30 October 2007

The Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Colonel John Cridlan Barrett have been donated to the regimental museum of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment following a stipulation in his will that this should occur after the death of his wife.

Medal entitlement of Lieutenant John Barrett - 1 / 5th Bn, Leicestershire Regiment

  • Victoria Cross
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
  • Efficiency Decoration ( TD )

Lieutenant John Barrett was a member of the 1 / 5th Bn, Leicestershire Regiment, when on the 20th September 1918 the Battalion went into the trenches in the Hindenburg Outpost Line, where they relieved two Australian battalions. They were in Brigade support at a position called Ascension Ridge, named after a farm nearby.

Lieutenant Barrett gained his Victoria Cross in the hard fighting for the capture of the village of Pontruet to the south-west of Bellenglise. The rambling village was in a valley and the 5th Leicesters' objective was to take the German trenches in the flank. At dawn the 24th Division to the right was to advance, and the 46th Division on the left was to capture the village and aim for an objective called Forgan's Trench.

[ London Gazette, 14 December 1918 ], Pontreut, France, 24 September 1918, Lieutenant John Cridlan Barrett, 1 / 5th Bn, The Leicestershire Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 24th September 1918, during the attack on Pontruet. Owing to the darkness and smoke barrage a considerable number of men lost direction, and Lt. Barrett found himself advancing towards Forgan’s Trench – a trench of great strength, containing numerous machine guns.

Without hesitation he collected all the available men and charged the nearest group of machine guns, being wounded on the way. In spite of this, he gained the trench and vigorously attacked the garrison, personally disposing of two machine guns and inflicting many casualties. He was again severely wounded, but nevertheless climbed out of the trench in order to fix his position and locate the enemy. This he succeeded in doing, and, despite exhaustion from wounds, gave detailed orders to his men to cut their way back to the battalion, which they did. He himself refused help, and was again wounded, so seriously that he could not move and had to be carried out.

In spite of his wounds he had managed to fight on, and his spirit was magnificent throughout. It was due to his coolness and grasp of the situation that any of his party were able to get out alive.

John Barrett was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 13th February 1919.

After the Armistice, Barrett continued to serve in the Territorial Army and rejoined the 1st Leicesters after the Territorial Army had been reorganized, later resuming his interrupted medical studies. Continuing his successful careers in two fields, the TA and in medicine, Barrett was a Lieutenant Colonel by the time the Second World War began and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in No. 30 General Hospital in Iceland for a year.

Following the conclusion of WWII, John Barrett continued a very successful career in medicine eventually dying on the 7th March 1977, aged seventy-nine. He was cremated at Leicester Crematorium.


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Iain Stewart, 30 October 2007