A young Singlegate boy goes to war

Singlegate School pupil William H Barrett (born c. 1899)
Lived: Birdhurst Road, Colliers Wood
Trumpeter

It’s always shocking how young so many of the boys and men were who signed up and went to war. William Barrett was just 13 years old when he joined the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA). He had been a pupil at Singlegate School in Colliers Wood when he enlisted. His father supported his decision to enlist. The headmaster at the time, Mr Archibald W Dall, provided a reference for William in support of his application. Records show that he arrived in France with his unit on 15 August 1914 and had come under fire from the Germans by 22 November of that year. He would have been just 14 years old.

William was awarded the Military Medal (MM) in September 1918 and his citation appears in the London Gazette 13 November 1918.

When he was awarded the medal, his father Henry Gulliver Barrett wrote to the headmaster of Singlegate School to report this news about their “old boy” and the school log book states the following: “The father of Trumpeter William Barrett RHA has written to say that the latter has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the field. I have given the boys half an hour’s play this afternoon in his honour.”

Reproduced by permision of Surrey History Centre

Reproduced by permision of Surrey History Centre
Copyright of Surrey History Centre

Trumpeter William Barrett survived the battles on the Western Front in World War I and went with the royal Horse Artillery to India. He died in Sialkot in 1920 from a short bout of pneumonia and is commemorated as a casualty of the war on The Delhi 1914-18 War Memorial. At this time, his family was living in Clive Road, Colliers Wood.

With thanks to Diane Holmes of Colliers Wood for her research into the impact of World War One on the area.

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Take a look at our other World War One stories.