“Bumps In The Night” – RMR Company Commander Arrested As A Spy

Thursday, May 27, 1915

In trenches, Festubert

The Battalion War Diary has no entry for this day:  [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: The Battalion history tells us that: “Dawn on May 27th revealed that a point, known as K5, was in  possession of the enemy, though supposedly in the line held by the 14th.  A bombing party occupied and consolidated this point without resistance, further reconnaissance to the left failing to locate a definite enemy line. Knowing, however, that the Germans held a position named L8, a party from the Royal Montreal Regiment advanced along a trench towards this post, the enemy retiring promptly to the north.  The accommodating attitude of the Germans was probably explained by the fact that the trench was mined.  Fortunately, this was discovered and the wires cut, before the mine could be blown.  Two wounded Germans, captured during the advance of the 14th party, were sent back for medical attention.  During the operations Lieut. R. Roy and Corp. Langelier accomplished valuable work.

…During the operations mentioned above the Signal Section of the Royal Montreal Regiment laid telephone lines to the outlying posts and maintained communication between the companies and Battalion H.Q.  On one occasion Signallers Hazelgrove and Bickley were detailed to lay a wire to advanced Headquarters by way of a roundabout communication trench.  The straight line across the open, though dangerous, seemed more practicable to the pair, who started to lay their line accordingly.  Half way across the open they stumbled into a deserted German trench and found a machine gun with some sixty boxes of belted ammunition.  Continuing, they brought their line to its destination and established connection with H.Q., just as an abandoned German trench some yards further forward was blown up by mines. This trench was un-garrisoned at the time, though the Germans probably imagined otherwise.   During this same operation, Signaller Barltrop* and a companion were at work one night in No Man’s Land, when footsteps squelched in the mud a few feet away.  Then a figure appeared and the Signallers challenged, ‘Halt! Who goes there?’  A moments silence, then, ‘British officer,’ came the reply.

‘Name and regiment?’ demanded the Signallers, keeping the halted figure covered.

‘Barltrop is my name,’ came the answer.  ‘I’ll name my regiment when I know more of yours.  Who are you anyway?’  ‘Personally,’ replied Signaller Barltrop of the 14th, ‘I’m your brother.’

And so it proved; whereupon Lieut. Barltrop explained that he had been sent from the London Regiment on the flank with a message to the 14th Battalion H.Q. and had lost his way, little thinking that it would be pointed out to him by a brother whom he had not seen for years.   [i]

* Note” Signaller (Private) Arthur Herbert Barltrop, #26615, a native of London, England, at this time was just 18 years old. He was promoted to Lance-Corporal in 1916, and in May 1917 he transferred to the 16th Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment, where he was commissioned as a Temp. 2nd Lieutenant.

27 May 15“The grim practical joking of fate is illustrated by the adventures of Capt. Hercule Barré, a hard bitten French Canadian, who fought well and spoke English imperfectly.  He had been ordered to get to his command in haste and on the way (it was dark) met some British officers who promptly declared him a spy.  The more he protested the more certain they were that his speech betrayed him.  So they had him taken back to the nearest headquarters where he was identified by a brother officer and started off afresh only to be held up a second time by some cyclists, who treated him precisely as the British officers had done.  Once again he reached headquarters, once more the officers who had identified him before guaranteed his good faith, and for the third time Capt. Barré set out.  This time it was a bullet that stopped him.  He dragged himself to the side of the road and waited for help.  Someone came at last and he said: ‘Who is it?’  ‘I Barré,’ he cried.  ‘What, you Barré? What do you want this time?’  It was the officer who had twice identified him within the last hour.  ‘Stretcher bearers,’ said Barré.  He summoned stretcher bearers and Barré was borne off to tell the tale against himself afterwards.”   [i]

27 May 15_BHercule Barré was born in Montreal in 1879, educated at Mont St. Louis College and the University of Montreal where he graduated with a degree in pharmacy.  He joined the 65th Regiment, Carabiniers Mont-Royal, on the outbreak of the First World War and was part of the draft of eight officers and about 250 men of that Regiment to join the newly formed 14th Battalion.  Joining as a Captain and a company commander, his enlistment with the 14th is dated September 23, 1914.  He received injuries to his hip during the Second Battle of Ypres, and after recovering, returned to Canada on December 10, 1915. Just after sailing from England, his ship, the Hesperian, was torpedoed.  Lt.-Col. Barré was rescued and ultimately reached Montreal.  Once there, he was immediately tasked with recruiting the new 150th Battalion, composed essentially of French speaking Canadians from Montreal and surrounding area.

27 May 15_CAs commanding officer, he then led that Battalion to England, leaving Canada on September 23, 1916 and arriving October 6th. There the battalion  was used as a source of reinforcements and absorbed into the 14th, 22nd, 24th, and 87th Battalions, C.E.F., and the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles. The unit officially ceased to exist as of February 15, 1918. The 150th (Carabiniers Mont Royal) Battalion, C.E.F. had one Officer Commanding: Lieut-Col. Hercule Barré.   For his services, France awarded Lieut.-Col. Barré the Legion d`Honneur, Croix de Chevalier, in March of 1916.  About 1919 he became the Canadian Commercial Attaché in Paris and remained at that post until making his escape from Paris before the arrival of the Germans in 1940.  He retired from his government post March of 1943.

Lieut.-Col. Hercule Barré died at Montreal December 30, 1943 and was buried in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery, Montreal.  He was survived by two brothers and a sister – and a nephew who also rose to fame in the RMR during the Second World War: Major Paul Barré.

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, May 27, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089734.jpg
[2]   R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pp. 59-60..
[3]  Sir Max Aitken, “Capt. Hercule Barré, Montreal, Arrested by British as a Spy,” The Montreal Daily Mail, Montreal, Quebec, Saturday, May 22, 1915, pg. 1, col. 3
[4]  Archives of Ontario War Poster Collection;  Ref. Code: C 233-2-4-0-197,  No:  I0016177 http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/explore/online/posters/recruitment.aspx
[5] https://alaviealaguerre.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/affiche-romane-d.jpg


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