Barber, Walter James, 256, Police Constable.

Paul Watts

Walter James Barber Re-joining Police
Herts Police Historical Society

Early Life.

Walter James Barber was born on the 14th June 1895 at Sotterley, Suffolk and was baptised on the 11th August 1895 at St. Margaret’s Church, Sotterley.

His father, Robert Barber an agricultural labourer, married his mother, Caroline Blake in 1884 at Wangford, Suffolk. According to the 1991 census they had 14 children although only 13 have been identified. Of these four sadly died before the 1911 census:
1. Dorcas Elizabeth born in 1884 at St. Margaret’s South Elmham, Suffolk.
2. William Robert born in 1886 at Melfield, Suffolk.
3. Florence Caroline born in 1887 at Melfield.
4. Maud Mary born in 1888 and died in 1889 at St. Cross, South Elmham.
5. Enoch Frederick born and died in 1890 at St. Cross, South Elmham.
6. Charlie Enoch born in 1892 at Homersfield, Suffolk.
7. Gertrude Maud born in 1893 at St. Cross, South Elmham.
8. Walter James.
9. Daisy Kate Maria born in 1896 at Sotterley.
10. Hilda May born in 1898 at Sotterley.
11. Ernest George born in 1899 at Sotterley.
12. Albert Victor born in 1901 at Ashley, Norfolk.
13. William Robert born in 1908 at Mutford, Suffolk.

During the 1891 census the family were living at St. Margaret’s Road, St. Cross, South Elmham, Wangford, Suffolk. By the time of the 1901 census they had moved and were living near St. Olaves Station, Herringfleet Hills, Herringfleet, Mutford, Suffolk.

At the time of the 1911 census they had moved again and were now living at Hill Cottages, Shipmeadow Beccles, Suffolk. Walter had left home and was employed as a House boy by an Elizabeth Watson and was living at Croft Lodge, Barton Road, Grantchester, Cambridge.

Little is known about Walter’s life for the next few years, but it is believed that he applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary during 1914.

Police Service.

Walter’s Police Service Record has not survived but it is believed that he joined on the 10th August 1914. This is based on the anniversary date of his pay increases and the rate of pay he was receiving. In any case his pensionable service would not have started until he reached his 21st birthday on the 14th June 1916. It is also believed that following his training at Police Headquarters at Hatfield he was posted to B Division at Bishops Stortford.


General Order 59 of the 10th April 1915 instructed Walter that he was being transferred from B Division at Bishops Stortford to C Division at Watford from the 12th April 1915.

General Order 133 of the 18th August 1915 informed Walter that he would receive an increased rate of pay from 24/6 to 25/8 per week from the 10th August 1915. Also, on this Order were Constable’s 73 Human, 132 Wallman, 139 Freeman and 192 Skeggs who all received the same increase of pay on the same date and all were Appointed on the 10th August 1914.

General Order 144 of the 20th September 1915 unusually repeats that Walter was to receive the pay increase shown above. However, it also included Constables 55 Harrowell and 317 White, who also received the same increase of pay on the same date and also were Appointed on the 10th August 1914.


Walter married Kate Mildred Cornwell on the 16th December 1915 at Lode, Cambridgeshire. They had four children:
1. Kenneth Walter Owen born 1917 at Watford.                                                                                                                            2. Joan Mabel born in 1919 at Watford. She married in 1942 at Berkhamsted a John Dennis Rolls son of Inspector 288 George John William Rolls.
3. Douglas Robert born in 1921 at Royston.
4. Kathleen M. born in 1923 at Royston.
5. Geoffrey W. born in 1926 at Royston.                                                                                                                                          6. Mary Elizabeth born in 1928 at Welwyn Garden City.

General Order 97 of the 12th August 1916 informed Walter that he would receive an increased rate of pay from 25/8 to 26/10 per week from the 10th August 1916.

General Order 15 of the 16th February 1917 was entitled Police Constables (Naval and Military Services) Act 1914 Police (Emergency Provisions) Act 1915: The undermentioned Police Constables attested under the Group System having been called upon to report for Military Service in accordance with the Order of the War Cabinet dated 5th February 1917 de-badging all men aged 18 to 22 years on 20th January 1917 The Deputy Chief Constable hereby extends to them the provisions of the above Acts. They will be released from the Police Service granted leave of absence and paid up as set forth in the schedule appended.
Name                         Date to be released   Date Police Pay Ceases   Leave of Absence   Recruiting Office                                                               Police Service                                                                                                                                                 PC 184 Edwards F.   19/02/1917                  19/02/1917                        18 & 19/02/1917     Hertford 10 a.m. 20/02/1917  PC 256 Barber W.J.   21/02/1917                  21/02/1917                        20 & 21/02/1917     Watford 10 a.m. 22/02/1917

Army Service During The War.

Walter’s Army Service Record has survived and from this and his Medal Index Card and Medal Roll we know the following:

He enlisted on the 10th December 1915 at Watford and on the 11th December 1915, he was transferred to Section B Army Reserve and returned to his Police duties. This was part of what was known as the Derby Scheme. Thousands of men around the country including dozens of Hertfordshire Police Officers enlisted under the scheme. The Hertfordshire Officers mainly enlisted between the 9th and the 11th December 1915. Every Section B Reservist was issued with an individually numbered Khaki Armlet with a red Crown displayed on it which was to be worn on the upper left arm to demonstrate they were a Reservist and were waiting to be mobilised.

He gave his address as 11, Liverpool Road, Watford which was later amended to 68, Neal Street, Watford. He gave his age as 21 years 6 months, his occupation as Police Constable and said he was unmarried although he married four days later. He said that he had not previously served in the Military.

His description on his enlistment was recorded: Name: Apparent Age: 21 years 6 months. Height: 5 feet 9 inches. Chest: 36 inches 2 inch expansion.

He said his religion was Church of England. His marriage details were recorded later and his wife was given as his next of kin.

He underwent a medical examination on the 12th December at Watford and some additional details were recorded which were that he was born at Sotterley, Suffolk and his weight was 133 lbs.

On the 22nd February 1917 he was mobilised at Watford and the following day he was Posted as Gunner 206135 in the Royal Horse Artillery Depot. PC 184 Frederick Edwards having been mobilised two days earlier became Gunner 206125 Royal Horse Artillery. Other than possibly during their basic training they did not serve together.

On the 6th November 1917 Walter was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. On the 17th November 1917 he was posted to ‘B’ Battery Royal Horse Artillery.

On the 1st July 1918 he was taken by the 93rd Field Ambulance and admitted to Hospital with Otitis Media an ear infection possibly due to a perforated eardrum. On the 30th August 1918 he returned to Base.

On the 2nd September 1918, his wife notified her change of address to Wayside, Lode, Cambridgeshire. On the 6th September 1918 he was posted to ‘A’ Battery 47th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

On the 31st October 1918 he was granted leave to the UK via Calais and on the 15th November 1918, he returned to France. On the 20th December 1918 he was posted to Shorncliffe for release as unreadable. He embarked on the SS Princess Victoria and returned Home the following day.

On the 17th January 1919 he transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on Demobilisation at Woolwich. Home address was given as 68, Neal Street, Watford.

Army Form Z22 Statement as to Disability recorded:
Unit: A. Battery, 47th Brigade. Regiment: Royal Field Artillery No: 206135. Rank: Gunner. Name: Walter James Barber. Address: 68 Neal Street Watford. Age last birthday: 24. First joined: 10th December 1915 at Woolwich. Medical category: A1. Medical examination: 16th December 1918 in the field – I do not claim to be suffering a disability due to my Military Service – signed W.J. Barber.

Army Form Z11 Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity recorded:
Name: Walter James Barber. No: 206135. Rank: Gunner. Record Office: Woolwich. Unit: A. 47 Brigade. Regiment: Royal Field Artillery. Pay Office: Blackheath. Address for Pay: 68, Neal Street, Watford, Herts. Theatre of War: France. Year born: 1894. Medical category: B1. Place of re-joining in case of emergency: Woolwich. Issued by: No. 1 Dispersal Unit Shorncliffe 20th December 1918. Granted a 28 day furlough.

He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.

Like every other soldier Walter was given 28 days leave when he was demobilised, and he used this time to arrange his re-joining of the Police. This would have involved a Medical Examination to ensure he was still fit enough for the duties of a Constable. The date of his re-joining the Police would have coincided with the end of his period of leave.

Re-joining The Police.

General Order 15 of 14th January 1919 announced that nine Police Soldiers, having been released from H.M. Army, would be re-appointed to the Force. Walter was shown as PC 256 Barber W.J. posted to C Division at Watford on £2/7/0 per week from the 13th January 1919. Each officer had to be formally re-attested and the Superintendents concerned had to report to this Chief Constable when this had been done with the date and place of attestation and before whom taken. The Electoral Rolls of 1919 and 1920 list Walter James Barber as living at 68, Neal Street, Watford.

General Order 182 of the 20th August 1919 informed Walter that he would receive an increased rate of pay with from £3/18/0 to £4/0/0 per week from the 10th August 1919.


The record has not survived but as the Electoral Rolls of 1921 to 1926 list Walter and Katie Barber as living at the Police Station, Hinxworth it is clear that he had been transferred from C Division at Watford to E Division at Hinxworth at some time between the end of 1920 and the beginning of 1921.

The following General Orders informed Walter that he would receive a pay increase from the 10th of August of the year of the Order:
General Order 142 of the 18th August 1921 from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week.
General Order 113 of the 24th August 1922 from £4/4/0 to £4/6/0 per week.
General Order 148 of the 16th August 1923 from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week.
General Order 149 of the 1st September 1924 from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week.

The General Strike.

General Order 62 of the 4th May 1926 concerned the Emergency Regulations of 1926 and instructions for 50 Hertfordshire Police Officers, made up of three Inspectors, seven Sergeants and 40 Constables, to be on standby should the Secretary of State call upon the County Force to draft men elsewhere at short notice. These included officers from A,B,C, D and E Divisions. Orders for equipment and clothing would be issued if and when necessary, but the men were advised that they would require some sort of haversack. Walter was one of the Constables named in the list but there was no record of him having been called out.


General Order 152 of the 5th November 1926 instructed Walter that from the 16th November 1926 he was being transferred from E Division at Hinxworth to B Division at Welwyn Garden City and to occupy a cottage at 46, Knella Road, Welwyn Garden City. The 1927 to 1930 Electoral Rolls list Walter and Katie Barber as living at 46, Knella Road, Welwyn Garden City.

Qualification To Sergeant.

General Order 12 of 19th January 1927 announced the results of the Promotion Examination for Constable to Sergeant held on the 18th December 1926. Walter was one of 23 successful candidates. There is no record to show he was ever promoted.


Again, the record has not survived but at some point after 1930 it is clear that Walter was again transferred, this time from B Division at Welwyn Garden City to D Division at Great Berkhamsted.

A Minor Blemish.

On the 12th July 1935, the Chief Constable fined Walter £1/0/0 for failing to make the necessary entry in the Guardroom Occurrence Book at Great Berkhamsted of a report of dangerous driving received by him by telephone at 5 p.m. on the 26th June 1935 and for failing to take particulars of the licences etc of a motor car and the licence of the driver against whom a report of dangerous driving had been received.

The1939 Register lists Police Constable Walter Barber and his family as living at 18, George Street, Berkhamstead.


It is believed that Walter retired on medical grounds still as a Constable on the 24th April 1945.

Walter James Barber of 26, St. Marys Avenue, Northchurch, Berkhamsted died on the 18th January 1979.

This page was added on 14/05/2020.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Anthony thank you very much for posting this information it is exactly the sort of thing I hoped my research would generate. It has been fascinating to read and adds greatly to your grandfather’s life story. Thank you also for correcting my research and I have now added Kenneth and Mary’s names to my original post. If you have any other stories about Walter’s life or indeed any photographs of him which you are willing to post you can do so by clicking on the “Contribute” heading on the Home page followed by “Add your story” and then follow the instructions. I will ensure they are added to his story.

    By Paul Watts (26/08/2020)
  • Walter was my grandfather so I found this page particularly interesting.

    He and Kate had 6, not 4 children. The missing ones are: Kenneth Walter Owen, born Watford 1917 and Mary Elizabeth, born Welwyn Garden City 1928.

    There was a story in the family that during WW1 he had saved the life of an officer who, after the war, sent him a silver cigarette case and £1 every Christmas. I was shown the cigarette case, which is inscribed,

    Gnr WJ Barber RHA
    April 11 to 16 1918
    From Lt F H Vince.

    Unfortunately, no-one seemed to know any details. Clearly Lieutenant Vince was the officer concerned so I set about searching for him or his descendants. With the assistance of one of my cousins and the Internet, I was able to track down one of his great granddaughters. She kindly sent us a copy of a newspaper article about Mr Vince’s 100th birthday celebrations which tells us that after serving for a short time with a Howitzer Battery of the Royal Field Artillery, he was posted to B Battery, the Royal Horse Artillery, in July 1917. He was joined in November of that year by Walter.

    In the above article, Mr Vince says,

    “I was sent with four others to cover the retreat of our troops from Ypres Salient. We were supposed to be there for 24 hours – we were there for four days and four nights, from April 11 to April 16, 1918. We got the wind up because the Very lights used to go up behind us instead of in front of us and it was very disconcerting. I made one of the men with me unpaid Lance Corporal, a gunner named Walter Barber, and neither of us knew at the time that the other came from Watford. After the war I gave him a silver cigarette case with the date on it (but he didn’t smoke) and for over 50 years I sent him £1 every year to drink my health. He didn’t need it and I didn’t miss it.”

    Apparently, the intention of this withdrawal from the Ypres (Passchendaele) Salient was to free up additional British troops and to delay the execution of any plans which the Germans might be entertaining for extending the flank of their attack to the north. The general scheme as far as the artillery was concerned was to leave only one gun per battery in action for the night of the final infantry withdrawal and to keep up the normal expenditure of ammunition so as to give as little indication of the impending withdrawal as possible to the enemy.

    Mr Vince left an extensive collection of papers and diaries to the Manuscripts and Special Collections Department at the University of Nottingham.

    His diary contains a note for 11th April 1918 that reads

    ‘3 Guns pulled out, I stayed i/c of remaining gun’

    There is a note in his diary for 16th April that reads.

    “Pulled out remaining gun 3.30 a.m. and went to WL (wagon lines) at Goldfish Chateau.”

    Unfortunately, but understandably, there is nothing in between.

    According to my aunt, my grandmother believed it was Walter’s good sense of direction that helped them find their way to safety in the featureless landscape.

    By Anthony Barber (26/08/2020)