b. 20/09/1893 Baldavie, Scotland. d. 15/08/1958 Toronto, Canada.
Colin Fraser Barron (1893-1958) was born on 20th September 1893 at Baldavie, Boyndie, Banff, Scotland. His father was only identified after an action by his mother on 31st Januarry 1894, and it was William Cowie, a soldier, from Cullen, Banffshire. When Colin attested in the Canadian Army, he recorded his father as Joseph Barron and when he married, his parents were recorded as Joseph Barron and Mary Reid, but they were actually his maternal grandparents. His mother, Margaret Walker Barron, was a domestic servant born in Gamrie, Banffshire. Colin had three half-siblings – Isabella, Alexander and Margaret. Sadly, Alexander was killed in action on 6th June 1916 and is commemorated on the Menin Gate, Ypres.
Colin was educated at Blairmaud, Boyndie, Banff. He emigrated to Canada in March 1910 and settled in Toronto, where he worked on the railways as a teamster. He enlisted in 48th Highlanders (Militia) on 16th May 1913 and served in H Company. He enlisted in D Company, 35th Battalion on 25th January 1915 and on 5th April he attested for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force at Toronto. He sailed from Montreal on 4th June and on 17th July proceeded to Boulogne to join 3rd Battalion.
After a bout of bronchitis, he was attached to 1st Canadian Brigade Machine Gun School in November 1915. An infected foot saw him out of action through December 1915 to January 1916, and health problems dogged him throughout 1916. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 9th April 1917 and Corporal on 1st July.
On 6th November 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele, Belgium, when his unit was held up by three machine-guns, Corporal Barron opened fire on them at point-blank range, rushed the guns, killed four of the crew and captured the remainder. He then turned one of the captured guns on the retiring enemy, causing severe casualties. This action produced far-reaching results and enabled the advance to continue.
He was awarded the VC (11th January 1918) for this action. He was then attached to Canadian Corps School and was appointed Acting Sergeant. He was also an instructor and was given leave in March 1918. While in Scotland, he became a Freemason, being initiated into Saint Andrew Lodge No 52, Banff. On the 6th April 1918, he received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace. He then took Lewis Gun instruction to become an instructor at Canadian Corps School. He rejoined 3rd Battalion in February 1919 and by April, he was sailing back to Canada, where he was demobbed on the 23rd.
Colin rejoined the 48th Highlanders on 4th November 1921 and following promotion to Company Sergeant Major, was discharged on 22nd May 1931. Colin had married Helen Milne on 23rd September 1921 in Toronto. She was originally from Aberdeen, Scotland. They lived at 396 Rhodes Avenue, Toronto and went on to have two children – Helen and Marjory. Colin joined the Provincial Police and served at Kitchener, Orangeville and Niagara Falls. He attempted to join the National Force but was rejected for being too short. He then ran his own transport business while also employed with the Ontario Department of Highways, but during the Depression he was out of work for two years. He eventually became a guide at the Provincial Government building and was then on the staff of Don Jail. On 9th November 1929 he attended the VC Dinner at the House of Lords, and was one of 7 VCs presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Queen’s Park, Toronto in 1939.
On the outbreak of WWII, he enlisted with Royal Regiment of Canada and took part in the occupation of Iceland. He was later appointed Provost Sergeant Major of HQ 1st Canadian Division in England. After the war, he returned to his job as a security guard at Don Jail. He joined the Toronto Corps of Commissionaires, serving with the Canadian Broadcasting Commission TV studios, Hester How School and Sunnybrook Hospital. He was present at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and attended the VC Centenary Celebrations in June 1956.
Colin died in Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto on 15th August 1958 and was buried in Prospect Cemetery in the Veteran’s Section. In addition to the VC, Colin was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal 1939-45 with Maple Leaf clasp, War Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals were held privately for a number of years, until 5th December 2017 at Spink’s, London they came up for auction. The hammer price was CAN $350,000 (£206,000) and they were purchased by the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa in conjunction with Lesley Barron-Kerr, the great great granddaughter of Colin.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM, OTTAWA, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: PROSPECT CEMETERY, TORONTO, CANADA.
Veteran’s Section 7 Grave 3562
Bill Mullen – Grave Photograph
Thomas Stewart – VC Stone image at Boyndie, Scotland.