Friday, October 24, 2008

One who gave his life to free the Dutch people - Private Robert Barnes

The headstone of Private Robert Barnes of Cleator Moor, Cumbria on 21 September 2008
(The flowers in front of Robert’s grave were placed there by one of the local schoolchildren)

Private Robert Barnes, 1st Battalion (Airborne) The Border Regiment, Service No 14641710, was the son of John Barnes and Margaret Barnes, Birks Road, Cleator Moor, Cumberland (now Cumbria). He is buried in Oosterbbek War Cemetery, Netherlands (Grave Ref No: 30.C.8).

At the time of his death during WW2, Robert was serving with the 1st Battalion (Airborne) of the Border Regiment. The Battalion were glider-borne troops, forming part of the 1st Airborne Division. Robert died during Operation Market Garden (the airborne part of the Operation being codenamed 'Market') in September 1944.

Operation Market Garden was a plan to seize and hold the bridges in the Netherlands with the aim of invading and defeating Germany by the end of 1944. It proved to be one of the most ferocious battles of the Second World War. Allied airborne troops in the Oosterbeek / Arnhem area of the Netherlands, including 1st Border, fought one of the defining - and ultimately losing - battles of the Second World War. The closest bridge to Germany, Arnhem, eventually proved to be 'A Bridge Too Far'.

(For additional information click on 'Comments' below)


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

According to the Regimental records of the Border Regiment held at Carlisle, Robert was reported missing in action on Monday 19 September 1944 and killed in action on Wednesday 21 September 1944. He was first buried on the access road to the Driel Ferry (one of the crossings places of the Rhine river) and later re-interred in the present Oosterbeek War Cemetery.

In September 2008, I visited the Arnhem area and on the morning of Sunday 21 September I attended the 64th Annual Airborne Memorial Service at Oosterbeek War Cemetery for all those who gave their lives during the Battle of Arnhem. Among those present were members of the Cumbria Parachute Regiment Association, the Border Regiment Association and other groups from Robert Barnes' home county of Cumbria. One of the Standard Bearers taking part in the service was Mr John Edwards from Egremont Royal British Legion one of Cleator Moor's neighbouring towns.

Private Robert Barnes is one of at least 25 Cumbrians buried or commemorated at the Oosterbeek War Cemetery. The Cumbria Parachute Regiment attend the Memorial service each year and place a poppy cross at the grave of each Cumbrian. In 2008 I was given the privilege of laying the poppy cross in front of Robert Barnes' headstone. Also present were some of Robert's former Border Regiment colleagues who had served with him during the war. They laid their own wreaths at the Cross of Sacrifice in the Cemetery to remember all of their comrades who never made it back home.

In addition, during the memorial service some of the Dutch schoolchildren from the area were invited by one of the local clergy conducting the service to lay a bunch of flowers at the grave of every individual buried in the cemetery, to say the name of the person whose name is on the headstone (where it is known), to pray for that person and to thank them for their sacrifice which eventually led to their land being freed from Occupation. So, 64 years to the day after Robert Barnes gave his life so that future generations would be free, he was remembered by people from his own land as well as children from a land who will always remember and honour his name. A Dutch lady, who had only been an infant at the time of the Battle of Arnhem in 1944, seeing I had placed a poppy cross at Robert Barnes' grave, came over and said to me:

"When you look at the children you can see what these young men were fighting for, and what they gave their lives for. Some countries may have forgotten what they did for us, but we Dutch people will never forget. We will always be grateful to these boys for our freedom. Thank you".

The epitaph on Robert Barnes' headstone, chosen by his family, reads as follows:

"I saw you smile looking so bright and well,
I little thought it was our last farewell".

Robert Barnes was one of over a hundred sons and daughters from the Cleator Moor area who lost their lives during the Second World War and remembered in the town’s ‘Roll of Honour’. Robert is also remembered and honoured far from home in the Netherlands, where he gave his life so that later generations could live in peace.

The Airborne Prayer

During the Memorial Service at Oosterbbek, the following 'Airborne Prayer' was said by all:

"May the defence of the Most High be above and beneath, around and within us, in our going out and in our coming in, in our rising up and in our going down, through all our days and all our nights, until the dawn when the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings for the peoples of the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen".

Friday, 24 October, 2008  
Blogger irene said...

researchung family history on sgt.thomas.watson 3602924.b company 14 platoon ist airborne div.border regiment.came from blyth 21/9/44 at driel ferry (frist buried there)later re-interred in oosterbeek war cemetery. grave no 18 -b-13.if anyone knew him os can provide any info or photos this would be gratly recieved .thank you

Wednesday, 11 February, 2009  

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