Sunday, November 11, 2018

A British Memorial Plaque from the Great War Finds a Home

Today is Remembrance Sunday in the United Kingdom, and I would like to remember the ultimate sacrifice young Joseph Barr made on 11 December 1917 when he died in Palestine during the Great War (now known as World War I.) He was born on 4 January 1897 in Blantyre, Scotland, and was inducted into the British Army on 11 May 1915. Two weeks later, he was shipped to Gallipoli. Joseph served as a private with the 1/8 Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), which was part of 156th Brigade, 52nd (Lowland) Division. They were moved to Eygpt in 1916. The division fought in the battle of Romani and three battles for Gaza before taking Jerusalem. Gen. Edmund Allenby walked into the walled city on 11 December 1917 and reviewed the troops amid much fanfare on the day Joseph Barr died. Joseph Barr was 20 years old and had never married.

In 1919 the British government devised a Next of Kin Memorial Plaque, a bronze medallion approximately 4-1/2 inches in diameter inscribed with the name of someone who died serving with the British and Imperial forces during the war. The plaques were mailed to the next of kin, along with a scroll containing the King's message and a facsimile of his signature. Joseph's sister, Mary Barr, was listed in his informal will as his sole heir and would have received a Next of Kin Memorial Plaque in remembrance of her brother.

Next of Kin Memorial Plaque for Joseph Barr; photograph courtesy of
Bill McLauchlan,

Fast forward to February of this year. I received a Facebook message from the son-in-law of a gentleman named Joe Barr, who asked that I contact his father-in-law. Joe Barr lives in Inverness, Scotland, and is the grandson of a man also named Joseph Barr, who was killed in in 1914 during the Great War. He has his grandfather's Next of Kin Memorial Plaque. But a woman sent him another memorial plaque for a Joseph Barr. Her daughter had won it in primary school as a prize in a competition after lessons about World War I. She sent the plaque to Joe after her daughter's death. After researching all the men named Joseph Barr, Joe concluded this new medallion must be for the Joseph Barr who died in 1917.

Joseph found a blog post I wrote about that Joseph Barr, He Died A Long Way from Home, and wanted to send me the plaque. I was touched, but felt I was not the right person to have the medallion as I was only related to Joseph through a marriage. (He was the stepson of the mother-in-law of a second cousin twice removed.) I promised to search for a closer relative to whom he could give the memorial plaque.

Email from Joe Barr; personal collection

I discovered Joseph Barr was listed in three other public family trees besides my own and the nearest relative was the great grandson of Agnes Laird (Muir) McLauchlan (1876-1935). She was the younger sister of Joseph Barr's mother, Isabella (Muir) Barr (1871-1905). I contacted the owner of the tree and asked him if he would be interested in Next of Kin Memorial Plaque of his 1st cousin twice removed. He responded quickly and said he would be honored.

On 27 February 2018, Bill McLauchlan received the Next of Kin Memorial Plaque for his ancestor Joseph Barr, from Mr. Barr of Inverness, and that's how I was able to play a small part in reuniting medallion to its rightful family. On the day Bill received the medallion, he sent me this message:

Message from Bill McLauchlan; personal collection

In an interesting coincidence, Bill's father also served with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) during World War II. If by chance you ever find yourself in High Blantyre, Scotland, Joseph Barr's name is on the War Memorial. He was interred in the Kantara War Memorial Cemetery in Eygpt.

He Died a Long Way from Home


  1. Thank you for such an interesting article. 

  2. Wow! What a story! Excellent research! I'm glad the medal made it home to it's rightful owner!

    Reminds me of my great grandfather's war medals. My great grandfather married Janet Shaw Hood, who's mother was Janet Shaw Muir. Anyway, my great grandfather died in England in 1992 and we knew nothing of his medals. Fast forward, I meet a cousin on Ancestry nine years ago and he and I were discussing our shared great grandfather's medals. He decides to do a Google search and finds out that they so happen to be on auction on Ebay at that very moment! Somehow, the medals made it from England to Australia and were put up for auction. We still haven't figured out how that happened. Anyway, between my cousin in England finding them and me winning the auction, they have been brought to America. I'm sure my great grandfather couldn't have imagined that his war medals journeyed across oceans and three continents to get back into the hands of family many years later!

    1. Congratulations on winning the eBay auction and bringing your greatgrandfather's medals back "home," where they will be cherished!

      We're related as Janet Shaw Hood was my second cousin twice removed:

      One of her grandfathers was Nathaniel Muir, I descend from his brother, James Muir (1848-1926).