Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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Date Information
05/10/2019 Two men escaped but Trooper Thomas (Tot) Barker and four others were killed. The five men who were killed were:
05/10/2019 Thomas James Barker was the son of John and Florence Barker of Cookstown, County Tyrone. Thomas was born about 1924.
05/10/2019 Prior to enlistment Thomas worked with David Anderson & Son who were grocers in Cookstown. The 1910 Street Directory describes Andersons as provision dealers and agricultural seed merchants based in William Street.
05/10/2019 Known family: John Barker, Florence Barker, Thomas James Barker (born about 1924), Evelyn Barker.
05/10/2019 At the age of 17, around 1941, he joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
05/10/2019 A month before his 18th birthday he transferred to the Royal Ulster Rifles.
05/10/2019 The following letter was written by Tot whilst serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles addressed to his sister, Mrs Evelyn Nelson and her husband Lowry. It refers to the death of their daughter, Avril Nelson.
05/10/2019 ‘To my dear sister Evelyn, and Lowry, I got your telegram on Thursday evening and honestly I am very sorry for your trouble. I still can’t believe it. Lowry if you are reading this letter will you write and let me know how Evelyn is doing. I know Evelyn and you are in a very bad state but I know you are a man and that you will be better than Evelyn so you can let me know about you and Evelyn. I hope you got my telegram all right. I had to get a fellow to send it, as I was out on a school and didn’t get back until Saturday evening. I tried to get home but the adjutant wouldn’t let me as we are all going home in January on leave. I can’t believe that wee Avril is away. The last time I saw her was in our house when I was going back the last time and she was laughing and I feel like crying when I’m writing this letter. Will you give me a photo of wee Avril when I go home Lowry because I never liked a kid as much as I liked wee Avril. I’m getting on fine. So dear Evelyn and Lowry, I’ll close now wishing that you are well and hope that you will soon be happy again. From your ever loving brother, and brother in law Tot. P.S. Write soon and let me know how you’re getting on.’
05/10/2019 Private Thomas Barker later became a paratrooper with the 6th Airborne Division and finally joined the Special Air Service where he was under the command of Colonel Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne.
05/10/2019 On the night of 4/5th July 1944, a unit of paratroopers commanded by Captain Pat Garstin were dropped south of Paris behind the German lines. Their mission was to damage German aircraft on French airfields and to blow up ammunition dumps. Somewhere along the line a wrong signal was given and the Germans were ready and waiting for them. It was later revealed that they were betrayed by some locals.
05/10/2019 The party of soldiers were taken prisoner. Tot Barker and Captain Garstin were wounded and taken to hospital. The five remaining soldiers were taken to Gestapo Headquarters in Paris. All were horribly tortured prior to Tot Barker and Captain Garstin being reunited with their colleagues on the night of 7th/8th August.
05/10/2019 Private Thomas Barker was serving with the 1st Special Air Service Regiment, part of the Army Air Corps (A.A.C.) when he was killed on 9th August near Beauvais in France.
05/10/2019 Serge Vaculik later wrote a number of books detailing his experiences with the S.A.S., two of them being ‘Air Commando’ and ‘Beret Rouge’.
05/10/2019 The French people from the nearby village later erected a memorial near the spot where they were murdered.
05/10/2019 The CWGC record Private Thomas James Barker as the son of John and Florence Barker, of Cookstown, County Tyrone.
05/10/2019 Tot’s brother Louis served with the Royal Ulster Constabulary as a Sergeant at Comber R.U.C. Station for many years. In September 1964 he travelled to France with his wife Eileen and their nephew Thomas (Tot) joined them there to take part in a memorial service commemorating the death of this group of soldiers. The Barker family met one of the survivors, Serge Vaculik.
05/10/2019 Private Thomas James Barker is commemorated locally on Cookstown Cenotaph.
05/10/2019 On the 8th August they were told they were going to be exchanged for German agents and were being transferred to Switzerland. After midnight they were taken to a field of the roadside near the village of Noailles. The soldiers were dressed in civilian clothes and all were handcuffed. Just outside Beauvais they were taken to a wood and put before a firing squad. Captain Garstin whispered to his comrades that when he shouted they were to make their dash for freedom. When the Gestapo stated that they had been condemned to death and were to be shot, French soldier Serge Vaculik escaped as Captain Garstin gave the command. They all started running except for Captain Garstin.
05/10/2019 Private Thomas James ‘Tot’ Barker is buried at Marissel French National Cemetery, Oise, France. His grave inscription reads: UNTIL THE DAY BREAK AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY.
05/10/2019 6986237 Private Thomas James ‘Tot’ Barker, Cookstown
05/10/2019 Those who escaped were taken into care by the French Resistance and eventually sent back to British lines.
05/10/2019 811752 Sergeant Thomas Varey, York, England
05/10/2019 7018947 Private William Pearson Young, Randalstown
05/10/2019 7019954 Private Joseph Walker, Moira
05/10/2019 95531 Captain Patrick Bannister Garstin, Cork
05/10/2019 In February 1947, at the War Crimes at Wuppertal, Germany, six S.S. men were found guilty of murder, the two witnesses were Serge Vaculik and Ginger Jones. Four were hanged and two imprisoned.
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