16369 Driver John Nicholas Barber - NZ Army Service Corp

John Nicholas Barber was born in Paremata on the 1st September 1897 the eldest son of Helena (Doyle) and John Barber. John had three siblings Joseph (1900) Catherine ‘Kitty’ (1902) and Helena Barber (1905.)[i]

It is probable that John snr was a fisherman at Paremata and the family name was Anglicised prior to John and Helena marrying in 1895 as John jnr military files note that his father was born in Italy and his mother in Ireland.[ii] In the late 1880’s a large contingent of Italian fishermen had moved out to Paremata from Island Bay.

John, in 1903, went to the Pauatahanui School when his younger brother Joseph turned five both were enrolled at Plimmerton School. The Barber family later moved to Plimmerton and John’s younger sisters Kitty and Helena also being enrolled at the Plimmerton School.[iii]

With the declaration of war in August 1914, thousands of New Zealand men came forward as volunteers to do what was right by “King and Country.” The minimum age of enlistment was 20 and the maximum 38 year old so many eager
potential soldiers “adjusted” their age to suit and ‘when the would be recruit seemed a well grown, healthy fellow, the recruiting officer did not insist on the age limit being reached or winked the other eye when a youth of 18 or 19 – there have been many as low as 17 calmly attesting as being the full twenty.[iv]. . . Any youth who after this, may get into camp will if he is discovered be court martial led at once for supplying false information on his attesting form and be dismissed.’

22nd October 1914 Nicolas Barber of Paremata presented himself at the Trentham recruitment office. Nicolas Barber’s enlistment papers note he was born on the 5th September 1895 and he was employed as a farm hand for Mr Vella of Paremata. Nicolas’s medical examination noted that he was a Roman Catholic, 5 foot 4 inches with a chest measurement
of 42 inches, weighing 145 pound he had brown hair, grey eyes.  16369 Trooper Nicolas Barber joined C Squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles and following training on 5th December 1915 was due to sail with the 2nd Reinforcements.
The embarkation rolls do show 16369 Trooper Barber but a note on his file simply states that on 8th November 1915 ‘Dismissed as being underage.[v]’ John Nicholas Barber was 17 and three months when he was discharge.
In 27 November 1915, a Joseph Barber attested for the Mounted Rifles, giving his address as the Plimmerton Post Office,
his date of birth as 5 September 1895 and his employment as a Railway Cadet. In his medical file he is described as
Roman Catholic, 5 foot 3 inches, fit, with brown hair and blue eyes, 140 pounds and a chest measurement of 31 inches.
It appears that he was not accepted as there is no record of Joseph Barber being taken onto the rolls of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces. This could have been John or his younger brother Joseph.

John Nicholas Barber again enlisted on the 2nd June 1916 in the 17th Reinforcement. He again listed his birth date as
1st September 1895 to meet the age requirement and listed that he was working as a farm hand for Mr Vella of Plimmerton. John Nicholas Barber’s records do note that he had attempted to enlist in the 16th Reinforcements but
was not passed fit[vi].

16360 Trooper Barber sailed in November 1916 with the 20th Reinforcements, New Zealand Mounted Rifles arriving in Egypt in January 1917. While attached to the NZMR training unit
Trooper Barber was admitted on a number of occasion  to hospital with
viral infections and the 25th May 1917 that he was initially posted to the
NZ Army Service Corp (ASC) and then to the New Zealand Mounted Field
Ambulance (NZMFA). The NZMFA supported the Anzac Mounted Rifles
during their campaign through Sinai and Palestine.

NZ Machine Gunner given first aid then evacuated by the NZMFA

Towards the end of the campaign the ANZAC Mounted Rifles were
operating in Jordan Valley attacking Ottoman positions. The Jordan Valley
was well known for malignant malaria and on the 4th October 1918
Trooper Barber was admitted to hospital with the disease. On the 22nd
October 1918 the Evening Post carried the following note[vii]

Mr. J. Barber, of Plimmerton, has been advised that
his eldest son, Trooper J. N. Barber, NZEF, is lying
seriously ill in the No 47 Stationary Hospital, Egypt
with malaria.

Trooper Barber remained in hospital for a month and then considered by a medical board, with the end of hostilities
in the Middle East it was decided to return Trooper Barber to New Zealand. On the 6th May 1919 Trooper Barber went
aboard the SS Kaikoura as part of Returning Draft No 233 of 1114 men being repatriated.

On Trooper Barber’s return to New Zealand was discharged from the NZEF on the 17th May 1919 as
‘no longer physically fit for war service on account of illness contracted on active service.’

John Nicholas Barber returned to his family in Plimmerton and farming for the Vella family. As part of commemoration
the return of men from the war on the 2nd August 1919 the Evening Post noted;

Eight residents of the Pahautanui district who saw service in the war
Gunner F Attwood, Trooper J Barber, Private E Draper, Gunner N Olsen
Private A Sims (M.M.), and Fitter A Trevor – were guests at a “social”
held at Pahautanui last night. During the evening, Mr. R. A. Wright, M.P.
for Wellington Suburbs, on behalf of those present, handed to each man
a gold Albert chain and Maltese cross suitably inscribed. Mr. W. H. Field
M.P. for Otaki, replied on behalf of the soldiers, and the rest of the
evening was spent in dancing, music being provided by Mr. E. J. King and
Mr. W. C. Tanner

John Nicholas Barber re-enlisted in the New Zealand Army Service Corp, for Home Service only, on the 30th June 1919. 16363 Private Barber served at the Trentham Camp and also Wellington Barracks until the 7th Janauary 1921 when he was again discharged from the army.

John Nicholas Barber married Elizabeth Grace Churcher in 1922 the couple had one child but the relationship had difficulties and Elizabeth left John in 1928.

In 1939 John Nicholas Barber enlisted in the NZ Army in World War Two, his enlistment papers note that he was living with his mother in Wellington and working as a wharf labourer.

2/26/245 Private J N Barber served with the Home Guard from the 24th November 1939 to the 12th April 1940.

John Nicholas Barber’s death on the 29th November 1973 was reported by Mr R J Barber of Porirua East.

The Pauatahanui Roll of Honour list Joe Barber but it is not clear if this commemorates John Nicholas Barber or his
younger brother Joseph Barber who also served in World War One.

John’s brother served under the name Joseph Baker and was an underage soldier.

Seventy Five Years 1904-1979 Plimmerton School and its Environment
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 16369 Trooper John Nicholas Barber
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files:22223 Private Joseph Baker

Plimmerton Villiage c1920 (Background) : Postcard
Wounded NZMG Palestine: Alexander Turnbull 

[i]    NZ BDM
[ii]  Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 16369 Driver John Nicholas Barber
[iii] Plimmerton School and its Environment – enrolled ex-pupils 1904 - 1929
[iv] Recruitment (2nd November 1914) Marlborough Express
[v]  Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 16369 Driver John Nicholas Barber
[vi] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 16369 Driver John Nicholas Barber
[vii] Notices, 22nd October 1918, Evening Post

Plimmerton Village c 1920