Barre, James Gordon

Barre, James Gordon (Gordon)

Sub-Lieutenant (Engineer)

HMS Forfar, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

Killed in action on Monday 2 December 1940 (aged 23)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Liverpool Naval Memorial, Lancashire (Panel 4 Column 1)

Bangor and District War Memorial

Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, Bangor

Bangor Grammar School


James Gordon Barre was born on 7 May 1917 at 7 Ballinacurra Terrace, Limerick and he was the second son of Robert John and Esther Calvert Barre (nee MacClean) who were married on 26 January 1911 in Kilbroney Parish Church of Ireland Church Rostrevor.  Robert John Barre (aged 29), a chemist from 79 Hill Street, Newry was a son of Robert John Barre, a farmer.  Esther Calvert Maclean (aged 21) from Killowen was a daughter of James Maclean, a merchant.

Robert and Esther Barre (nee Maclean) had at least three children:

Robert Frederick (Fred, born 14 August 1915 in the Crescent Nursing Home, Limerick while the family lived at 5 Alphonsus Terrace, Limerick)

James Gordon (born 7 May 1917 at 7 Ballinacurra Terrace, Limerick; baptised in Limerick Presbyterian Church)

Maurice (born around 1925)

The Barre family lived at 11 Hamilton Road in Bangor where Robert Barre worked as a chemist.  Later the Barre family moved to 18 Parkside Drive, Barrie in Ontario, Canada.  Gordon Barre was educated at Trinity Public Elementary School, Bangor and, from 1929 until 1930, at Bangor Grammar School.  His brother, Robert Frederick Barre, also attended Bangor Grammar School.  After he left school Gordon Barre worked as an engineering apprentice at the Mackie Engineering Works in Belfast.  He was an active member of the Boys’ Brigade Company of Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church in Bangor and he was also a member of Ballyholme Yacht Club where he sailed in the Leander.

Gordon Barre joined the Canadian Pacific Line, a company under the Canadian Pacific Railway Line and he sailed in many of their ships.  He also participated in the evacuation of British Forces from Dunkirk.  HMS Forfar was formerly the passenger ship SS Montrose built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Ltd., Govan, Glasgow.  Launched in 1920, the SS Montrose was operated by Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd., until she was requisitioned by the Admiralty, converted to an armed merchant cruiser in November 1939 and renamed HMS Forfar.  On 2 December 1940 HMS Forfar was on her way to join Convoy OB-251 when she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-99 some 500 miles west of Ireland.  The convoy was on route from Liverpool to New York.  Sub-Lieutenant (E) James Gordon Barre was one of more than 170 men who lost their lives.

Maurice Wilkins was Headmaster of Bangor Grammar School for 24 years from 1923 until 1947 and it was his custom to write In Memoriam articles for ex-pupils of the school who died on active service during the Second World War.  These articles were published in the County Down Spectator.  Of the 39 boys of Bangor Grammar School who fell in the Second World War, 36 had attended during his headmastership and he wrote articles about 30 of them.

Concerning the six for whom no articles appeared he later wrote, ‘Reasons for omission may have been – uncertainty as to the fate of men posted as missing (J.T. Graham), pressure of work or my absence on vacation (J. Holland, H. Hannay, W. Mahaffy), delay in news reaching Bangor when a family had gone away (T. Kidd-May) or where a boy had left school at an early age (G. Barre)’.  In 1965, for a compilation of the In Memoriam articles, Maurice Wilkins added his recollections for five of the six boys for whom no articles had been written.  In the case of Gordon Barre he wrote, ‘Of G. Barre I can recall only the name which I remember I had entered myself in the School Registers, as my practice was.  He was in the Junior School and only with us for a short while’.  Gordon Barre’s last visit to Bangor was two months before he died.

Sub-Lieutenant (E) James Gordon Barre was 23 years old when he died and he is commemorated on Liverpool Naval Memorial in Lancashire; on Bangor and District War Memorial; in Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, Bangor and in Bangor Grammar School.  Gordon’s elder brother Robert Frederick Barre was a farmer in Canada and, after Gordon died, Fred joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.  Fred Barre visited Bangor when he was on leave in 1943 and, early in 1944, he was taken prisoner while engaged in air operations over enemy territory.  He was held for 17 months in Stalag 4 until he was released by the Russians in May 1945 and returned to Canada.