80th Anniversary of D-Day

The Quiet Veteran

As the 6th June D-Day approaches and this year, it is the 80th Anniversary of that momentous event, I recall that some of the Brethren of our Lodge were involved but, like many of their generation, they never mentioned it in conversation and I only heard about this brave man’s deeds at his funeral.

W. Bro. John David Barker was one of three blood Brothers in the Lodge, his Brothers Anthony (Tony) and Commander ‘Buddy’ Barker RN were stalwarts of the Lodge. A Dentist by trade, he was a key member of both the Lodge and Chapter. His father C. H., or Harry “Skip” Barker was a Founder of the Lodge and its first Junior Deacon.

The Lodge was Consecrated in 1934 and a young boy carried a blue velvet cushion with the name of the Lodge and its number embroidered on it, made by his mother Gwen, and on the cushion was the Lodge’s Volume of the Sacred Law. The Consecration meeting was held on the 10th January 1934 at the Masonic Hall, Cromwell Avenue, Mason’s Hill, Bromley, and that young boy was John David Barker. That cushion and that book are still in use today – 90 years later, an ongoing memorial link to our founders and to the memory of the Barker family too. A few short years later, that young boy would go to war.

At John’s funeral in 2011, we heard about his life and then, as often happens in these cases, an anecdote about someone you felt you knew quite well, both shocks and amazes you at the same time. Born in 1925, John, at the tender age of 19, piloted a landing craft onto the D-Day beaches! He never ever spoke of his exploits and I imagine that no one in the Lodge knew about this (apart from his blood Brothers) until the day of the Funeral.

British troops come ashore at Jig Green sector, Gold Beach

It is hard to envisage, let alone understand what that day must have been like for everyone involved in it. Imagine being just 19 years old and tasked with landing troops and equipment onto those beaches? Yet, he, like many of his fellow servicemen rarely spoke about their bravery and horrors they endured.

I knew that David Robins, another member of the Lodge, had been in the RAF as ground-crew and had served post D-Day in France and Belgium but that was all I knew up to that point about those in the Lodge. No one ever mentioned it in conversation.

As an aside, Commander ‘Buddy’ Barker RN was involved in the Falklands War and in navigating the Task Force that was sent there but he again never really said anything about it. I can only surmise that perhaps they felt that we may not comprehend the horrors that they had witnessed or perhaps it was to continue to protect our generation as they had when they bravely fought in those conflicts?

I feel that we are incredibly privileged to have known these men, our Brothers. I wonder if I would have felt any differently knowing what they had been through? They were all great Freemasons, wonderful characters, good company and exhibited all the good things you’d expect from Freemasons in terms of philanthropy and being upstanding citizens with high moral values. As many never said anything about their service I wonder how many of our members were in the services and what they did and what they saw?

Whatever their reasons for maintaining their silence, we owe them all such a huge debt of gratitude.


Photograph: D-day – British Forces during the Invasion of Normandy 6 June 1944 Commandos of 47 (RM) Commando coming ashore from LCAs (Landing Craft Assault) on Jig Green beach, Gold area, 6 June 1944. LCTs can be seen in the background unloading priority vehicles for 231st Brigade, 50th Division.

By No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Midgley (Sgt) – http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//36/media-36091/large.jpgThis photograph B 5246 comes from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31656718