George Frederick BARR- Private, Service No. 2067- 44th Battalion enlisted for War Service at Perth WA in early May 1916 when only 18 years and 6 months of age. He was working as a Farm Hand , and was exempted from War Service under Section 85A of the Act. He was posted to training at Blackboy Hill WA, prior to embarking from Fremantle on the troop ship ” Suffolk ‘ on 10th October 1916.
George completed training at Codford England after disembarking at Plymouth in early December 1916. He was then shipped to Etaples France shortly thereafter , joining the 44th Battalion in the field in late January 1917. George was unfortunately killed in action near Messines Ridge Belgium on 24th June 1917. There is a note on his Service File which states:- ” Buried about 2400 yards East North East of Messines and 400 yards North of Cross Roads “. This original burial location was obviously obliterated by future action in the immediate area.. George is memorialised by inscription on the Menin Gate Memorial Ieper ( Ypres ) Belgium, due to there being no known grave.
After enlistment, George left a will with the Army, nominating his mother, Mrs H. COOKE, Minervale, via Dowerin WA , to receive his personal belongings. He could not possibly have foreseen the eventual scramble by Family members for his War Medals and mementos , following his death at the Front.
Extracts from correspondence between Family members and the Army follows:-
23/07/1919- Letter from Mother Helene Cooke to Commonwealth Military Forces Victoria Barracks Melbourne- ” I am told I am entitled to a Medal as I am the mother of 2 dear boys that served in the War, one was killed in France 2 years on last June 24 in France No. 2067 Private George Frederick BARR 44th Battalion he was 19 years at death. The eldest son he is in the Camel Corps No. 2458 Cpl. David Francis BARR B Squadron 15th Regiment Australian Light Horse 5th Brigade AIF Egypt “.
4/09/1922– Letter from Military Headquarters Perth to Base Records Melbourne:-
( 1 )- The eldest brother, Mr. D.F. BARR has written to this office on 23rd August 1922 and states – ” I don’t know the whereabouts of my father whom I don’t know anything about since I was eleven years old, besides I don’t think he should be given my Brother’s Medals . Again I am against my Mother receiving them as they pass out of the BARR Family. My mother does not care for any of us , and if my Brother was alive , she would not want him. I was in the AIF and do you think I could get my Brother’s Medals., and I have not got anything of his “.
( 2 )– The deceased soldier’s Sister , Mrs. H.M.Rendell of Moore Street Bunbury has written to us on 3rd August 1922 and states- ” I have not heard from my Father for about 8 years and could not say where he is. My Brother was in the Salavation Army Home Collie for years and when he was about 13 years old , he went to work at Narrogin, until he enlisted, but my Brother always made his home with me, as my Mother was married again, and does not have anything to do with us. When my Brother embarked for active service , he said that if anything happened to him, his things were to be mine, as I think I am entitled to his Medals “.
3/10/1922– Department of Defence Minute Paper acknowledged that the Late No. 2067. Private G.F.BARR, 44th Battalion, on enlistment, named his Brother, David Francis BARR, as his Next of Kin. The District Finance Officer, 5th District Base Perth WA has confirmed that the War Gratuity was paid to the Mother , but in view of the statements of the soldiers siblings ontained in ( 1 ) and ( 2 ) of correspondence dated 4th September 1922, I am of the opinion, that the War Mementos , rightfully should go to the Brother and Sister, and reccomend that they be divided as under:- ( a )- Victory Medal and Memorial Plaque to her Brother, ( b )- British War Medal and Memorial Scroll , also Brochure- ” Where the Australians Rest ” to the Sister “.
17.10/1922– Letter from Finance Officer 5th District Base Perth to Officer in Charge Base Records Victoria Barracks Melbourne- “ War Gratuity was paid to Mother, Mrs. H. Cooke and nothing is known which would suggest that she would be deprived of the War Medals “.
13/06/1923– Letter from 5th Military District Perth WA to Officer in Charge Base Records Victoria Barracks Melbourne- ” A letter has been received from the Father of the Late 2067. Pte. G.F. BARR, 44th Battalion , Mr, D.A. BARR, whose address now is P.O. Westonia WA. Mr. BARR states that he has not yet been communicated with by you relative to the War Medals etc. on account of his late son and requests that he be advised of the position with regards to these items as soon as possible “.
23/06/1923– Letter from Officer in Charge Base Records Victoria Barracks Melbourne to Soldiers Father, Mr. D.A. BARR- ” In accordance with the Ministers decision the War Medals issuable on account of the service of the late No. 2067 , Private G.F. BARR, 44th Battalion were distributed as hereunder:- ( a )- Victory Medal and Memorial Plaque to David Francis BARR, ( b )- British War Medal and memorial Scroll, also Brochure- ” Where the Australians Rest ” to Soldier’s Sister, Mrs. H.M. RENDELL, after all efforts to get in touch with you had failed, and the full facts of the case had been taken into consideration “.
14/07/1923– Letter from Officer in Charge Base Records Victoria Barracks Melbourne to deceased Soldier’s Sister Mrs. H.M. RENDELL, Moore Street Bunbury – ” I have to advise the Minister’s approval was obtained for the Memorial Plaque and Victory Medal in connection with the Late No. 2067, Private G.F. BARR, 44th Battalion, to be disposed of in favour of his Brother, Mr. D.F. BARR, and the remaining mementos to be distributed to you “.
Service Medals Awarded
British War Medal – No. 49806
Victory Medal – No. 49166
Memorial Plaque & Scroll – No. 327088
Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium
Australian War Memorial, Canberra – Panel No. 137
Dardanup War Memorial, WA.
The young soldier, George BARR, despite having little contact with either Parent ( they had separated ) , had left a will, granting his personal belongings to his Mother. However, he had nominated his Brother, David Francis BARR, as his Next of Kin on his Army Enlistment Form.
George could not possibly have foreseen the scramble for his War mementos that would play out, following his death. In the total circumstances, I believe the Minister’s decision to share the mementos between George’s Brother and Sister, to be just and correct.
The BARR family grab for George’s War Mementos , is an element common to many family tussles for deceased estate assets , and is being perpetuated in the twenty first century.