Dereham woman’s campaign finally succeeds in adding her uncle’s name to WWII memorial
PUBLISHED: 07:47 21 April 2014 | UPDATED: 07:47 21 April 2014
A Dereham woman’s 18-month campaign to honour her uncle’s shocking wartime sacrifice has finally succeeded after his name was added to a Yorkshire memorial.
Ivor Barker, a petty officer air gunner in the Royal Navy, was one of nine prisoners executed by Japanese soldiers in August 1945, just days after the country had officially surrendered at the end of the Second World War.
Until now, the 21-year-old’s name has been absent from memorials in Gleadless, near Sheffield, where he grew up.
Now that omission has been corrected, thanks to the efforts of his niece, Sandra Smith, 70, from Middlemarch Road in Dereham.
Mrs Smith said she was proud to lay a wreath at the memorial at Christ Church in Hollinsend, during a service which she attended last month with her uncle’s best friend, 90-year-old Norman Richardson, who served with him in the Far East.
“The service was very moving,” she said. “It was very emotional, but very rewarding to think that, at long last, his name was there where it should be.
“I achieved what I set out to do. I just found it so sad when we found out he was not commemorated in the town where he grew up.
“Initially when the memorials officer looked at the memorial there were no names from the Second World war on there at all. I automatically assumed that all memorials included all the men who died in both wars, but that is not the case. So it was put out to the local press to ask if anyone else would come forward who had lost someone in combat. Ivor was one of three names.”
Ivor Barker was taken prisoner after his plane was shot down during a raid on oil refineries at Palembang on Sumatra. It was not until 2006 that claims finally emerged from surviving veterans that Ivor and others had survived the battle but were held captive by the Japanese before being executed.
“Both Norman and my uncle were telegraphist air gunners,” said Mrs Smith. “They served together and they were best friends. They were both in the Palembang air raid, but Norman’s plane came down in the sea and he was rescued by HMS Whelp, which was Prince Philip’s ship.
“Ivor’s plane, though, was shot down over the jungle. They survived but they were captured and beheaded. It was just two days after the capitulation of the Japanese.”
Do you have a story for us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org