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Robert Sayle Barclay was born in Creswick, but on 11th February 1915 enlisted in Melbourne after visiting his mother. He was single, 23 years of age, and employed at Creswick as a postal assistant. He was posted to the 2nd Division Signals Company. Signallers on Division HQ were mostly engaged in laying and maintaining line from Divisional HQ to the various Brigade HQs. There were some radios at Division but generally required specialised radio technicians to maintain and operate them. . After further training and employment at 2nd Division Admin HQs in Egypt he boarded HMS Southland for the voyage to Gallipoli. The ship sailed from Alexandria on 30th August 1915 and was torpedoed by a German submarine near Lemnos. In a letter he explained that he was rescued by a ship 'Ben-my-Chree' [an English ship with a Manx name]., but lost all his kit. He was taken to Mudros, re-equipped and sailed for Gallipoli on HMT Transylvania the next night.
His good work was recognised in July 1917 when he awarded a Military Medal for his outstanding bravery and attention to his duties, irrespective of the dangers. He continued with his unit after the Armistice-.The Army had to clear the battlefields, and recover what bodies they could identify. Much work continued for signallers, but without the wartime dangers. On the 19th April 1919 he embarked on the Transport Sardinia for return to Australia, and disembarked in Melbourne on the 8th of June 1919. He was still; required for some signal work in Victoria, but having completed his discharge procedures he was discharged on the 5th October 1919. On 4th June 1917 Miss N Dixon, a Lucas Girl, planted an elm, Tree No. 54, in his honour in the Ballarat Avenue.