Harry Barker is one of those people whose lives are likely to remain lost to time as very little information remains that can be directly connected to him.
The only document that can be directly attributed to him is his Royal Navy service record. This confirms Harry’s date and place of birth as 5th January 1896 in West Dereham, Norfolk and confirms that he was a farm labourer before enlisting.
Census records confirm that, in 1901 there was a Harry Barker living in that village. He was residing with his grandparents – Robert and Elisabeth Barker – their son, Cornelius, and five more of their grandchildren.
One of the Barkers’ grandsons, Sidney, appears next to a Harry Barker on the 1911 census. Both were inmates at the Downham Union Workhouse, as does a Cornelius Barker. It seems likely, therefore, that the three are connected, and that this is the Harry Barker who appears on the service records five years later.
Harry’s records show that he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class on 27th October 1916. He was 5ft 8ins (1.73m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion.
Stoker Barker was initially stationed at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. After six months he received his first ocean-going post, aboard the dreadnought battleship HMS Hibernia. He spent five months on board, before returning to Chatham.
He was billeted in the Drill Hall, which had been set up with temporary accommodation during 1917, when the barracks themselves became overcrowded.
On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out one of its first night-time air raids on England: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Stoker Barker was amongst those killed instantly. He was just 20 years of age.
Harry Barker was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.