of the ship causing it to capsize and sink with the loss of 390 lives. Arthur Bartlett was 18. His body was never recovered.