The Returning Officer: Edgbaston

Returning Officer

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Brigadier General Sir John Barnsley was Birmingham’s chief recruiting officer in the First World War. The family firm had built Birmingham Council House, the main art gallery and museum and the Hall of Memory, which honours the city’s war dead, including one of Barnsley’s sons, Captain Thomas “Teacake” Barnsley, who had enlisted in the local “pals” battalion and was killed at Ypres in July 1917.

Sir John was the Liberal candidate in Edgbaston for the 1918 election. He placed an advert in the local press setting out his agenda: “Barnsley lives in the division . . . Barnsley is against bureaucracy. Barnsley is against Prussianism . . . Barnsley is for a just peace.”

This article first appeared in the 08 July 2014 issue of the New Statesman, The end of the red-top era?