899429 Bmbr Barnes MM R.A. (64th Field Regiment)
When I was young (and now not so young) I read stories of daring do, and bravery in Commando Comics, and when I came across this group of medals, I couldn’t resist delving into what had led to the award of Bombardier Barnes Military Medal. What I found turned out to be something that unless you knew it was real would have seemed too far-fetched to feature in anything but a comic book. I had read about Anzio, and Salerno, and knew of the actions but never really got to grips with the personal tales of heroism that had occurred.
The following details are taken from the original recommendation:
‘During the period 15-19 Feb 44 Major Kennedy, 444 Fd Bty, was acting in close support of the 7th Bn Oxford & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry when Bn HQ, with whom he was, became isolated and practically cut off. On 18th Feb all attempts at maintenance of the post with rations and wireless batteries had failed owing to enemy fire. On the 19th Feb, Bdr Barnes volunteered to take wireless batteries to the post, although fully aware of the hazardous nature of the enterprise. Under constant shell fire, mortar fire and sniping from small arms, Bdr Barnes accompanied by L/Bdr Hughes reached the Bn HQ and delivered the sorely needed wireless batteries. By his bravery and determination communications between Major Kennedy and his battery were thus maintained until the post was relieved, thus ensuring the fire support without which the post must have been overrun.
On his return to the Bty OP which was 400x in rear of Bn HQ, Bdr Barnes reported his mission completed to the OP officer and then helped to defend the Op which was being attacked by the enemy armed with flame throwers. Bdr Barnes continued to use his Thompson sub-machine gun in defence of the Op until wounded and the party was ordered to withdraw. By his great determination and bravery in delivering wireless batteries to his Battery Commander when sorely needed and his subsequent defence of the Op until wounded, Bdr Barnes showed a splendid example and it was largely due to his efforts that continuous support by the Artillery was maintained on the front of the 7th Bn Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.’ – M.M. London Gazette 15 June 1944.
The 7th Bn Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry suffered exceedingly heavy losses at Anzio and it without doubt that the gallantry displayed by people like Bombardier Barnes helped to prevent them being wiped out completely, by maintaining the artillery barrage to keep the enemy subdued.
My amazement, and awe, at the bravery shown by this man, and numerous others like him that never received any recognition, is indescribable. To go up against men armed with flamethrowers; weapons that struck fear even into the heart of the fearless Japanese soldiers, with nothing more than a Tommy gun, takes courage I’m not sure I could ever have, or find. The men who fought in Sicily, at Anzio and Salerno were termed by Lady Astor in 1944: “D-day Dodgers”, but I think this was really unfair, for they suffered as much if not more than many of the men who fought in Normandy, and were forgotten on the whole by the British public at home; Bombardier Barnes and his colleagues were far from dodging anything, but bullets……
The “64th (7th London)” Field Regiment; Royal Artillery: Where they served, when and with which unit.
Fulham: 1938 – London Div
UK: 1939-42 – 1 (London) (56) Inf Div
Iraq & Mid East: 1942-3 – 56 (London) Inf Div
Tunisia: 1943 – 56 (London) Inf Div
Salerno: 9/43 – 56 (London) Inf Div
Anzio: 1/44 – 56 (London) Inf Div
Italy: 1943-5 – 56 (London) Inf Div ‡