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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

A Leinster Officer's grave - Reginald Barnewell

A recent eBay auction caught my eye, a photograph of a Leinster Regiment officer’s grave and a general view of the cemetery, somewhere in France or Belgium. The backing of the photograph consists of a newspaper covering dating to 1925, suggesting the photos were of that time.

Looking closely at the photo we can see the officer’s name, Captain, The Hon R N Barnewall, who died on 24 March 1918, age 20. But who was this officer?

Reginald Francis Nicholas Mary Barnewall was born in Richmond, Surrey in the fourth quarter of 1897. He was the son of Charles Aloysius Barnewall and Margaret Theresa Stephens. Charles was the 18th Baron Trimblestown of Trimblestown, County Meath. Charles and Margret had married in Queenstown, Australia. Margaret was the first of what would later be three wives.

The 1901 census records Reginald with his siblings, Margaret, Charles and Geraldine along with two servants as “vistors” at 1, Royal Crescent, Ramsgate, Kent. The 1911 later shows Reginald as a student in Ampleforth College, York.

Reginald was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion (Special Reserve), Leinster Regiment on 9 January 1916. He was later promoted to Lieutenant on 1 July 1917. While attached to the 2nd Battalion, on the Somme, France on 23 March 1918 he was fatality wounded while the 2nd Leinsters were covering the retreat of units in the 49th Infantry Brigade (part of the 16th Irish Division). Lieutenant Barnewall died from his wounds the following day and he was interred in Bronfay Farm Cemetery. His death was reported in the Wicklow Newsletter and County Advertiser on 30 March 1918.

“Convent Sister Bereaved – We regret to announce the death of the Hon. Reginald Barnewall. Lieutenant in the Leinster Regiment, who died in action on Palm Sunday, the 24th inst, R.I.P. He was the eldest son of Lord Trimblestown Co. Meath, and Carlisle Mansions, London, and nephew of Sister M. Dominick Barnewall, Dominican Convent, Wicklow to whom and her esteemed family deepest sympathy is offered in their sad bereavement. The present Peer, Lord Trimblestoen is 18th Baron in virtue of his descent from the 7th of the line, which was created in 1416.”

Captain Barnewall’s family had the option to add a personal inscription on his headstone, which they did and chose “TO LIVE IN HEARTS WE LEAVE BEHIND IS NOT TO DIE”, which can be seen in the photograph of his grave.

As the family were well to do, it is likely Reginald’s parents or siblings visited his grave post war and took the photographs as a memento.

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