Archives for posts with tag: Richard Raymond Barker

Richard Raymond-Barker

This photograph of Dick Raymond-Barker is iconic: the very essence of dare-devil Great War flying ace. I like to think he would have been pleased  that this image has become his lasting memorial: beautiful, glamorous, dutiful and brave. All of which he undoubtedly was. He was also a deeply loved member of a large family (he had eight siblings), and a generous friend.

He was born in May 1894, in London, and educated at Wimbledon College. By the time war broke out, the family had moved to Paulsmead, Bisley (his father returning to his roots: he had been born in Bisley). Dick worked originally in the family business, laying sub-marine telegraph cables. He later tried his luck as a farmer in Canada, departing Southampton in February 1914. He returned on the outbreak of war, and joined the Middlesex Regiment in August 1914. He later transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers, and learnt to fly at Hendon, gaining his Aero Club Aviator Certificate 18th July 1915. In these early days of flying, when planes were primitive and training perfunctory, a pilot’s life was unlikely to be long. Dick flew fearlessly over enemy lines on reconnaissance missions, as well as engaging in fierce aerial combat.

In an earlier entries, I have described Dick’s ‘flying visit’  to Bisley in May 1917 and also the Military Medal he had won in September 1917. However on 20th April 1918, he finally met his match. He was shot down by the infamous ‘Red Baron’, Baron von Richthofen, two miles behind enemy lines. Von Richthofen was himself killed the following day. Dick’s body was never found:

Thus after a career of daring venture against the enemy and countless narrow escapes which caused Richard to be called ‘the man with the long life’, suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye,in the opening burst of machine gun fire,the Divine summons came.

It was recorded that Dick had thought the ‘Red Baron’ a worthy antagonist, and had wished to meet him in battle. Tributes after his death called him a ‘sunny-souled and most lovable boy’. A comrade spoke affectionately of him: ‘He was so awfully jolly with no standoffishness on account of his position, and always did the dangerous jobs with his squadron…’

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How to remember the dead, that was the pressing concern of the time. The Woodchester Wayside Cross had already been dedicated, and the Oakridge drinking fountain was under construction. There were serious discussions at a special meeting of the Parish Council in  September about the erection of a ‘Chalford Memorial Hall’ in the village, ‘as soon as circumstances permit’. From the way in which they discussed it, this was obviously a scheme dear to the hearts of many councillors. The hall would ‘be a suitable memorial for the lads who have fought and died in this terrible war’. Its front wall  would bear the inscription ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’, and also a Roll of Honour. Many villages were considering building memorial halls around this time, it must have seemed a perfect solution to several problems – the need for a modern meeting place, and the need to memorialise those who had died. Because a hall would be used frequently, it would provide a constant reminder of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who had left and were never coming back – in a sense, keeping them in the community.

Possibly the most dashing of the men remembered on our war memorial – though he really belongs to Bisley, we can claim glory by association – was Richard (Dick) Raymond-Barker, of the RFC,  and in September 1917 he was still very much alive. He had been awarded the Military Medal for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’:

He attacked a large hostile formation, destroying two of them. He has done excellent work in leading distant photographic reconnaissances, notably on two occasions when his skilful leadership enabled photographs to be taken of all the required hostile area in spite of repeated attacks from enemy aircraft.

His two brothers were also serving. The younger, Aubrey Basil Raymond-Barker, also in the RFC, was wounded and a POW, having been embroiled in a bombing raid beyond enemy lines in France. The older, Henry Edward Raymond-Barker, had seen active service in Egypt and Mesopotamia with an Indian Army unit.

There was sad news in Chalford. Mr William Gunter of the New Red Lion Inn had died unexpectedly after a short illness(a haemorrhage was involved), leaving a wife and daughter. He was 70, and had  worked as a stationmaster at Berkeley Rd until 1915, when he took over the licence of the pub. In the time since, he had obviously become a very highly regarded member of the community, described in the Stroud News as a :

…man of strict integrity, high-minded and genial, and he took a very warm and practical interest in the welfare of Chalford and of the friends and neighbours among whom he had settled. He carried his years well, and was always ready to render services to others, and one of his latest public duties was to act as foreman of a jury that enquired into the death of an old railway servant a fortnight ago…he filled a very useful niche in the life of the parish of Chalford…

Once again, the Golden Valley was transformed by autumn. The column in the Stroud News written by ‘Jonathan’ waxed lyrical;

The ‘Golden Valley’ is picking out its tints of autumn with rare discernment, and the fields of ripened corn, cut and stacked and bound, give an added charm to the landscape.

He suggested that families and friends should send autumnal postcards to the troops, for whom ‘the memory of the Cotswold country will be vivid’. He continued: ‘The Harvest Moon of 1917 will be long remembered, many years have elapsed since the atmospheric conditions were so perfect…’

There were increasing concerns about food supply – sugar rationing, due to come into force on December 30th, was being prepared, various other food and coal Orders had come into force on Monday 1st October. Milk now cost 7d a quart, rising to 8d in November. Tea was short (perhaps coffee or cocoa could be substituted?). Bacon was expected to be less available for the next two-three months. Added to this was criticism of the unappealing colour of the ‘war flour’. It was not looking good for breakfast!

There were stories of Chalford men home on leave. Sgt Pottinger, of Meadow Cottage, ‘has possibly seen more thrilling sights than the others’. He was a reservist, so had been called up at the beginning of the war (when he only had one month of service left). He had been in France for two years, fighting at Mons, after which he was discharged, only to rejoin under the Derby Scheme. He had been wounded at Ypres [it is unclear which battle], but was now home from hospital. Engineer Stoker George Fowles, now of Oakridge but previously of France Lynch, was home for ten days, having had a rather alarming time. Ten days before, he had been on a torpedo boat which had been sunk in the Channel -‘he and others were in the water drifting about from 9.30pm to 5.30 the following morning’.

Corporal Harry Pincott, from Bussage, serving with the Wireless Section of the Royal Engineers, was reported to have died on 1st October in a Canadian Clearing Station, having been shot in the back on 20th September. He was the son of Mr Nathan Pincott, and earlier on, the very day he was shot, had written to a friend saying ‘he was expecting an early furlough as he had been away for nearly twelve months’. He was one of the first to volunteer for Kitchener’s Army, having joined the 8th Glosters in September 1914, before changing to the Engineers two years later. He had attended Bussage school, and been an ‘enthusiastic’ scout – indeed, he had ‘learned a lot about signalling’ with them. He had been apprenticed to Messrs Hill and Son, King Street Parade, Stroud, and, indentures completed, had worked for Mr Woodyatt in Nelson Street. ‘One who knew him well’ apparently said that ‘he died as he would have wished, having nobly done his duty for his King and Country’.

Harry Pincott

Harry Pincott

 

In happier news, Miss Olive Crook, daughter of the late Mr Oliver Crook and Mrs Crook, ‘figures in a war romance. She is a nurse in London and has married an Australian soldier’. I wonder whether I can find out how that turned out?!

 

 

 

Vignettes from ‘Stroud News’, early May 1917:

“Much excitement was caused in quiet Bisley at noon on Tuesday when a large battleplane was observed to hover over the village and gradually to plane down to within two hundred feet of the houses. At first it was thought that the airman was in difficulties, as at one time the machine seemed to side slip dangerously, the next to turn almost tail downwards. A close observer could see that the airman was enjoying himself, as he had complete control of his charge, and that he was treating onlookers to a thrill or two. The children, especially the boys, were full of interest, and one keen youngster noticed the airman drop something in a field known as Paul Mead at the lower end of the village. He ran and picked it up, and found it to be a small box, addressed to Mr Raymond Barker, a well-known and much respected Bisley resident. He took it to Mr Barker, who found it contained a message from his son, Captain Richard Raymond Barker, RFC, now with an air squadron at Rendcomb. Captain Raymond Barker was the intrepid airman, who in this novel way visited his home and communicated with his parents. After hovering round within the precincts of the village for a short time longer the battleplane disappeared rapidly in the direction of Cirencester. When afternoon school commenced, the boy who had taken the message, brought with him to school from Mr Barker a box containing portions of the metal shaft and the wooden axle of a broken propeller. An afixed note stated that these were what remained of the propeller of Captain Raymond Barker’s aeroplane, when, as a 2nd Lieutenant and pilot, on the 26th January last year, he, with 2nd Lieut. Nixon as observer, planed over the German lines at Ypres taking observations, at a height of 7,000 feet, the propeller was smashed by a shell from a German ‘Archie’. Captain Barker, however, by sheer grit and skill cleverly manipulated his damaged plane, and solely by the force of gravity returned safely 11 miles back to the English lines. Captain Raymond Barker has led several bombing squadrons by day and night in France during last year, and has done good work. He is returning to France at an early date in charge of a new squadron. His younger brother, also a brave and clever British airman is now unfortunately a wounded prisoner with the enemy. Mr and Mrs Raymond Barker have good reason to be proud of their brave sons.”

Richard Raymond barker

“The sequel to the strong nor’easter was a dust storm of rather unusual dimensions. Seen from the hills the whole district had a misty appearance and over the valleys the dust clouds hovered for a long time. The subsequent abatement in the force of the wind brought a return to more genial conditions, and the sunshine allowance was on a generous scale. The air has been ‘bracing’ enough to justify the characteristics of the ‘Merry Month’.”

“May blossom is making a glorious show throughout Gloucestershire, and the outlook for a good fruit season  is more promising than we have known it to be for several years. The long winter has not apparently had a restraining effect on fruit trees, and in the Severn Valley the mass of bloom this week is an inspiring sight. Near the more- frequented roads dust was powdering the hedges in the earlier days of the week and the freshening effect of warm rain was apparently beginning to be wanted. But the sunshine has certainly had a big hand in changing the appearance of the countryside during the past ten days.”