John Cuthbert Barrett
Service Number 13

Trench warfare took a terrible toll on the health of Private John Barrett, who arrived in France in late 1916 as the country was experiencing its worst winter in decades.

Born in Sutton Surrey, England, John was the son of Cuthbert and Louisa Barrett of Woodhill, Beaudesert.

He was almost 19 years old and working as a farm hand when he enlisted in the AIF, becoming part of the Queensland 42nd Battalion in October 1915.

John left Sydney on the Borda on June 5, 1916, and travelled via Egypt, before arriving in Southampton on July 13.

After further training in England, the battalion, with 1027 men, proceeded to France on November 25 and moved into the front lines on December 23.

The winter of 1916-17 was horrendous for soldiers who not only had to deal with the threat of enemy attack but also snow, a morass of mud and inadequate clothing for the wet and freezing conditions.

“Numerous admissions to hospital for bronchitis, then pleurisy.”

It was clear he was never going to be well enough to return to the field.

John’s records show numerous admissions to hospital for bronchitis, and then pleurisy, during 1917.

While the 42nd Battalion was involved in some of the major battles of the war during the year – Messines in June, Warneton in July, and Broodseinde and Passchendaele in October, John was sick in hospital.

He had been sent from France in August to be treated in hospital in England, but by November it was clear he was never going to be well enough to return to the field.

Pronounced medically unfit, John’s records show pleurisy and TB, and he may have been among the 3000 soldiers who returned to Australia with tuberculosis.

He left England for Australia on the Themistocles in November and after arriving home in January was discharged from the Army a month later.

Possibly suffering tuberculosis, John returned to Australia aboard HMAT Themistocles.

(Image: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland; Public Domain.)

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