Tribute at long last for Sheffield hero

Relativers and comrades of Ivor Barker who was executed by the Japanese in WW2 with a wreath that was laid at the war memorial at Hollinsend Road
Relativers and comrades of Ivor Barker who was executed by the Japanese in WW2 with a wreath that was laid at the war memorial at Hollinsend Road
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It’s been almost 70 years, but a fallen Sheffield hero has finally come home.

A tribute to World War Two hero Ivor Barker has been placed amid the very same streets where he grew up as a lad before joining the Royal Navy.

Airman Ivor Barker

Airman Ivor Barker

The petty officer air gunner, from Gleadless, was one of nine prisoners beheaded by the Japanese after his plane was shot down in a raid on oil refineries at Palembang on Sumatra in August 1945, days after the country officially surrendered. He was just 21 at the time.

Until now, his name has been absent from local memorials.

But a year-long campaign by niece Sandra Smith, aged 70, of Norfolk, came to an end in a moving ceremony at Christ Church, Hollinsend, yesterday. For the first time, her uncle’s name was etched in stone next to those of other Sheffield souls who lost their lives in the conflict.

Sandra said: “I was only 18 months old when Ivor died but I felt sad that he was not commemorated in his home town. There is a tribute to him in Somerset but there was nothing local here, where he was born and grew up.

“I am really grateful to everyone in this part of the world for the way they responded to my request.

“Family from all over the country have come to be in Sheffield for this today.”

For many years Ivor was missing, presumed dead. It was in only 2006 that it emerged ‘the Palembang nine’ had survived the battle but were held captive by the Japanese before being executed.

Among those who came to pay their respects was Norman Richardson, who grew to be ‘best mates’ with the former High Storrs School pupil when he served alongside him. As the bugle sounded the Last Post, the 90-year-old, who had travelled from his home in Surrey to be there, laid a wreath on the memorial.

Norman said: “It is amazing there is now this tribute in Sheffield. I was from the north country, I’d lived in Leeds, and Ivor and I got on and used to go out together.

“He was a great friend.”