This site normally profiles majors, colonels and generals—but for Remembrance Day, I focus on a private soldier, my great-great uncle, H. J. Barrett.
Private Harry John Barrett
204th and 3rd (Toronto) Battalions
Whist in the act of firing his Lewis Machine Gun during Military operations in the vicinity of UPTON WOOD, Private Barrett was shot by a bullet from the rifle of an enemy sniper and instantly killed.
(H. J. Barrett, Circumstances of Death, 30 Aug 1918)
Harry John Barrett was born in Peterborough, England on 31 March 1900. He immigrated to Canada with his family in 1907 and worked as a labourer in Toronto. Despite being only one month over sixteen, Harry enlisted in the CEF on 26 April 1916. Claiming to be eighteen years old , he joined the 204th Beavers commanded by Parkdale MPP, Lieutenant Colonel William Herbert Price. Harry’s older brother, George William Barrett, had signed up earlier in April with the 208th Irish Fusiliers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lennox, another Ontario MPP.
Harry sailed for England onboard the S.S. Saxonia in March 1917. After the 204th was broken, Harry proceeded to France on 17 May 1917, and joined the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bart Rogers. Harry suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder just over one month later on 28 June. After two months in hospital, he re-joined the 3rd on 9 September.
In early March 1918, Harry was granted ten days leave. Shortly after returning to his unit, he was admitted to hospital with V.D.S. (Venereal Disease- Syphilis). As a penalty, he forfeited half a day’s pay for each day while in hospital. He was discharged forty-one days later on 9 May 1918 to the Canadian Corps Relief Camp.
Harry did not re-join the 3rd Battalion until 11 August 1918, just in time for the beginning of the big Allied summer offensive. A German sniper shot him three weeks later at Monchy-le-Preux. Harry was one of over sixty men from the 3rd Battalion killed in action during the battle on 30 August.Digitized Service File (LAC):