George Edward Barson stood at over six foot tall and had fair hair and blue eyes.
He embarked on 5 February 1916 with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB) and he was soon 'doing his bit'. On 19 June 1916 he was wounded and shipped to England for recovery. He did not return to the field until over a year later in December 1917. During his period of convalescence he met Mary Charlotte Decks who he married on 1 July 1917 in Tottenham, London. She was 28 years old and how they met is a mystery. Maybe she cared for him in hospital or they may have met while George was on leave. Soon after the wedding George was back in camp and shipped back to the front on 20 November 1917 rejoining the NZRB just before Christmas on 18 December 1917.
On Christmas Day the Brigade was not in the line and enjoyed a Christmas dinner of turkey and plum pudding a luxury I am sure was very welcome. On 2nd January 1918 the NZRB went back into the line at the Ypres salient and two days later on the 4th January 1918 George Barson was killed in action. His wife Mary so recently married was now a widow and from a small amount of research it seems she never remarried and there were no children from the marriage. Mary died in 1969 in London. George is remembered on the Buttes New British Cemetery (NZ) Memorial, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Henry John Barson (George's elder brother) embarked later in the war with the 40th reinforcements on 10 July 1918 aboard the 'Tahiti". The Tahiti was to become an ill-fated voyage being severely affected by the second wave of the the 1918 influenza pandemic. The ship called in at Cape Town, South Africa where the ships unofficial Journal the 'The Fag End' was printed. I spent some time at the Auckland Museum browsing through a copy of the Journal which is held there. The Journal is full of anecdotes and lots of cheerful, sartorial writing showing no glimpse of the disaster to come. The ship then called in at Freetown, Sierra Leone to refuel at a time the influenza pandemic was reportedly raging through Freetown. As a result, the crew and soldiers stayed aboard the ship however locals came on board to bring on coal. Within days of the ship leaving Freetown over half the ship's company had fallen ill. The Tahiti disembarked at Plymouth on 9 September 1918 and on 11 September Henry Barson was admitted to the Military Hospital at Devomport with Pneumonia. He died on 12 September 1918 and is buried at Efford Cemetery, Plymouth he was 39 years old. In total 68 died onboard the Tahiti before she docked.
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