Image from Coburg State School Soldiers Book. Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.
George Barrie, son of James and Amy (nee Murray) Barrie, was born in Port Melbourne but by the early years of the twentieth century his family was living in Coburg. He attended Coburg State School and was a Senior Cadet based in Coburg. At some stage, though, he must have moved to the Balranald area of New South Wales, most likely looking for work, because in his attestation papers it states that he was ‘CF [Citizens Forces) exempt – out of area – Balranald, NSW.
George’s father, James Barrie, was a ship’s carpenter and when he enlisted on 12 August 1915, George gave this as his occupation, too. By this time, George was 19 years and 5 months old and the family were living in à Beckett Street. His younger brother James was eleven and brother Alex was eight when he enlisted.
On 18 November 1915 George left Australia. Australian troops were then preparing to leave the Dardanelles and begin fighting on the Western Front. In May 1916, not long after his arrival, George Barrie was promoted to Bombardier. In early October 1917 he was hospitalised with shell shock and did not return to his unit for several months. Not quite a year later, George’s war ended. In August 1918 he was severely wounded in his left leg which was amputated at the thigh.
George had already had one brush with death. On a Saturday afternoon in April 1912, when he was 16, he and a group of friends were cycling south down Sydney Road when he collided with a cart driven by 'a young man named Rolls'. George was unfortunate. He was ‘riding with his head down and he struck the step of the vehicle with sufficient force to break it. He sustained some lacerations and cuts on the head, and was simply deluged in blood. Mr Rolls took him in his cart to Dr Ritten's where his wounds were dressed.' (Coburg Leader, Friday 19 April 1912, p.1)
Amy Barrie must have gone through a very difficult time in 1918. Not only was her son George severely wounded, but her husband died aged only 58. She remained in the area but eventually her sons left – James and Alex for Western Australia and George for Petersham, New South Wales. She died at Essendon in 1956 aged 91.