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  • Claire Jordan

He Was Our One

Our Hero

He Was Only One

But He Was Our One.

This is the dignified devastating epitaph chosen for their 31-year old son George by Dundee sawmill worker John and his wife Catherine, after his death from wounds received in action on this day, 23rd August 1918.

George had been a Territorial Royal Engineer before the War in the City of Dundee (Fortress) Company and worked as an iron-turner, operating a lathe.

He went to France as part of the new Tank Corps, formed out of the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps in 1917; his civilian skillset must have proved invaluable and by the summer of 1918, he was fighting with A Company of the 1st Battalion.

On 23rd August, with the Germans at last on the backfoot after the Battle of Amiens earlier in the month, the 1st Battalion’s War History takes up George's story:

“Action at Meaulte

On the 21st, the Tanks of the composite Coy were prepared for action and on the evening of the 22nd proceeded to forward position at Ville-sur-Ancre, continuing their journey to Meaulte at midnight, where they arrived at 2am.

At 4am, they deployed, three Tanks under Captain Mann and three under Captain Fraser, going forward to capture the enemy positions at Unra [sic] and Tara Hills, in front of Albert.

Having accomplished this, all the Tanks rallied in Meaulte, where word was received that their services were again required to mop up some isolated machine gun nests, which were holding up the infantry.

This was successfully carried out and the Tanks came out of action.”

“One casualty,” adds the war diary for 23rd August, in an eerie echo of the epitaph his parents would eventually choose for his headstone.

This one casualty was George, his Mum and Dad’s Hero… their One.

George, perhaps hit by one of the enemy machine guns they’d been sent to destroy, was taken back to the closest Casualty Clearing Station at the village of Crouy, but died there of his insurmountable wounds the same day.

After the War, John and Catherine Barty emigrated to the west of Canada in search of a new life perhaps away from Dundee, the city of so many memories.

But the words they chose for George’s headstone speak now to anyone who passes his grave at Crouy British Cemetery with a force and beauty it’s hard to find the words to describe.

Mr & Mrs Barty: he is our Hero too.

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