Barter, C St L (1857–1931) Major-General
GOC Infantry Division KCB KCMG CVO
Educated abroad RMC Sandhurst psc King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

BarterCharles St Leger Barter was the son of the Rev J T Barter of Bercham, Co Cork.

He was commissioned in the 105th Foot (later 2nd Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) on 1 September 1875. He passed Staff College in 1883 and saw active service in the Ashanti Expedition (1895–6), the Tirah Campaign (1897) and the South African War (1899–1901), during which he was wounded at the Modder River. His appointments as Instructor at the RMC Sandhurst (1884–6) and as CO 2nd Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (1898–1902) were the marks of a 'coming man'. He completed a four-year tour as GOC Poona Brigade in India in June 1913.

The war brought a speedy end to his period of unemployment. On 5 August 1914 he was appointed GOC 47th (2nd London) Division TF in succession to Major-General C C Monro. Barter took 47th Division to France in March 1915, where it was the second Territorial division to reach the front complete. 47th Division first saw action at Aubers Ridge (9 May), quickly followed by Festubert (15–25 May), Loos (25 September–1 October) and the Hohenzollern Redoubt (13–19 October). Its attack at Loos achieved early success followed by later dislocation and confusion, a common experience for the units that took part in the battle.

47th Division's finest hour during the war took place on the Somme in September 1916, when it captured High Wood, after a prolonged and dispiriting passage of British arms characterised by missed opportunities, lack of initiative and poorly co-ordinated piecemeal attacks made with inadequate artillery support.

Paradoxically, the capture of High Wood terminated Barter's military career. Soon after the battle, 'at an hour's notice', he was charged with 'wanton waste of men' and dismissed. It is now recognised that he was scapegoated by the GOC III Corps, Lieutenant-General Sir William Pulteney, who had repeatedly refused to listen to Barter's reasoned objections to III Corps' plan of attack. This was based on sending tanks into the wood. Tank commanders were horrified by the idea, arguing that the shattered tree stumps (which were all that remained of the wood) made it impassable to tanks. After making a personal reconnaissance, together with the GOC 141st Brigade (Brigadier-General Robert McDouall), Barter agreed with them. He pressed III Corps to allow him to withdraw his infantry from their forward positions, close to the German front line, so that a proper artillery barrage could proceed the infantry attack, and allow him to send the tanks round the flanks of the wood to pinch it out. III Corps rejected this sensible plan, with predictable consequences for 47th Division, which lost 4,500 officers and men in the attack.

Barter devoted the rest of his life to an unsuccessful attempt to obtain an enquiry into his dismissal. But his subsequent treatment, including the award of a KCB (1916) and a KCMG (1918) suggest tacit official recognition of his unfair treatment. Surviving members of the division seem not to have laid the blame for the casualties of High Wood at the door of their GOC. Barter was welcomed at post-war divisional reunions and called upon to unveil divisional war memorials.

He retired from the Army on 20 December 1918.

Major-General Barter spoke fluent French.

Dr John Bourne




Image 1 credit: Major-General C St Leger Barter, awarded KCB for distinguished services, 1914-19 (b/w photo), Maull & Fox (fl 1850-60) (after) / Private Collection / The Stapleton Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library


Image 2: The Lord Mayor of London, Col Sir Charles Wakefield, and Major General Sir C Barter, CB, inspecting a Field Kitchen of the 15th London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles), Camblain-Chatelain, 11th June 1916. Credit: © IWM (Q 623)

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