b. 10/08/1897 Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. d. 07/03/1977 Leicester.
John Cridlan Barrett (1897-1977) was born on 10th August 1897 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, the son of a pharmaceutical chemist called Joseph Teague Barrett and his wife, Fanny Ada (nee Cridlan), who had married in 1895. John was their eldest child of four, with a brother called Cyril and sisters called Winifred and Annie. John was educated at Arnold Lodge School in Leamington Spa, and then at the Merchant Taylor’s School in Northwood, Middlesex, as the family were living in Bayswater at the time of the 1911 Census, when John was 13.
John Cridlan Barrett was commissioned into The Leicestershire Regiment on 27thJanuary 1916, and posted to 3/5th Battalion. He was posted to France and the Western Front on 1st July 1916. He was wounded at Gommecourt in February 1917 but after a short period of recovery, became a Signals Officer in the 1/5th Battalion until May 1918, when he was wounded in a gas attack at Gorre.
Shortly after his return to the Front, he was involved in the action which would lead to the VC. On 24th September 1918 at Pontruet, France, during an attack, owing to the darkness and smoke barrage, Lieutenant Barrett found himself advancing towards a trench containing numerous machine-guns. He at once collected all available men and charged the nearest group of guns and in spite of being wounded, gained the trench, personally disposing of two machine-guns and inflicting many casualties. Notwithstanding a second wound he then climbed out of the trench to fix his position and locate the enemy, then ordered his men to cut their way back to the battalion, which they did. He was again wounded, very seriously.
John recovered from his wounds which ended his war prematurely. He was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 13th February 1919. During the same year, Leamington made him a Freeman of the Borough. He was present at Westminster Abbey for burial of the Unknown Warrior on 11th November 1920.
During the First World War there were at one time and another seven Old Merchant Taylors serving in 1/5th Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment. Three were killed in action, William Maurice Cole, Percy Measures and Cyril Bernard Wilson Buck. At the end of the war the 4 surviving officers (Godwin Edward Banwell, John David Hill, Donald Burman Petch and John Cridlan Barrett) presented a trophy to the school – The 5th Leicestershire Trophy, Inter-House Athletic Sports Championship to commemorate this fact.
After the war Barrett trained as a Medical doctor, was a surgeon at Leicester Royal Infirmary from 1929. He also retained a commission in the Territorial Army, commanding 5th Bn The Leicestershire Regiment 1937-39 and 1/5th Battalion from 30th June 1939 – 14th October 1939. He then gave up his rank and transferred to the Royal Army Medical Corps. After the war he was a consultant surgeon at Leicester Royal Infirmary, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRGS). He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Leicestershire on 20th December 1950. He was Honorary Colonel of 5th Battalion, The Royal Leicestershire Regiment (TA) from 1953-58.
He died in Leicester on 7th March 1977, aged 79. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered on Rosebed 14 at Gilroes Crematorium, Leicester. His widow died in Leicester on 11th February 2000. In his will, there was a stipulation that on the occasion of his wife’s death, that his medals (VC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, Territorial Decoration, King George V Silver Jubilee Medal 1935, King George VI Coronation Medal 1937, and Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953) should be bequeathed to the Leicestershire Regimental Museum, Newarke House, Leicester. A replica VC is displayed in the Museum at present.
His name is commemorated on Heritage Panel at the Regent Hotel, Leamington. A painting by Terence Cuneo of the action for which he was awarded the VC hangs in the Regimental Museum, Newarke Houses, Leicester, in which also his medals are displayed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LEICESTERSHIRE REGIMENT MUSEUM, LEICESTER.
BURIAL PLACE: GILROES CREMATORIUM, LEICESTER. IN THE GLADES
1958 painting of Barrett's VC action held by the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum, Leicester
The plaque with the painting at the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum (February 2016)
Barrett's Victoria Cross at the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum, Leicester (Feb 2016)
The plaque above and display right are both from the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Museum, Leicester
Leamington Spa War Memorial (Paul Lee)