World War 1

Search the known records to date of those lost from the wider Alnwick area in World War 1

Generally showing where they are commemorated, when they died and some basic facts about each person. There are gaps, however, so if you can fill in any missing details do please contact us.

Alfred Barrs




Service Number:


Royal Engineers, 'D' Signal Company although employed by the Pigeon Carrier Service



Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt

Service History:
At the outbreak of war, the British did not have a Pigeon Service, & the first birds were given by the French to the British Expeditionary Force's Intelligence Corps for carrying coded messages. By May 1915 the BEF was using pigeons to send messages to pigeon posts in the trenches during battle. The Royal Engineers were responsible for communications during the war & pigeons were an effective replacement for broken telegraph wires.

Barrs enlisted at Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland on 14 January 1918 as a Pioneer in the Royal Engineers. He was almost immediately sent to France where he arrived on 1 February. As he was 43 at the time, this was probably a 'special enlistment', which was created so that men could carry out their civilian skills wearing a uniform, but not act as a trained combatant.

Barrs died at Gezaincourt as a result of an 'accident sustained whilst on active service'. His death certificate gives his cause of death as 'died of injuries'.
(Source: 'The Fallen of Embleton 1914-1919'; Written & researched by Terry Howells, Mary Kibble, & Monica Cornall; pp. 63-66)

Born in 1874, at Rowley Regis, Staffordshire, the son of Joseph Barrs (an Iron Sett-maker, then a Stone Sett-maker), by his wife, Mary Barrs (née Tromans; a Nail-maker), of Enderby, Leicestershire.

Barrs had two sisters - Ellen (b. 1872) & Ann (b. 1874).

His mother died when he was 8 years old & his father re-married two years later to Ellen Payne.

Educated at Enderby, where the family lived in 1891 & where Barrs worked as a Shoe Hand.

Sometime in the mid-1890's Barrs moved north from Enderby together with a couple of friends. Quite why they ended up at Embleton is not known, but on 13 November 1898 Barrs married Margaret Ann Appleby there. Her father, Mark Appleby, owned the quarry at Embleton.

The couple lived in the Quarry House where they had six children: Francis Alfred (b. 28 November 1900); Lesley (b. 7 August 1908); Joseph (b. 2 June 1910); Margaret (b. 19 August 1904); Mary (b. 29 December 1912); & Hilda (18 May 1915).

'Soldiers DiedÂ…' records Barrs' place of residence as Lesbury (actually spelt Lisbury in the record), Northumberland but, according to the 1911 Census, he actually lived at Christon Bank, Embleton.

Pre-enlistment occupation: Whinstone Sett Maker (someone who cuts stone, granite, basalt, whinstone, into rough blocks with heavy hammer & then trims them into 'setts', i.e., small blocks, of specific dimensions, for road making, with scabbling hammer (8-10 lb.) or with other hand hammers; Source:

Barrs' hobby was pigeon keeping & racing, which interest was utilised by the Army when he joined up.

In the second quarter of 1920 Margaret Barrs married Herbert Neal, one of the friends who moved up to Embleton with Alfred Barrs in the mid-1890's.
(Sources: 'UK, De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, 1914-18'; Part 4; page 9. Also, 'The Fallen of Embleton 1914-1919'; Written & researched by Terry Howells, Mary Kibble, & Monica Cornall; pp. 63-66)

Local Memorial:
Embleton, Memorial Obelisk in Spitalford Cemetery (Source: