My earliest memories of my Dad are of him carrying me back to my bed at night after I had woke up and gone to the bathroom. Wrapping my little legs and arms around him and wishing for the short walk to the bedroom that I shared with my twin brother Ian, to last and last and last. Enveloped in the warmth of his embrace, I would fall asleep with a smile on my face.
Throughout the rest of my life, if ever I asked it, he never failed to be that source of comfort, that blanket from all that was chasing me. He welcomed me home again after failed marriages and helped me to get back on my feet. He co signed loans, he built fences for protection and he removed demons both real and unseen from my life. In short; he was my hero.
Today he is gone, taken away in his sleep and is no longer of this earth. Yet, the person that he was, the British soldier, the husband, the musician, the father, the poppa, the man, still lives in everyone that knew him.
This post is dedicated to his memory.
Roy Clinton Barnes was born in Portsmouth England December 6, 1918. On January 30, 1933 he lied about his age and joined the Lincolnshire Regiment of the British Army. He was 15.
Here he is, the littlest one on the far right with friends. He later would tell me that the hat and boots that they issued him were too big. Did they know he had lied? My guess would be yes … but life was much different then and the luxury of proper food, clothing and lodging were too much to pass up and in spite of what the future would hold for him, he said he was very happy.
The picture below shows again how small he was compared to the rest of his fellow soldiers. He is 2nd on the bottom right.
Flashing forward to past the beginnings of WWII, he became a stretcher bearer. A very dangerous job that required him to run into battles and remove the injured, wounded and dying. He and hundreds others, perhaps thousands were taken prisoner in southern France and forced to walk to Poland. By today’s maps the distance is approximately 850 miles.
He told me that only the toughest of the tough survived, the ones who had gone without, had known hunger, pain and suffering where the only ones who made it to Poland alive. He told of a chicken that he and fellow prisoners had stolen hoping to eat. In the end, having no opportunity to without being caught they had to discard it, it had become so rotted that it was inedible. Somehow and somewhere along the wretched march Nuns were able sneak food to them which saved my father’s life. Often times while relating his memories he would break down and weep from the atrociousness that he had witnessed.
In a one time and unsuccessful attempt to placate the rest of the world and under the direction of the Red Cross and Geneva Convention, the Germans allowed postcards of British soldiers to be sent home to their families. My father addressed his to his mother; Mrs. Dolly Barnes, as he had not yet met and married my mother. All postcards are stamped Sta lag 8B . He was part of 20 men in the camp band.
In all 3 pictures he is center. First picture; center back (between 2 men). Second picture he is center front and last picture he is 2nd top row, 6th in from the left.
My father spent 6 years of his life in Stalag 8B, and in spite of my attempts to get him to speak of it he rarely did.
He was repatriated November 24, 1943, 71 years ago under The Sick and Wounded Convention. His employment was restricted to medical units and in a non-combatant capacity, yet despite his stellar career and hometown welcome as a hero he rejoined the army to continue the fight against Germany.This next picture shows the celebratory parade on Liberation day May 7 1945 in Utrecht Holland where the British and Canadian troops over took the city from the Germans. My father told me that seconds after this picture was taken snipers who had been hiding in the buildings above the streets opened fire on the Nazis, killing them. As you look at the open windows there would have been many places to shoot from.
My father met, fell in love and married my beautiful mother in July 1948. They then immigrated to Canada in the late 50’s where my twin brother and I were born in 1960. By that time my father was 42.
He and she lived peacefully in Chilliwack, BC until his retirement sometime in the 1980’s. With over 47 years in the British and Canadian armies combined he was a true decorated military man.
His temper was short, but his love and loyalty of family and country was long and far reaching. He was smart. He was funny. He was old fashioned. He was liberated.
He was staunchly British, yet proudly Canadian, I hated him, but oh! how I loved him!
He was my father, the strongest most dedicated force of a man that ever walked. He was a war hero and he was my hero. He helped save a world. He helped save me.
His medals from right to left;
Gold Stars – 1939 – 1945 Star, France and Germany Star. Victory Medal. Long Service Medal and Good Conduct. Canadian Forces Decoration.
Tomorrow 69 years after the end of WWII I will spend a great deal of my day thinking of him, missing him and thanking him.
I sincerely hope that you can spend your Remembrance Day feeling the same way about our war hero’s.
Thanks for reading.
Andrea, daughter of Roy.