Private Reginald Walter Barrett. Source: John Oxley Library, “The Queenslander”, 2 June 1917, p.26.
The John Oxley Library has recently digitised the World War I postcard albums of Private Reginald Walter Barrett of Brisbane. The postcards, in two albums, cover Barrett’s service during the war and were sent to family and friends in Queensland. They feature images of various parts of South Africa, Europe, England and Australia and many contain correspondence regarding his experiences as a soldier.
Private Barrett (regimental no. 14087) was born in Brisbane, Queensland, in 1895, being the eldest child of Walter Scott Barrett and Catherine Farry. His grandfather, Walter Barrett, had been the mayor of Sandgate in 1891. Walter had four younger brothers and a younger sister. He enlisted on the 1st September 1916 and was assigned as a motor transport driver with the Company 300, Reinforcement. He was a 21 year old ironmonger working for the firm of R.J. Wilson, Tait & Co. Ltd., hardware merchants, and received a presentation from the firm at the time of his enlistment. (Brisbane Telegraph, 28 September 1916, p. 10)
After training at Royal Park in Melbourne he travelled by train to Adelaide where he embarked on the troopship, HMAT A28 Miltiades, on the 24th January 1917, for the long voyage to England, stopping at South Africa on the way.
Barrett sent the following postcard to his brother, Bert, in February 1917 from Durban, South Africa. He writes “I had a ride in one of these rickshas today…It’s very muggy weather. I am glad I bought a cotton tunic before leaving Melbourne, the motor are allowed to wear them only”.
After training at Parkhouse Camp on the Salisbury Plain, Reginald proceeded to France on the 20th June 1917 to serve at the Base Mechanical Transport Depot. In September of that year he sustained a serious injury to his left ear and suffered from concussion, in an accident which occurred at Base Command, Rouen, France. He was repatriated to England where he was treated at the Reading Military Hospital. An inquiry found that he had been injured in the performance of his military duty.
After recovering from this injury Reginald returned to France in April 1918 and was taken on strength with the 5th Australian Mechanical Transport Company. After the armistice he had a period of leave in which he travelled extensively in France, Italy and England. He returned to Australia on the 18th July 1919.
The following postcard was produced by the League of Soldiers and used to inform family at home that the soldier was about to embark.
After the war Reg Barrett returned to his job as an ironmonger. He married Mabel Armstrong Storey in 1923 and the couple made their home in the Brisbane suburb of Kedron. Ray Barrett, the well-known Australian actor, is the son of Reginald and Mabel. Reginald died on the 13th August 1962.
The collection also contains other interesting items including a series of photographic postcards of the Victory March of the dominion troops through London on the 3rd May 1919.
Source: John Oxley Library, Accession 30560/18. Australian troops at Constitution Hill during the Victory March through London, 3rd May 1919.
Source: John Oxley Library, Accession 30560/22. H.R.H. Prince of Wales taking the salute from Australian troops marching through London in the Victory Parade, 3rd May 1919.
Another interesting item is a German postcard showing troops sitting by the side of a road or a railway and dated 24 December 1917.
The collection also includes the postcard below of three Australian soldiers in Amiens, France, which was sent to Reg Barrett from Private Robert John Stone (regimental no. 2222) from Sydney, New South Wales, on the 14th June 1916, a few months before Barrett himself enlisted.
Private Stone served as a gunner with the 5th Field Artillery Brigade. Presumably he is one of the soldiers in the photograph. Stone was an apprentice fitter in the railways when he enlisted on the 8th July 1915 at the age of 20. He served on the Western Front and in August 1917 was wounded in action with gas poisoning. He was repatriated to England to the Bath War Hospital, returning to the front in June 1918. Thankfully he survived the war and returned to Australia in May 1919.
Selected items from this wonderful World War I collection have been digitised and are available through our catalogue at: http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:slq_alma21196474110002061
Lynn Meyers, QANZAC100 Content Curator