Citation for the Distinguished Service Order, London Gazette, Tuesday 14th November 1916:
“For conspicuous gallantry in action. He pushed forward and handled his battery under very heavy fire and with the greatest courage and skill. Later, he carried out a daring reconnaissance and obtained most valuable information.”
Henry was born on Saturday 21st January 1882 at 80 Kensington Park Road, London, eldest son of the late Right Honourable John Gorell Barnes, 1st Baron Gorell and Lady Mary Humpton (née Mitchell). Henry had two siblings, Ronald Gorell and Aura Ellida Gorrell. He succeeded his father to the title in 1913. He was educated at Summer Fields from 1892 to 1895 followed by Winchester College from 1895 to 1900 before going up to Trinity College, Oxford, in 1901, graduating with a BA in 1903 and MA in 1908. Following Oxford he attended Harvard University from 1903 to 1904 where he was a member of the Kalumet Club and played in the cricket team.
Henry was called to the Bar, Inner Temple, in 1906 and appointed Secretary to the President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court from 1906 to 1910, County Courts Committee from 1908 to 1909, Royal Commission on Divorce and Matrimonial Causes from 1909 to 1912. He co-authored two books ‘The Divorce Commission’ and ‘The Reports Summarized’. He was Chairman on the Kensington Division Red Cross Society. He was a member of the Garrick Club and a leading Mason, being Junior Grand Warden of England. Henry lived at 14 Kensington Park Gardens, London.
At the outbreak of war he volunteered. Henry fought in the Battle of the Somme, in particular at High Wood, where he was awarded his DSO. “During the afternoon some of the batteries began to move up in support, the first being the 19th London Battery, under Major Lord Gorell, who brought his battery up into the shell-hole area immediately behind High Wood.
Accompanied by Major Marshall, of the 18th Battery, Lord Gorell made a brilliant reconnaissance of the divisional front, and was able to report the line actually held that night by our troops, together with much other valuable information. For these distinguished services Lord Gorell was awarded the D.S.O.”
Henry was in the Ypres Salient when he was mortally wounded by a shell in ‘Marshal Walk’ between ‘Railway Crossing’ and ‘Lankhof Farm’. He was taken to the hospitals behind the lines at Lijssenthoek where he died. He was Mentioned in Despatches.
His Uncle wrote: “It was at Lankhof Farm, twenty-five hundred yards south of Ypres, that he was struck by a shell. He was taken to a hospital at Poperinghe and died in a few hours. I was in that part of the country last summer and met several of the men in Henry’s regiment, and took down what they said of him. All united in saying that he was a splendid officer, and that the men would have followed him anywhere. He plainly inspired deep affection. He was buried in the cemetery near the C.C.S. between Poperinghe and Steenvoorde, and we had a great and splendid cross made of great oak beams from the cloisters of Ypres Cathedral erected over his grave.”
One of his friends wrote a tribute that was published in ‘The Times’ on Friday 19th January 1917: “I knew Lord Gorell well, and to know him was to love him. He was endowed with many qualities, and among them sagacity, penetration, and thoroughness, which made his father one of the foremost judges of his generation. But he had also gifts all his own which endeared him to many and which seemed to ensure a career of distinction. In all that he touched —and in his short life that was much — he succeeded, and always with ease. His work as secretary of the Divorce Commission revealed his business capacity, and in the preparation of the memorable Report of the Majority his father was greatly assisted by him. He had already obtained considerable practice at the Bar when, on succeeding to the peerage, he left the legal profession. In the House of lords his speeches were much commended, and he proved a very effective member of the Parliamentary Committees on which he served. In illustration of his many-sided activity, it may be mentioned that he took a keen interest in Masonry, and that last year he was Junior Grand Warden of England.
Lord Gorell’s interest in the Territorial scheme from the outset was great. In March, 1915, he took the battery of which he was in command to the front, and he remained in command of it until his death. His duties as an officer were performed with that thoroughness which marked all that he did.
His many friends will regret that a career rich in promise has been cut short. They will think often of the loss of a bright, simple, and strong spirit, of one who did his duty, whatever it might be, with a certain grace and winning gaiety, with modesty and alacrity. Only a few weeks ago when home on leave for some days — he had been abroad continuously for nearly two years — he spoke of the ‘mystery’ of the struggle in which so many of his friends had fallen, but with calm assurance as to what it was for him to do. Among the many, duty-loving and faithful, whom the insatiable battlefield keeps, none will be missed more than he.”
Major Francis T Colby, serving with the 13th Belgian Field Artillery, wrote: “Harvard has lost another of her sons and one of the noblest of her race: Major Lord Gorell, D.S.O., was killed in action on January 16. He fell after two years of war, commanding the same battery that he commanded at the outbreak of hostilities.
The friends whom he made at Harvard are many and lifelong, as was the warmhearted friendship which he gave to them in return. Those of us who knew and loved him as Henry Gorell Barnes during his life at the University will remember him with a clearness which the years cannot alter. His warm, highly refined, and unselfish personality made him at once our friend, although he came to Harvard a foreigner from our mother-country, while his splendid character commanded our respect. He showed even then above all other qualities the power and vigorous energy of his mind, which later enabled him to rise with such rapidity in his profession of the law, to serve with such well recognized efficiency as his father’s secretary on the Royal Divorce Commission and in other executive and legal positions of importance. When, after his father’s death, he took his place on the Cross Benches of the House of Lords as a Peer of England, his marked abilities and earnest application quickly gained for him the respect of the House, and it became clear that in him was to be found one of the future men of the Empire.
To those of us whom have known him in France and Belgium during the past two years of war another side of his remarkable personality was shown. His highly trained judicial mind was applied to the soldier’s profession, and with it was coupled the man of action and of tireless physical energy. He combined strangely the many, often conflicting, qualities which make up a good battery commander. His batter was splendidly organized, trained, and disciplined, and he was intensely loved by his officers and men. He was an excellent horseman and horsemaster. His fire was delivered with speed and accuracy, and his gun positions were always carefully prepared. The day before his death he showed me a nearly invisible gunpit which had resisted two direct his.
He was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order for a most daring and highly successful reconnaissance between the hostile lines at the battle of the Somme.
As we carried him on our shoulders to his last resting place in a foreign land, for whose defence he had given his life, and buried him with full military honours, we felt that his loss was not the least of England’s sacrifices.”
Henry had been selected to second the King’s Speech in the House of Lords at the Opening of Parliament, however, he did not live to participate.
His grave inscription reads “Give thanks to the glory of the dead.”
He is commemorated on the House of Lords War Memorial. In the parish church in Old Brompton, Derby a plaque was erected and the original cross that marked his grave are displayed. The inscription on the cross reads “Major Lord Gorell DSO, 19th London Battalion killed in action 16.1.17” and the plaque: “This cross from Ypres Cathedral was erected by his comrades over the grave of Major Henry Gorell, 2nd Baron Gorell of Brampton, DSO, RFA. killed in action near Ypres on 16 January 1917 after 22 months service in command of his battery at the front and is placed here as a memorial by his brother Ronald, 3rd Lord Gorell.”