My great-grandfather and the Italian Campaign

Historian article

By James Maddison, published 3rd February 2023

This remarkable item by a student at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield was the winning Young Historian entry in the Key Stage 3 Spirit of Normandy Trust category in 2022.

I’ve always known my great-grandfather fought in the Second World War, but never like this. When he left the army, he never talked about the war to anyone. He never claimed his medals and his memories died with him. I only knew half of his story. But now I know why he never wanted to remember it.

Before the war, Arthur Barker was coal miner and a keen sportsman. In the army, he had his officers bet on him to win races or competitions. In 1939, I know he was conscripted into the territorial army under the King’s Own Light Yorkshire infantry division, and he trained at Pontefract barracks. He served with the Royal Artillery in Aberdeenshire and Northumberland, until moving to the Shetlands in October 1941. However, after the British defeat at Hong Kong and the destruction of a Royal Scots battalion, the army council decided the battalion should be reformed. He and his comrades transferred to 2nd battalion Royal Scots to fight in Italy. The move happened formally on 28 May 1942. The 2nd battalion spent the rest of 1942 on territorial duties and training, until they set sail to Gibraltar in April 1944 – where they would spend 15 months at their garrison...

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