Staff Surgeon William George Barras

Biography of Staff Surgeon William George Barras

William George Barras was born on the 30th March 1868 in Govan, Lanarkshire. He was the son of Dr James Barras (1836-1918), a Physician in the Govan parish for over 50 years, and Rachel Anderson Barras (née Hyde)(1845-1937). He was educated at Bellahouston Academy, Glasgow High School and Hutchesons' Grammar School before coming to the University of Glasgow. The family lived at Westbourne, Bellahouston, Glasgow.

He showed the same interest for medicine as his father and accordingly chose to study Medicine at Glasgow between 1884 and 1889, graduating MB ChB. His obvious talent was rewarded, winning class prizes in the institutes of medicine, surgery, clinical medicine and forensic medicine classes. Three years after graduating he went on to obtain a MD from Glasgow and later a DPH and LLSC from Durham University.

After graduating he worked in all fields of medicine. He ran a successful private medical practice in Govan, became Deputy Medical Officer, Police Casualty Surgeon and Bacteriologist to Govan municipality as well as a Physician at the Elder Infirmary. When not busy with his professional work he regularly got involved with Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve activities, taking great pleasure in being aboard ships. He had already travelled to Canada with them before the First World War and when called up at the outbreak of the war naturally joined them as a Staff Surgeon. He was aboard the Lord Nelson during the Dardanelles sea campaign and also took part in the Battle of Jutland. On several occasions he had a remarkable escape from death: he had been serving near both the Bulwark and the Formidable when they exploded. Unfortunately his good fortune did not see him safely through the war. He was aboard HMS Vanguard when she blew up on the 9th July 1917. His name is inscribed on the Naval Memorial in Chatham, Kent.

Outside of his medical work William was interested in angling, music and photography. As well as possessing many valuable collections of photographs, he was himself a remarkable photographer. He particularly enjoyed collecting curios and photographs of Govan showing its history as an old village and burgh before being engulfed by the industrial mass of Glasgow. He donated this unique collection of photographs and curiosities to the Govan YMCA as a memorial of the old village. He also spared what time he could to pursing his hobby of angling and would use his musical talent on occasion by deputising for local organists.


Staff Surgeon William George Barras
Rank: Staff Surgeon
Regiment: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve - HMS Vanguard
Degree: MD CM DPH
Awards: N/A
Comments: Killed in action, 9 July 1917.
Note/Press Clipping: N/A
Photo ID: N/A


University of Glasgow Faculty, General Council and Registry records. Indexes to prize list (GUAS Ref: R 7/3) and calendars (GUAS Ref: SEN 10).

Obituary: The High School of Glasgow: the book of Service and Remembrance (Glasgow: Maclehose, Jackson, 1921)

Obituary: The Lancet, Vol 2, 1917, p216.

Memorial Place: Commonwealth War Graves Commission - Find War Dead

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