Lester Barbour was the eldest son of Edward and Mary Jane and he served in the First World War as part of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment. He left Newtown for Europe in May 1917. He died 10 months later, at the age of 23, in battle on March 10th, 1918 in the German counter-offensive at Paschendale Ridge, Belgium. He is buried at Oxford Cemetery, near the community of Ypres, Belgium.
Lester wrote approximately 70 letters to his family during World War I. The letters document the life of Lester, a soldier, from training in Scotland to the trenches in Europe.
These letters have been brought to life in the form of live theatre performed at the Neptune II Theatre. The original letters have been donated to the Center for Newfoundland Studies, Memorial University. Copies of the letters are on display on display in the Barbour Family Home. Click here to read a transcription of Lester’s last letter to his mother written in March 1918, six days before his death.
A Family’s Grief
After Mary Jane heard the news of his death, she would not let anyone use his bedroom for many years, despite the big number of children in the home. Edward had died, at the age of 50, on June 8th, 1912 of complications of pneumonia. Lester’s death was more than just a personal loss as he was groomed to take his father’s place in the family business of E&S Barbour.
On the table in the upstairs parlor of the Benjamin Barbour Home, there is some soil that was taken from Lester’s grave by his brother, Captain Job Barbour when he visited Europe in 1930.