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Henry Thomas Barrett

Lance Corporal 7166 Henry Thomas Barrett, 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment

 

Henry was born in early 1885, the son of William Barrett and his wife, Anne (née Smith) he was their third child, second son. William, a plumber,  was originally from Pangbourne and Anne from Kingsclere, they lived at 4 Cromwell Place throughout Henry’s childhood. On 25 September 1901 Anne died after a lengthy illness, she was being cared for by her mother, dying at her home, Wheatfield Farm in Ashford Hill.  At some time in the early 1900s William moved the family to 4 Rosebery Place, Greenham Road. In 1906 he remarried, to Sarah Jane Rumble, a widow living next door at 5 Rosebery Place. In 1914 the family moved to Dothan Place, an alley of three cottages off Cheap Street. .

 

Dothan Place

The ginnel in Cheap Street leading to the yard known as Dothan Place. The cottages behind are long gone.

On 14 April 1903 Henry enlisted with the Royal Berkshire Regiment, serving 7 years with the regiment before returning to civilian life in 1910.  Although he had completed his time with the colours he was still committed to a further 5 years as a Reservist, which would complete the 12 years service he would have signed on for.


By 1911 he was working at a saw mill near Maidenhead as an engine driver. He was lodging with Alfred Palmer and his family, which included their eldest daughter, Beatrice Rose. Love blossomed and Henry married Beatrice on 9 January 1912 at Maidenhead Registry Office. There was some urgency behind this marriage; their first child, Thomas Henry was born in Thatcham on 13 May. A second child, Beatrice Mary, was born the following year, in Pontypridd.  The young family were evidently on the move a lot.

 

As a Reservist Henry would have been called up as soon as war was declared. It is likely that he would have joined up with the Regiment within days of war starting, whether he was in time to leave for France with the 1st Battalion on 12 August or arrived with a draft of reinforcements a few weeks later is not known.  The Battalion took part in the Battle of Mons and the subsequent Retreat from Mons resulting in many losses and the arrival of many reservists as reinforcements.


On 15-17 October 1914 the battalion was moved north from their billets near La Metz to Stralzeele as the BEF extended and strengthened their lines towards the sea. Soon they were in action in what became known as the 1st Battle of Ypres, the culmination of the ‘Race for the Sea’. The British saw Ypres (Ieper) as key to preventing the German advance on the channel ports, the French just wanted to avoid being outflanked to the north.

 

On 26 October the 1st Royal Berks were in the firing line on a ridge east of the Zonnebeke-Becelaere road, holding positions they had captured on 24 October facing enemy counter attacks and heavy shelling, late in the day they were moved back to get some sort of a rest as part of the brigade reserve.  Sadly the withdrawal was too late for Henry; he was one of the casualties who died that day.

 

A few weeks later his passing was noted in an item in the local newspaper:

 

Newbury Weekly News 31 Dec 1914 p 7 – Local War Notes
Mr William Barrett, of Dothan-place, Cheap-street, has had three sons, a step-son and a son-in-law, serving in the King’s Forces. They are George William, National Reserves; Henry Thomas, 3rd Royal Berks, killed in France on October 26th; Charles John, Bedfordshires; Joseph Rumbold, Royal Berks (wounded), and Thomas Allen, Royal Berks.

 

Jacob's name on Newbury War Memorial

Henry's name on Newbury War Memorial

(lower centre)

 

Newspaper items such as this were commonplace in 1914/15, documenting the proud record of families whose menfolk had signed up en masse.

 

Henry’s body now lies in Tyne Cot Cemetery (grave XXXI. H. 21). His remains were not recovered from the battlefield until after the war, when they were identified from his identification disc. The remains were found a few yards west of the Zonnebeke – Beselare road (N303), quite possibly on the spot that he died.

 

Locally he is remembered on the Newbury Town War Memorial on the impressive gilded tablet in Newbury URC Church.


Henry’s step-brother, Joseph William Rumble, was another victim of the war, his body was never identified - his name is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial that forms one boundary to the cemetery where his step-brother lies.

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 Died this day:
15 December 1941
John M Sharp
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