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Lieutenant, 14th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment.

Killed in action 1st July 1916, age 26.

Buried in Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, France.

Former student of teaching.


 

Duncan was born at Barnsley, Yorkshire in 1890, the son of Barker Fairley the Head Teacher at St. John`s National School, and Charlotte Fairley. He won a place as Locke Scholar at Barnsley Holgate Grammar School after which he studied at Manchester University from 1908 gaining his Teaching Diploma in 1912 then taking up a position as English Master at a school in Scarborough. His older brother was the famous Poet and German scholar Barker Fairley who in the 1930s held the Henry Simon Chair at the University of Manchester becoming one of its most famous lecturers in German. Duncan like his brother was also a Poet of some note.

Previously a member of Leeds Officer Training Corps (1907-1908) when the war began Duncan returned to Barnsley and on 1st May 1915 enlisted in the 14th (2nd Barnsley Pals) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. By the opening of the Battle of the Somme he had been promoted to Lieutenant. The Barnsley Pals were part of the 31st (New Army) Division which had arrived in France in early 1916. They were well trained with high moral, but unlike the Regular and Territorial Divisions very inexperienced in battle. Their objective on the opening morning of the Somme was the heavily fortified village of Serre, and even before going over the top the 2nd Barnsley Pals suffered 30% casualties in the assembly trenches from artillery and machine gun fire. Duncan now a platoon commander in “B” Company went over the top on 1st July 1916 leading his platoon in the attack on Serre. His job was to take and hold Russian Sap with two platoons, convert it into a Fire Trench facing north and hold it. However they were held up by a block, and enfiladed by heavy fire that by 09.30 had almost annihilated them. Lieutenant Lowinsky badly wounded returned to report their heavy losses and request urgent help. A platoon from “C” Company went to the rescue but found the sap totally destroyed by fire and the two platoons wiped out. Duncan was amongst the missing from the disastrous attack, one of 270 casualties in the Battalion that day.