THE picture has come to symbolise the horrors and mud of the Battle of Passchendaele, which raged for three long months in 1917 and resulted in more than half a million casualties, from both sides.

It shows stretcher bearers, knee deep in mud, carrying a wounded soldier across a bleak and barren landscape for medical attention.

The stretcher bearer on the front left, with the moustache, is, it is believed, the only soldier in the image to be identified.

He is William Barker, then 34 and a father of three, from Chorley, who made it back home from the horrors of World War One and is the grandfather of Blackburn councillor Phil Riley and his sister Margaret Singleton.

He was recognised by his surviving daughter Winnie, 93, when she came across the image a few years ago - the family had never seen the photograph before.

But it prompted them to unravel the secrets of William's war service and they discovered he had enlisted with the Royal Army Medical Corps, at a recruitment rally in 1915.

After training, he was sent to France before being transferred to Flanders and attached to the Liverpool Regiment.

Said Margaret: "The story was that he promised his wife he was just going along to have a look, but he came home and told her 'I’ve signed up. We’re off tomorrow.'

"He was only a small man, at 5ft 2in, which must have made it even harder in all that mud. But he was very determined."

Phil and Margaret knew him as Grandpa Barker and although Phil was only 13 when he died in 1962, aged 80, he remembers him as a quiet family man, who also played the banjo - but who never spoke of the horrors he had witnessed.

Said Phil: "He had close links with St Mary’s RC Church in Chorley and I remember he used to take me to watch Chorley playing in the Lancashire Combination in the 1950s."

A keen football fan, William was also a music hall favourite as the banjo-playing leader of the Billy Barker Band; he and his wife Mary had two more children.

Margaret was in Ypres for the centenary commemoration of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres on July 31 and said: "I’m so proud and humbled that he did so much and so grateful he came home.

"He was a lovely, caring man, but he never talked about what he’d been through.

"All we really knew was that he came home from the war on a Saturday and he was back at work at the Co-op in Chorley on the Monday."

By the time William did come home in 1919, he had been registered as 40 per cent disabled, a result of the wounds suffered while saving others on the battlefield - but he never liked to talk about it.