The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2/1107) Sergeant Douglas Roy “Rough” Barker, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, Koren War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.54
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 23 February 2018
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Mathew Rose, the story for this day was on (2/1107) Sergeant Douglas Roy “Rough” Barker, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, Koren War.

Speech transcript

2/1107 Sergeant Douglas Roy “Rough” Barker, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment
KIA 23 January 1952

Story delivered 23 February 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant Douglas Roy Barker.

Douglas Barker was born in Adelaide on 25 May 1922, the second of three sons born to Clarence and Pretoria Barker.

Young Douglas grew up in Kadina and attended Kadina Area School, where he enjoyed playing Australian Rules football.

The Depression years were tough for the Barker family. On 29 December 1938, Douglass’s father, Clarence, a 45-year-old First World War veteran, took his own life at the fruit shop he ran in Moonta. His wife, left to bring up her three boys alone, later re-married, but Douglas did not cope well with the loss of his father. After leaving school around the age of 15, he moved to Adelaide with his older brother. Here he found employment as a labourer, and began to get into trouble with the law.

When he was 18, Barker and a friend were brought before a magistrate at Thebarton after being apprehended “unlawfully interfering with a motor car.” The pair were fined 6 pounds each and had to pay court costs. When Barker failed to make good on his payments, a warrant was issued against him to recover the money owed for this incident and a separate traffic offence. By this time he had moved to New South Wales, where he was working as a fruit picker.

Barker enlisted for service on 4 August 1941 and quickly adapted to the life of a soldier, which seemed to suit him. After initial training, he was posted to the 2/4th Infantry Battalion, which was serving in the Middle East.

He joined his unit in Syria in mid-January 1942, where it served for two months in a garrison role before being recalled to Australia.

The battalion was next sent to Darwin. A long and frustrating year ensued as their comrades in the 6th Division were deployed to New Guinea. It wasn’t until June 1943 that the 6th Division was reunited in North Queensland, and another 18 months passed before the 2/4th Battalion returned to active service.

In November 1944 Barker and his battalion arrived at Aitape in northern New Guinea. Here they were involved in pushing the Japanese back along the coast to Wewak, and then pursuing the Japanese as they withdrew into the Papuan jungle.

At the end of the war, Barker volunteered to serve with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. He joined the 67th Battalion at Morotai in October and deployed to Japan in February 1946.

Barker returned to South Australia on leave in November. It was around this time that he met Betty Joan Biddle. After a whirlwind courtship, the pair was married.

Barker returned to Japan in 1947 and while he was away his daughter, Kaye, was born. Sadly, Barker’s marriage did not survive his time in Japan; he and Betty were soon divorced.

Barker transferred to the newly formed Australian Regular Army on 3 June 1948 and was promoted to sergeant.

Barker returned to Australia in late 1949 having been transferred to 2RAR, based at Puckapunyal in Victoria. He was an instructor with the 4th Recruit Training Company for a period, but was keen to return to active service. After returning to 2RAR, he began pestering his superiors until they finally relented.

After a month at the 1st Reinforcement Holding Unit in Japan, Barker set off for Korea on the 26th of January. The following day he joined 3RAR and was posted as platoon sergeant to 9 Platoon, C Company, which was in the front line. Nightly patrols were sent out to prevent Chinese dominance of no man’s land.

On the evening of 23 February, Barker – known by his nickname of “Rough” ¬¬¬¬¬– was in charge of one such patrol. As the group descended Hill 355, known as “Little Gibraltar” one of the men triggered a jumping jack mine.

Sergeant Jim Pashen described what happened next:

As the ground was frozen solid, the initial charge blew [the mine] out of its position and up onto its side before exploding … “Rough” went down and had to be stretchered back to base.

I went down with one of my sections to help and assist carrying Rough back up the snow covered hill. By the time he had been transported to the Battalion Regimental Aid Post he had left us. A piece of shrapnel the size of half a [one] cent piece had pierced his chest, lungs and spleen. Severe internal bleeding had resulted in his death. He was a great mate. I still miss him.

Barker had been a member of 3RAR for a short time, but his death was keenly felt. His family was devastated by the news of his death, especially his older brother Clarrie with whom he had been particularly close.

Douglas Barker was laid to rest in the United Nations Cemetery at Busan on 28 February. He was 29 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among the 340 Australians who died as a result of their service in the Korean War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sergeant Douglas Roy Barker, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2/1107) Sergeant Douglas Roy “Rough” Barker, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, Koren War. (video)