Corporal John Jenkins (Jack) BARRETT

King's Own Scottish Borderers
"D" Company 1st Battalion
Service Number:
Date of Death:
19 November 1916
28 (33 on CWGC Record)
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Pier and Face 4 A and 4 D

Personal History:

John was born at Canonbie, Dumfries, Scotland, in 1888, the son of Margaret A. Barrett, later of 77 Gordon Road, Ilford, Essex. In 1891 (Census RG 12/4283) he was living with his mother at his grandmother's house at 24 High Street, Longtown, Cumberland.

Margaret married George Herbert Shaw about 1892 and moved to Buxton, and in 1901 (Census RG 13/3269) were living at 5 Charles Street, with their children, Henry, Dorothea, George and Thomas. John, however, was still in Cumberland, near Carlisle, living with his uncle and aunt, William and Agnes Barrett. 

In 1911 (Census RG 14/21243) John was back living with the Shaw family and his half brothers and sisters at 1 Torr Street, Buxton, employed as a "Piano Tuner". He was also a leading advocate in the formation of the Scout movement in the town.
Military History:
John's Service Papers have not survived but it is known that he enlisted at Buxton and his Medal Index Card shows that he first entered the War into the Balkans on 3rd July 1915. His Service number indicates an enlistment date about 3rd or 4th September 1914 and his Medal Index Card indicates that he disembarked at Gallipoli 3rd July 1915. However, a lot of the post-original landing dates are actually dates of leaving the UK i.e. dates for reinforcement drafts are quite often embarkation, rather than landing at Gallipoli. In this case, the 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers War Diary makes no mention of receiving any drafts at the beginning of July, but does state drafts of 120 and 168 Other Ranks joining on 17th and 23rd July, respectively.

Even by this early stage at Gallipoli, the worst was over for the 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers. Lt. Gen. Sir William Marshall, Commanding 87th Brigade, wrote in his book "The Four Fronts" that after being relieved from the firing line on the 12th June, "I brought back shattered K.O.S.B. into reserve, there only being two Officers left ...". The battalion had a supporting role at Scimitar Hill on 21st August, but most of its post-June casualties were of the usual shell and sniper type. During the night of 8th/9th January 1916 the Battalion was evacuated from Lemnos and moved to Alexandra in Egypt. Orders were received on the 25th February for a move to France and on the 18th March 1916 it arrived at Marseilles for service in France. The Battalion moved to concentrate in the area east of Pont Remy between the 15th and 29th March 1916.

During The Battle of the Somme, 1st July - 18th November 1916, the 29th Division was engaged at The Battle of Albert, 1st - 13th July.  John's Battalion lost 11 Officers and 151 men killed in action, 131 on the First Day. All but 7 have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

On the opening day of the Battle the 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers lined up in trenches south-west of Beaumont Hamel, opposite "Y" Ravine. The 1st Newfoundland Regiment was on its left and 1st Essex on its right. At 07.33 the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers moved out, but by 7.52 their attack had faltered and the 1st K.O.S.B. attacked ".. under heavy machine gun fire." By 8.45 a.m. the War Diary recorded: "The attack ceased." The Diary also recorded similar failures had faced the Newfoundlands and Essex Battalions on either side.

Only one hour into the Battle, Captain John Ainslie sent a report to say he was gathering all wounded and unwounded in " ... trenches N. of MARY REDAN." By the end of the day the remnants of the Battalion was re-organising at Fort Jackson.
[N.B. Capt. John Archibald Ainslie was killed on the 19th May 1917. He is buried in Grave I. C. 2., Roclincourt Military Cemetery.]

A Report, written on the 5th July by Capt. G. E. Malcolm, Commanding 'D' Company, gave more details of the advance:
"The Company moved forward in line of platoons in columns of section in single file, No. 13 Platoon on the left and No. 16 on the right. At 60 yards from our own trenches I gave the order to lie down as I intended to make the right wheel on to our objective at that point and 'C' Coy and the Border Regiment were not yet in position. Owing to casualties I had 3 men of No. 13 (2 wounded) and 1 of No. 14 platoon left, I could see no-one of the other platoons."  Capt. Malcolm's report goes on to say that he was wounded 60 yards [55 m.] from the enemy lines and the advance ceased 20 yards [18 m.] further on.

The Battalion War Diary for the period around John's death shows them at Citadel Camp near Fricourt. On 15th November 1916 they marched to Bricqueterie Camp, near Montaubon, and the following moved into the firing line near Leboeufs, relieving the 2nd Lincolns Regiment. They stayed in the line until the 20th, suffering shelling, but what the Diary tended to refer to as "Quiet day".

However, there were casualties, mainly wounded, but on the 19th: "Normal artillery activity. Work continued on the trenches. 2 Killed, 6 wounded, Sick to Hospital nil. Patrol sent out and estimated enemy line at 300 yds. distant." John was one of those killed and no doubt was buried, but his grave has subsequently been lost and he is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.

[CWGC Records show that Pt. 22830 Alexander McKnight and Pt. 23550 Thomas Caldwell McMinn of the 1st Battalion were killed on the same day and are commemorated with him on the Thiepval Memorial.]
· I am grateful to Stuart Wilson for the War Diary extracts
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - November 1916
· "British Regiments at Gallipoli" - Ray Westlake [ISBN: 9781844680122]
· "Slaughter on the Somme - 1 July 1916" - Martin Mace & John Grehan [ISBN 978-1-84884-770-5] pps. 124 & 142

Link to CWGC Record
The Thiepval Memorial
Cpl. Barrett's name on The Thiepval Memorial
Cpl. Jack Barrett