John Barry

Stop number ORANGE 4: To find John Barry's grave continue along this lower path to your right and when you reach the tarmac path walk up hill almost to the top. You will pass a large white broken column for the six men killed in 1902 when digging the High Wycombe to Marylebone railway line. (Incidentally one of the survivors from this disaster, Bertram Smith, was to lose his life in WW1.) The white CWGC grave for John Barry is at the top of the slope and to your left.
CWGC grave of J Barry
CWGC grave of J Barry
Read the story below and when you are ready to move on click on the dot/circle for the Munitionettes.
John Barry's grave West Wycombe Road
John Barry's grave Abercrombie Avenue (SWOP RHW52137)
John Barry 1875-1916

Hello, my name is John Barry and I was born in 1875 in Newcastle. There is not much to know about my childhood, so I’ll get to my later years. I was in the regular army and therefore was frequently moved around. I served in the North West Frontier, near Afghanistan in 1897/98. At the turn of the century I met the love of my love, Miss Rosa Duff; a lovely lady from Devon. She was working as a servant and lived near to the barracks. I was to be sent to India so managed to arrange for Rosa to be employed as a servant working in the officers’ houses in Bombay.

While we were based in India I asked Rosa to marry me and on March 24th 1903 in Bombay we were married by the army chaplain.

After my tour in India was finished we travelled back to England and we were situated in different army camps around the country. One of which was in Tidworth, where two of my children were born. In the end we had six children.

We moved to High Wycombe in 1909. I had never heard of the town until then but soon after I arrived we were in the national headlines. On Friday 21st January 1910 polling for the general election took place. There were two candidates in Wycombe, one from the Conservatives and one from the Liberals. The Liberals wanted free trade and the Conservatives took over a shop in the town centre, which they filled with chairs and other goods of the type they said would be imported in great quantities to the detriment of Wycombe’s trade. The shop became known as the dump shop. During the last few hours of polling, crowds began to gather, chiefly young men and boys, and rushes were made at the dump shop and the Conservative offices. The working population was almost wholly liberal, partly by tradition and partly because tariff reform was the idea of the employers. The disturbances continued and at 11 o’clock the crowds were swollen as the public houses closed for the night. The dump shop had been left unguarded and very quickly it was broken into and all the contents either looted or put onto a bonfire in the street. The Mayor was sent for in order to read the riot act, which meant that the police could make sure the crowd was broken up. When he arrived he instead called the fire brigade as the blaze was out of control. The fire was put out and by 2 in the morning everything was quiet. The following morning the result was announced, a win for the Conservative candidate, and in anticipation of further trouble hundreds of police from other areas were to patrol the town. It was all quiet until 11 o’clock at night when a drunken crowd again developed and was getting out of hand. The riot act this time was read and within ten minutes the police charged the crowd with drawn batons, laying about them with such a will that many of the crowd were soon lying, unconscious and bleeding. The police pursued the fleeing people and many were struck down who had taken no part at all in the demonstrations. Over 40 people need medical attention.

In order to help maintain law and order in the town we left the barracks, which were situated near where the hospital is today. In fact there is still a Barracks Road, and help maintain law and order. There was a lot of ill feeling against the police. That was my introduction to the town but actually it turned out to be quite a nice place and I enjoyed my time here. As the sergeant instructor I helped develop the Territorial Army in the town and they even named a street in Cressex, Barry Close, after me. When I left the army, in 1913, I decided to stay in the town and worked for William Birch at the big factory in town – you can see it from where we are standing.

When war was declared, as a previously serving soldier, I was immediately called back. My job was to work for the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and the Bucks Territorials to recruit volunteers. My final position was Quartermaster Sergeant, quite a powerful position and no-one wanted to get on the wrong side of me! In June 1916 I said goodbye to all the men that I had helped to recruit and train as they went off to France and Somme. Many took part in the battle at Mametz Wood, Pozières and at Ancre.

Unfortunately, I was considered unfit and too old to go. For some time my health had been indifferent and often I insisted on doing my duties when really I was unwell. On Wednesday 4th October my condition was considered so serious that I was rushed into hospital and underwent an operation. Rosa was called for and she arrived that evening and stayed by my bedside until Sunday, when I died just as the buglers were playing ‘Lights Out’. I died of gastric ulcers in my stomach. Maybe it was not the best way to go. But maybe it was. Most of the men that I had trained and kept charge of, died in battle. Would I have wanted to fight alongside them? However I played my part and did my duty for the British army while it lasted.

My funeral was a large affair and a big crowd marked the route of the gun carriage that took by body first to the Parish Church and then on to here. Three gun volleys were fired over my grave. The flowers from my family said, “In loving memory of dear Daddie from his sorrowing wife and children.” My family stayed in High Wycombe, living first in Abercrombie Avenue. Some of my relatives still live in West Wycombe today.

John Barry researched and performed by Sam Holmes
John Barry researched and performed by Sam Holmes
To see the performance on YouTube click here.

Back to map