War hero’s VC medal is brought back to school

An heroic tale of bravery - and the Victoria Cross that followed - has been brought back to life for future generations to remember.

Former Arnold Lodge pupil Colonel John Cridland Barrett VC was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for his ‘most conspicuois bravery and devotion to duty’ during the attack on Pontruet in World War One.

And now his regiment, The Royal Leicestershire, have presented the medal to the Leamington school.

They also spoke to pupils and told them the story of Colonel Barrett’s bravery.

On the same day, pupils raised money for The Royal Leicestershire Regiment Memorial Appeal – a charity wishing to raise £40,000 for a National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire.

The VC was presented to Headteacher Nicola Craig, who said the school was immesely proud of their former pupil’s legacy.

Colonel Barrett was educated at Arnold Lodge School in the early 1900s and later went on to serve with the army until being discharged in 1920. King George V presented him with the Victoria Cross at an investiture in 1919 at Buckingham Palace. During the same year, Leamington made him a Freeman of the Borough. He picked up his medical studies after the Armistice and had a long and distinguished career as a surgeon, becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1928. He died in Leicester in March 1977 at the age of 79.

The incident for which he was awarded his VC was described in some detail in the London Gazette citation (14 December 1918): “Owing to the darkness and smoke barrage a number of men lost direction.

“Lieutenant Barrett found himself advancing towards Forgan’s Trench which contained numerous machine guns.

“Without hesitation he collected all available men and charged the nearest group of machine guns, being wounded on the way.

“In spite of this, he gained the trench and vigorously attacked the garrison, personally disposing of two machine guns and inflicting many casualties.

“He was again severely wounded, but nevertheless climbed out of the trench in order to fix his position and locate the enemy.

“This he succeeded in doing and, despite exhaustion from wounds, gave detailed orders to his men to cut their way back to the battalion, which they did.

“He himself refused help and was again wounded, so seriously that he could not move and had to be carried out.

“In spite of his wounds he had managed to fight on, and his spirit was magnificent throughout.

“It was due to his coolness and grasp of the situation that any of his party were able to get out alive”.

Mrs Craig said: “As a school, we are immensely proud of Colonel Barrett’s achievements both during his service in WW1 but also of his career as a surgeon. By all accounts, he was a modest man but his enthusiasm, loyalty and commitment are values that we hold in high esteem.”