Unit: 212 North Midland Division Cyclist Coy.
Service Number: 12789
Date of Death: 11 January 1918 – Died (Accident)
Age: 24 years
Cemetery / Memorial: Baghdad (North Gate) Cemetery
Grave / Panel Ref.: XVIII. L.13
N.B. Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery is located in a very sensitive area in the Waziriah Area of the Al-Russafa district of Baghdad. A two volume Roll of Honour listing all casualties buried and commemorated in Iraq has been produced. These volumes are on display at the Commission’s Head Office in Maidenhead and are available for the public to view.
He had three older brothers, Joseph Sutton (born 24 May 1885), David Oxby (b. 21 May 1888) and John Grist (b. 1890), and two older sisters, Margaret (b. 26 February 1881) and Gertrude May (b. April 1887).
In 1911 (Census RG 14/19710) Edward was lodging with George William Cooke, a ‘Draper and Grocer’ at High Street, Metheringham, Lincolnshire, employed as a “Grocer’s Apprentice”. His parents were still at the same address in Ruskington.
At the time of his enlistment Edward stood 5 ft. 6 ins. [1.68 m.] tall. Strangely, when he re-enlisted five years later he was 5 ft. 4¼ ins. [1.63 m.] tall and had a ‘fresh’ complexion, brown-grey eyes and brown hair.
Edward’s parents continued to live in the village until their deaths, David in June 1933, aged 83, and Susan in July 1942, aged 84. The 1939 Register shows Susan sharing one of the Council Bungalows on Manor Street with two other widows. David and Susan Baldock are buried in adjacent Graves 18 and 20 in the East Border of Ruskington Cemetery, Old Plot.
Edward enlisted in the 4th Battalion (Territorial Force), Lincolnshire Regiment, at Sleaford, on 10 May 1911, aged 17 years 6 months. Edward was mobilised at the outbreak of War and on 5 December 1914 he was transferred to the 1/1st North Division Cyclist Corps (Private, 963).
Edward’s Medal Index Card and surviving Service Papers show that he embarked from Southampton for France on 28 February 1915. ‘The Lincolnshire Chronicle’ [27 November 1915] reported that he “.. went to France some months ago. He is a despatch rider.”
On 5 January 1916 the Battalion left from Marseilles for Egypt, arriving at Alexandria a week later. His stay in Egypt was short lived and Edward returned by the same route. leaving Alexandria on 5 February 1916, arriving in Marseilles on the 12th.
After serving until 7 May 1916, Edward was then posted back to England from the 46th Division Base at Rouen and discharged on “Termination of Engagement” on the 17th May.
After discharge he re-enlisted on 27 November 1916 at Lincoln into 73rd Divisional Army Cycling Corps (Private 12789). He was posted to Chisledon, Wiltshire, on 21 June 1917, embarking at Devonport two days later, landing at Basrah on 17 August 1917.
Edward joined the 13th Divisional Cyclist Corps, in the field, on 7 September, but was accidentally drowned just over two months later on 11 November. A Court of Enquiry, convened the same day, at Bint-al-Hassan, investigated the circumstances of Edward’s death.
Giving evidence, Lieutenant Fred Arthur Eustace, said that he was in charge of a party dismantling a ‘Tractor Bridge’. During the operation the pontoon carrying the working party, including Edward, collided with the bridge and water poured in. It then turned completely on its side, throwing the men into the water.
The Officer’s evidence continued: “Three men were able to scramble out and I saw the fourth man go under but come up immediately and I was able, by getting a man to help me, to take hold of his hand, which I and a Cyclist held until we were able to get a rope round his wrist and to the shore.
After I first got hold of Pte. Barsley his head and other arm were above the water and he seemed to be quite unconcerned wiping his mouth with his free hand. I was, however, shocked to find that with five men pulling behind me I was unable not only to lift him out but even to hold him and without saying a word or apparent struggle his head fell back under the water.“
Other members of the working party also gave evidence that work continued to try to save Edward, without success, for a further two hours, and that his body was eventually recovered about 2.oo p.m.
After hearing all the evidence, the President of the Court, Capt. George M. Tinson, concluded: “ I attribute the accident more to an error of judgement in permitting men to enter a pontoon which on being floated proved top heavy, than to any neglect on the part of those concerned. Everything possible seems to have been done to save Pte. Barsley’s life.”
Edward was buried in Bint-al-Hassan Cemetery, and later re-interred in Baghdad North Gate Cemetery. [Owing to the current continuing dangerous conditions in that area it has not, as yet, been able to obtain a photo of his Grave.] Edward is also commemorated on the Metheringham War Memorial.
On Friday, 8 February 1918, ‘The Rutland & Stamford Mercury’ printed the following obituary for Edward: ” RUSKINGTON – Roll of Honour – The greatest sympathy is extended to Mr. and Mrs. David Barsley and family who received the sad news on Sunday that their son Private Edward Barsley of the Cyclists Corps had been accidently drowned whilst serving with the Expeditionary Forces in Mesopotamia. “
The following week, “The Sleaford Gazette” of 16 February 1918 carried a similar message adding that the letter from the Records office of his regiment at Hownslow [sic], dated 31st January, was couched in the following terms:- “It is my painful duty to have to inform you that a report has been received from the War Office notifying the death of Pte. Edward Barsley, Army Cyclist Corps, which occurred with the Mesopotamia Forces, on January 11th. The report is to the effect that he was accidentally drowned. – Signed, G. Gannel, Major, for Colonel, Records Office”.
As a boy Edward was a telegraph messenger at the Ruskington Post Office, and it was recalled: “… with painful interest that he is the second messenger to be drowned on service in the War, the other being Boy Seaman Edgar Purnell, who was lost with the late Lord Kitchener when the ill-fated Hampshire went down.”
Family history member, ‘Deborah’ states that “Edward was a cycle dispatch rider and was killed in Baghdad. In the family he is remembered as uncle Ted with the black curly hair”.
- ‘The Rutland & Stamford Mercury’ – 8 February 1918
- ‘The Lincolnshire Chronicle’ – 27 November 1915
- Family History websites
- “The Sleaford Gazette” – 16 February 1918