Family fight to honour brave Sheffield WWII airman

Ivor Barker
Ivor Barker

A NIECE of a Sheffield World War Two hero beheaded by the Japanese is campaigning for his name to finally be added to war memorials in his home city – 67 years after he was killed.

Ivor Barker, a petty officer air gunner in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, is believed to have been executed aged 21 in August 1945, days after the Japanese had officially surrendered.

Ivor Barker, top, with comrades from the Fleet Air Arm

Ivor Barker, top, with comrades from the Fleet Air Arm

Ivor grew up in Intake and Gleadless, and went to High Storrs School, Ecclesall, but his name is absent from war memorials at Gleadless and the school.

Sandra Smith, 69, who lives in Dereham, Norfolk, believes her uncle’s name was not included on the memorials because his family had been told he was missing presumed dead after his plane was shot down in a raid on Japanese oil refineries at Palembang, on Sumatra, in January 1945.

Ivor’s mother ‘lived in the hope’ he was alive, Sandra said.

His name is inscribed on a memorial to nine people believed to have been killed at Palembang, at St Bartholomew’s Church in Yeovilton, where the Fleet Air Arm museum is based, and a naval memorial at Lee-on-Solent.

Sandra said: “The only reason I can offer for his parents not advising those responsible for memorials at Gleadless and High Storrs is that my grandmother would not accept he was dead and always lived in the hope that he would return home one day.”

In 2006, claims emerged from surviving war veterans the Palembang nine had in fact survived the battle and held captive by the Japanese before being executed.

After leaving school, Ivor worked for a gentlemen’s outfitters on Castle Street, Sheffield, Wimpeys at Bottesford Aerodrome, Nottinghamshire, and a transport contractor before joining up.

Sheffield Council’s war memorials officer is looking into Sandra’s plea for Ivor to finally be honoured.