b. 01/02/1873 Kilkenny, Ireland. d. 08/01/1901 Monument Hill, Transvaal.
John Barry (1873-1901) was born on 1st February 1873 in St Mary’s Parish, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny, Ireland. Little is known of his early life, before he enlisted with the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment. Shortly after his enlistment, he found himself sailing to South Africa for the outbreak of the Second Boer War, a conflict which would ultimately lead to the award of the Victoria Cross, albeit tragically posthumously.
During the night attack on the 7th and 8th January, 1901, on Monument Hill, Private Barry, although surrounded and threatened by the Boers at the time, smashed the breach of the Maxim gun, thus rendering it useless to its captors, and it was in doing this splendid act for his country that he met his death.
John Barry died of wounds received during his VC action at Monument Hill, South Africa. At this time, no posthumous awards of the VC could be made. However, as so often in the history of the Victoria Cross it was an individual, the mother of Alfred Atkinson, that brought about a decisive move to investigate those servicemen who would have been recommended for the award of the VC if they had not died beforehand. The outcome of the War Office investigation resulted in an announcement being published in the ‘London Gazette’ of 8th August 1902. In fact, the family of John Barry had already received his medal via registered post on 30th April 1902.
Barry was buried in Belfast Cemetery, east of Johannesburg, South Africa. His medals were sold at auction on 22nd September 2000 and purchased at a hammer price of £85,000 by the Ashcroft Trust and displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: BELFAST CEMETERY, TRANSVAAL, SOUTH AFRICA.
Derek Walker – Barry VC’s Grave
Thomas Stewart – Medal Group Image at the Imperial War Museum, London
National Army Museum website – Image of the Maxim Gun