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Keith Joy Barrett (?–1917)

The announcement of the death of Captain Barrett, son of Dr. James William Barrett from wounds received in action, was published some weeks ago, when the news arrived by cable message. By the latest mail, letters have now reached Melbourne from brother officers of Captain Barrett, which tell how he met his death, and bear testimony to the deep regard felt for him by the officers and men with whom he served. On April 13 he commanded a company supporting his battalion in an advance, and, although wounded early in the attack, he remained in command, and led the company through three hostile barrages, a distance of over 1,700 yards across the open. His wound was in the face, and, though unable to speak, he continued to issue his orders in writing. Colonel North, the commanding officer of the 4th Royal Fusilieres wrote on April 20 to Captain Barrett's father:—

'Dear Colonel Barrett—I cannot tell you how deeply I sympathise with you in the loss of your most gallant son. He was one of the finest characters I have ever met. Brave to a fault, absolutely fearless, cool, self-reliant, most unselfish and kind-hearted, with the highest ideals of honour, duty and loyalty. In my 27 years service, I have never met a better or more capable officer. His death has cast a deep gloom over the whole battalion who were devoted to him. Not only was he a first class company commander but was an excellent second in command, and had I been hit he would have commanded the regiment. The bigade commander (General Potter) thought him the best company commander in the 2nd Division. We all hoped that his splendid courage and vitality would pull him through. Your son behaved magnificently both on April 9 when he held the post of honour in the capture of the Harp near Arras, and on the 13th, when he was mortally wounded and died on April 16 at Etaples.  Our success on April 9 was greatly due to your son's fine leadership, and his behaviour on the 13th was simply magnificent. He was the most popular officer in the battalion with all ranks. He was a son to be proud of, and the world is a worst place since he has gone. No words of mine can adequately express my deep sympathy and that of the battalion, and especially his own 'D' company, at the loss of one of the finest officers and charming men I have ever met.

Captain Barrett was one of the early graduates in agriculture at the Melbourne University, and immediately after the outbreak of war he went with the Field Ambulance to Egypt, where he enlisted in the 2nd Royal Fusiliers, in which he was appointed a lieutenant. He was subsequently promoted to be captain, and was mentioned in despatches "for distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty".

Original publication

Citation details

'Barrett, Keith Joy (?–1917)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 April, 1917
Etaples, France

Cause of Death

war wounds

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Military Service