Barker Stephen Sgt 4450706
Name Barker Stephen
Army number 4450706
Date of birth
Unit Durham Light Infantry 1934, R, Posted 1st Bn, Posted 2nd Bn, Posted 11th Bn, Posted Missing 20/6/1940, Prisoner of War 12/7/1940, Posted ? Bn DLI, Class Z Army Reserve 30/3/1946.
Platoon or other sub-unit
Task or role
Prisoner of War 20B/357 10042
Died/Killed in action
Source table 11DLI
To listen to a recording of an extensive interview with Sergeant Barker, conducted by Harry Moses, on behalf of the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive © IWM, please see this page on the IWM Collections Website http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80012444
Some extracts from the interview have been noted and are set out below:-
Reel 1. St Barker was born in Bishop Middleham, he had one sister two years younger. His father worked as a Joiner at a Limestone quarry. Mainsforth Colliery was nearby.
He joined the Regular Army on 17/1/1934, giving a false age at the recruiting Office – he was only 17 but said he was 18. Enlisted at Durham and was then sent to the DLI Regimental Depot at Fenham Barracks. His parents were unaware of him joining until he was able to write to them.
Reel 6. On the outbreak of War he was serving in 2nd Battalion DLI, having returned from service in China with 1st Battalion. He had been promoted to Lance-Corporal just before War was declared. He was sent to Brancepeth and then immediately to Durham City to work with Territorials at the time 11th Battalion was being established, along with some others of 8th Battalion who had not been sent to France with the rest of the unit. He was then sent to Chester-le-Street and was stationed in the Stables at Lambton Castle (link to the story of the fictional rat infestation). The men were conscripts largely – including some from the Midlands. The Battalion was not well equipped.
Reel 7. Vehicles were his priority, including particularly driver training. Most recruits adapted quite well and were intelligent – some professional footballers were among the group. The vehicles consisted of 15 cwt trucks and a small number of motorcycles – several of the recruits were already riders so gravitated to those.
Weapon training was initially limited to rifles – and not all were proficient. Bn went to join the BEF in April 1940 – men had not then been told of their role. MT role was to transport men to airfields for construction – labouring - work. The Bn was seen, in his view, as under-trained and under-armed. FREVENT – near St Pol was the initial location. Little opportunity existed to meet locals. They also drove men to baths. Little opportunity was made available for other training. Food was OK.
Moved to BEAUMETZ on a Sunday evening then ordered to collect men from various locations. En route to collect men the convoy ran into German motorised troops – he was accompanied by Major Gee and Lt Wood and L/Cpl Allcorn – and hid in a farmyard overnight until L/Cpl Allcorn was spotted leaving the building to relieve himself and the group were then ordered to come out and were captured. Thought to be 22nd May. Taken to join a column on a march. Brief interrogation by Germans. Unaware of which unit had captured them. Only dressed in overalls. Walked for quite a distance. No food or water given. Some brutality – prodding with bayonets. Lots of threats – incidents of rounds fired if men left the column. Heavily guarded. Nights spent in the open – no cover. Years in the Army had toughened his feet and his boots lasted the march. Occasional halts when the opportunity for relief had to be taken. No escape attempts – any tries were fired at – may well have hit the men concerned.
The men were put on trucks when they reached Germany – 40 men to a truck. No stoppages – no food or water apart from one stop when black bread was issued. Journey lasted about three days. Occasional disputes among the men. Some dysentery. Trucks were high-sided so scenery or locations could not be viewed and identified. Arrived Stalag XXA – Thorun and stayed for about three months – bunk beds and around 30 – 40 to a hut. Were then moved to Poland. Men from the Regiment tried to group together – met a few men from 11th Battalion. No work being done at this Camp. No more clothing issued and only a small ration of bread with margarine and jam, with a bowl of soup at mid-day – mainly potato and dried peas – poor quality. No breakfast.
The remainder of the interview, after 30 mins of this reel - is concerned with Sgt Barker's PoW experience. The early part of the interview covers his experiences abroad, serving pre-War in China.