Family to visit where John fought in war

Father and son: John Barker, right, was in the Halifax Home Guard with dad Thomas, left
Father and son: John Barker, right, was in the Halifax Home Guard with dad Thomas, left
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A FAMILY are to make an emotional pilgrimage to visit the country where a late relative fought in the Second World War.

John Barker fought with the Duke of Wellington Regiment in Italy when he was 18, towards the end of the war.

He died in 1996 but his family have now been given a cash grant by the Big Lottery Fund’s Heroes Return 2 scheme to visit where he stayed in the war.

His daughter Maxine Thompson, 54, grand daughter Rachel, 16, and wife Shirley Barker will travel to Monte Cassino later this year.

Mrs Thompson, of Chestnut Close, Greetland, said: “We wanted to go back to see where my dad was.

“I’ve never been before and my mum is in her 70s now.

“I think it’s going to be very emotional but I think if he was looking down he would be very proud.”

Mr Barker, who lived in Bracewell Drive, Wheatley, had joined the Halifax Home Guard, along with his father Thomas, until he was 18 and was called up to fight for the Dukes on July 15 1943.

He fought in the Italian campaign, landing at the beaches in Anzio for what became one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War.

Mrs Thompson said: “There were thousands who landed but I think there were only about 280 who got through.

“My mum told me they had to live in a hole in the ground. They couldn’t get out because the Germans would have thrown grenades over. It was pretty horrific.”

After Anzio, he travelled to Monte Cassino before moving on to Rome, where they were given freedom of the city after liberating it from the Germans.

She said: “He didn’t talk much about it at all. He always used to come and watch the Dukes walk through Halifax. He was really proud.

“What he did say was that it was absolutely terrifying – these young boys who didn’t know where they were going.

“Today you’d understand what was happening in a war but then they hadn’t a clue where they were going or what they were doing and he said everyone was absolutely terrified.

“I remember him saying that they captured one of the German soldiers and were talking to him.

“He said: ‘They were just like us. All young boys who don’t really know what they’re doing and have been told they have to fight.’ I know it took him a while when he came out of the Army to settle. I think he wished he had stayed on a bit longer.”

For more information on the Heroes Return 2 grants phone 0845 00 00 121 or visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn.