32-year-old Captain (Temporary Acting Major) Godfrey Barker was killed on 29th April 1915, serving in Gallipoli with the Drake Battalion, Royal Naval Division, Royal Marine Light Infantry (R.M.L.I). He was the fourth son of Colonel Sir Francis William James Barker (1841-1924) and Charlotte Jessie (nee Foster) and was born in Malta on 13th January 1883. He attended King’s Edward School, Birmingham before going on to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
He was gazetted Second Lieutenant with the R.M.L.I. on 1st September 1901 and was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st July 1902. In the 1911 census, he is recorded as a Lieutenant in the Royal Marines at Deal, Kent. He became a Captain on 1st September 1912, exactly eleven years after his first commission. An announcement was made by the Admiralty on 13th January 1914 to the effect that Captain Barker had been placed on the retired list at his own request. His retirement lasted for only eight months. He rejoined the Colours on 13th September 1914, just over a month after was was declared, and he saw action the following month at the siege of Antwerp with the Portsmouth Battalion (Officer Commanding MGs Royal Marine Brigade). On 9th November 1914 he was appointed Temporary Major, then going to the Dardanelles as Adjutant of the Drake Battalion.
Major Barker’s local connection is with Olton. At the time of the 1901 census he was 18, still listed as a schoolboy, and was living with his parents and siblings in St Bernard’s Road, Olton. His father, Colonel Francis Barker, was recorded as a colonel, late Royal Artillery (having retired in 1898) and was living in the area as a result of his role as Superintendent of the Royal Small Arms Factory in Sparkbrook. Previously, he had been Acting Superintendent of the Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey. He was created a knight in 1906.
Outside his military life, Godfrey Barker was a Freemason, and is included in the Masonic Great War Project. He was also an amateur singer, and performed with the Portsmouth Orpheus Operatic Society:
Captain Godfrey Barker R.M.L.I. was “the comic Chinaman, Wun-Hi, a part which calls for peculiar talent.”– Portsmouth Evening News, 29th October 1912.Report on the performance of “The Geisha” at the Theatre RoyalCapt. Godfrey Barker, R.M.L.I. is very good as Sir James Jellicoe [a rich banker]– Portsmouth Evening News, 9th December 1913.Report on the performance of “A Princess of Kensington”
Godfrey was one of four of the six sons of Colonel Sir Francis Barker known to have served as regular soldiers. His three brothers survived the war and had distinguished military careers:
- Colonel Ernest Francis William Barker CBE, D.S.O. (1877-1961), also served in the Boer War.
- Lieutenant-Colonel William Arthur John Barker D.S.O. (1879-1924), also served in the Boer War. The Liverpool Daily Post 31st March 1916 reported on the award of the D.S.O.:
Temporary Major William Arthur John Barker, 8th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, awarded the DSO for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When organising a counter attack he was wounded in four places by a bomb, but continued to command his battalion throughout the three following days till it was relieved. He died in August 1924, five months after his father. Death was attributed to chronic alcoholism according to a Coroner’s inquest.
- Major Cecil Barker (1881-1928) of the Royal Artillery, served in India and France during the war, returning to India in 1919 to command 3 Mountain Battery in the North West Frontier operations. He retired in 1927 due to ill-health contracted on active service.
The other brother who suvived into adulthood, Hugh Neville (1887-1940), is not known to have served in the Armed Forces but please contact us if you know any differently.
Sir Francis Barker died in Folkestone on 31st March 1924, aged 82. After his death his widow, Lady Barker, moved to Chelsea to live with her daughter and son-in-law before moving to Hythe in 1930. She died there in 1932, having apparently seen six of her 10 children pre-decease her (including her 9-year-old son, Francis Wolfe Barker (born 1895 in Dublin) and her 18-year-old daughter Evelyn Annie Barker).
If you have any more information about the Barker family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
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