Leslie Godfrey BARR


BARR, Leslie Godfrey

Service Number: 10211
Enlisted: 21 March 1916, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Sapper
Last Unit: 9th Field Company Engineers
Born: Richmond, Victoria, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Malvern, Stonnington, Victoria
Schooling: Buln Buln East State School
Occupation: Carpenter
Died: Killed in Action, Belgium, 4 October 1917, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial
Plot 5 Row G Grave 3
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

21 Mar 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 10211, Melbourne, Victoria
20 Jun 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Sapper, SN 10211, 10th Field Company Engineers, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
20 Jun 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Sapper, SN 10211, 10th Field Company Engineers, HMAT Runic, Melbourne
4 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Sapper, SN 10211, 9th Field Company Engineers, Broodseinde Ridge

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Leslie Godfrey BARR

Les Barr was the  grandson of John and Janet Barr, pioneers who arrivied amongst the first assisted immigrants to the Port Phillip District from Ayrshire, Scotland in 1839.  They established one of the first blacksmith businesses in Swanston Street, Melbourne.  His maternal grandparents were from Ireland and England.

He was born in 1888 at Richmond where his father and uncle had a cabinet making and upholstering business.  THe family moved to Gippsland where his father bought land on Mizpah Settlement Road, Buln Buln East in 1895.  Les and his brother and sisters attended Buln Buln East State School.

Les father went back to building and Les and his brothers Harry and Jim became carpenters and joiners.  With their father they built churches (now burnt in bushfires) at Neerim and Neerim South as well as houses in the Neerim and Buln Buln districts.

Around 1909 the family returned to live in Malvern at 135 Normanby Road from where Les worked as a carpenter and builder up till he joined the AIF in 1916.  Prior to joining up he had had militiary training with the 5th Batt. AIR and 2 Field Coy Engineers in Melbourne.

Les was a prolific corrospondennt from his troop ship, training in England and while on active service in France and Belgium and some 74 of his letters as well as postcards and souvenirs survive in the family.  In his last letter to his sister he tells he has been picked in a detail "to go over the bags" that night.  He was killed on 4th October 1917 by the blast of a German shell that landed near his work party who were securing a strong point during the Battle of Broodsiende Ridge.  The circumstances are described in letters to the family from his mates and commanding officer.

Les's letters describe the great adventure of travelling overseas, his awe at watching zeppelin crash in flames over London and the experience of waiting in a shell hole to go in after the great mines exploded under the German trenches on Messines Ridge.  As a country boy he was also interested to tell the family about the French farms, horses and livestock.  He tells how while resting out of the lines the Australian soldiers  went onto the farms to help the remaining old men and the women bring in the harvest - the young French women were an attraction.

He also took an interest in events at home in Australia and comments on the politicians of the day, the miners strike and the conscription referenda.  He and his mates were opposed to conscription both because they did not want others to go through what they were suffering but also the preferred to trust volunteers to stand beside them in battle.

Although he kept up a cheerful front for the family through out his time in France and Belgium, his homesickness and fatal expectations grow as time goes on and more than half of those who started out in his unit are lost.