Thomas Chesman Barker

Rank Second Lieutenant
Service No Unknown
Date of Death 04/11/1918
Age 20
Regiment/Service Royal Engineers 218th Field Company
Cemetery Ors British Cemetery. Ors is a village 6 kilometres east of Le Cateau, on the West bank of the Sambre in the Nord department in northern France. The British Cemetery was begun in November 1918 and a number of the Highland Light Infantry and Royal Engineers graves, including Thomas's are due to the crossing of the canal near the cemetery on 4 November 1918.


Thomas’ parents, Chesman Barker (1868-1949), a GP, and Marguerite Emma Barker, nee Mellish (b.1864) were married in Walthamstow on 22nd October 1896. Thomas was born at Greenhill House, Haxey, Lincolnshire, on 8th January 1898. Shortly thereafter his parents moved to Nether Street, Finchley. It was here that Thomas’ siblings were born: Mary (b.1900), John (b.1902), Ruth (b.1904) and Jessie (b.1907).

Thomas was educated at Christ’s College, Finchley, from 1908 to 1914 and went on to study Civil Engineering at University College London (UCL) from 1914 to 1916, receiving the St Andrew’s Scholarship for his excellent grades, as well as a BSc in Engineering. While at UCL, Thomas was a member of the University of London Officers’ Training Corps and served in No. 2 Company, the 1st Cadet Battalion, Middlesex Regiment as a Sergeant. On 4th July 1916, he applied to be admitted to Royal Military Academy Woolwich and the Royal Military College Sandhurst.

Thomas was extremely successful in the Army Entrance Examination held in September as he was No.1 (first) in the Order of Merit, being awarded a Prize Cadetship. Having passed a medical on 22nd September 1916, he was admitted, in late October, to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, where he received the King's Medal. He was given the rank of Second Lieutenant on 28th September 1917. On 28th February 1918, he was passed for selection into the Royal Engineers and sent to France on 18th September 1918.

Thomas was killed instantly by machine-gun fire on 4th November 1918 while completing a floating bridge across the Oise-Sambre Canal between Ors and Cattillon. The Victoria Cross was awarded to Sapper Adam Archibald (1879-1957) of the same company, in connection with the construction of this bridge. The Commander of the 32nd Division wrote "the crossing of the canal was the most difficult operation which the Division had to do. The bridges had to be made in the face of machine gun fire from a few yards' range. Your son's section of the R.E. did it but he was killed almost at the outset." His headstone bears the inscription “Faithful unto death, a crown of life,” from Revelation 2:10 (the last book of the Bible), rather than the standard military inscription. His estate was valued at £355 16s 3d which went to his father, whose addresses were listed as Edendale, Ballards Lane, Finchley, and Fair Haven, Chidham, Emsworth, West Sussex.

Thomas’ family were probably members of St Paul’s Finchley as on 7th October 1902 his father gave £2 2s to the St Paul’s East End Window Fund.