BARRETT, Keith Joy

Service Number: 42
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd Field Ambulance
Born: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1891
Home Town: Toorak, Stonnington, Victoria
Schooling: Melbourne C of E Grammar, University of Melbourne
Occupation: Agricultural Student
Died: 16 April 1917, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Etaples Military Cemetery
Memorials: Melbourne Grammar School WW1 Fallen Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

19 Oct 1914: Involvement Private, SN 42, 2nd Field Ambulance
19 Oct 1914: Embarked Private, SN 42, 2nd Field Ambulance, HMAT Wiltshire, Melbourne

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Keith who died in hospital of wounds received in action on 16th April 1917 was the son of James William BARRETT.  He was born in 1891 and entered the Prepartory School of Melbourne Church of England Grammar in 1901.  He came up to the Senior School in 1904 and left in 1909.  He was in residence at Ormond College in 1910-11-12, doing the Agricultural course at the University, and took honour in his last year.  He then went to Dookie Agricultural College in 1913, and the following year graduated Bachelor Agricultural Science.  He gained his half-blue for boxing in 1913.  After graduating he went to Queensland for additional agricultural experience, and at the outbreak of war he enlisted, joining the field artillery in Egypt.  He was on 19th April 1915 transferred to the British Army, and appointed Lieutenant in the Second Royal Fusiliers.  He was invalided to England with enteric.  Returning to active service he received a gunshot wound in the shoulder.  He was promoted Captain 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, City of London Regiment, and was mentioned in Despatches by the Commander-in-chief three times, namely on 13th November 1916, on 9th April 1917 and in December 1917 for 'distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty.'  On 13th April 1917 he commanded a company supporting his battalion in an advance, and although wounded early in the attack, he remained in command and led the company through three hostile barrages, a distance of over 1,700 yards across the open.  His wound was in the face, and, although unable to speak, he continued to issue his orders in writing.  Colonel North, the Commanding Officer of the 4th Royal Fusiliers, wrote on 20th April thus:  "I cannot tell you how deeply I sympathise with you int he loss of your most gallant son.  He was one of the finest characters I have ever met.  Brave to a fault, absolutely fearless, cool, self-reliant, most unselfish and kind-hearted, with the very highest ideals of honour, duty and loyalty.  In my 27 years' service I have never met a better or more capable officer.  His death has cast a deep gloom over the whole battalion, who were devoted to him.  Not only was he a first-class company commander, but was an excellent second in command, and had I been hit would have commanded the regiment.  The brigade commander (General Potter) thought him the best company commander in the 3rd Division.  We all hoped that his splendid courage and vitality would pull him through.  Your son behaved magnificently both on 9th April, when he held the post of honour in the capture of the Harp near Arras, and on the 13th when he was mortally wounded, and died on 16th April at Etaples.  Our success on 9th April was greatly due to your son's fine leadership and his behaviour on the 13th was simply magnificent.  He was the most popular officer in the battalion with all ranks. He was a son to be proud of, and world is a worse place since he has gone.  No words of mine can adequately express my deep sympathy and that of the battalion, and especially his own 'D' Company at the loss of one of the finest officers and charming men I have ever met."  He was recommended for both M.C. and the D.S.O. but did not live to receive them.

War Services Old Melburnians 1914 - 1918