A Melrose man serving in one of the first tanks in World War One

In the run up to Armistice Day and the commemoration of a century since the end of World War One I’ve been adding more information to my list of Melrose servicemen.

Thanks to Stephen Pope I’ve received detailed information about the war service of William Sinclair Barrie, a Melrose grocer, who served in one of the first tanks to see action on 15 September 1916 near Delville Wood at the Battle of the Somme.

William was born in 1897 at Berwick-upon-Tweed, son of Matthew Barrie and Margaret Bruce Sinclair. The family lived for a while at Lundin Mill in Fife, but by 1911 were living in the High Street on Melrose, where Matthew had a grocer’s shop.

William enlisted in November 1915, and joined the Motor Machine Gun Service. In early June 1916 he was transferred to a secret training centre to train men in operating tanks. He arrived at the Somme Battlefield on 10th September 1916, moving to the north of Delville Wood on the night of 14th September, ready for the tank attack on the village of Flers. Over the coming days William would be wounded several times. Later he served with the 4th Battalion Tank Corps.

After the war William returned to Melrose, ultimately taking over his father’s grocery shop, and marrying Margaret Burnett Lawson at Galashiels in 1928, and later Christine Williamson Steedman in 1953.

William died at Melrose in 1953 aged 57.

Author: vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.

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