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Express & Star 23 September 1914

Express & Star 23 September 1914

One hundred years ago today, a report appeared in the Express & Star about local Bilston man, James Barratt. The article read as follows:

We learn that a Bilston man named James Barratt (27), was a stoker on the ill-fated Cressy. His home was at 23, Hall Green Street, Bradley, where his parents are eagerly awaiting news as to his safety. As a naval reservist he went to Chatham in July for his last training, but war was declared whilst he was there, and his boat joined the North Sea squadron, where, according to letters received from him, they have since been patiently waiting for the Germans to show themselves.

He was to have been married immediately upon his return, and his fiancee, whom our representative saw this (Wednesday) morning, is buoying herself up with the hope that he is among the 700 rescued. It was from her that the loan of a photograph was obtained. The young lady stated that she heard from her lover as recently as Sunday morning last. Singularly enough in this letter he refers to the Germans not daring to show themselves, little dreaming that within so short a space of time he would have so much cause to realise the nearness of their prescence and the dangerous work he was participating in.

Whilst there are no James Barratts born in Wolverhampton at around the right date, there is one whose birth in 1888 is registered in Dudley, so presumably this is the right gentleman. Without knowing the name of his fiancee, we are unable to confirm further details about her. The HMS Cressy was sunk by a German submarine on 22 September 1914, killing 560 of her crew.

Three days after the above article, on 26 September 1914, the Express & Star noted that Barratt’s parents had received a telegram “stating that their son, who was a stoker on the Cressy, was among the rescued and is safe in Holland”. However, it appears that this report was incorrect, as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site contains the record of Barratt’s death aboard the Cressy. He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent.