Hunt for war hero’s family

The wreckage of the Crooked Billet pub, in Bromley, Kent, after it was hit by a V2 rocket in 1944, and where Gunner John Walker died trying to rescue others.

The wreckage of the Crooked Billet pub, in Bromley, Kent, after it was hit by a V2 rocket in 1944, and where Gunner John Walker died trying to rescue others.

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A COURAGEOUS Second World War soldier killed in a V2 rocket attack is to be remembered in a moving ceremony.

Gunner John Walker was one of at least 27 people who were killed in the blast, which devastated a public house in 1944.

Grave of Gunner, John Walker.

Grave of Gunner, John Walker.

It is understood the 34-year-old, from Ryhope, was attempting to rescue casualties when he died in the inferno.

Now, almost 67 years after the disaster, those who were killed and injured in the attack are to be commemorated with a blue plaque at the scene of the former Crooked Billet pub, in Bromley, Kent.

The initiative to install a memorial at the site, now a Harvester restaurant, was driven by the Friends of Jubilee Country Park, who have an ongoing project to research and record the history of the area.

The group discovered that three soldiers from a nearby gun site were among the fatalities.

Being military personnel, however, their names were not recorded on the published casualty list.

Jennie Randall, chairman of the Friends, said: “I first came across the story through an article on the People’s War website by an ATS lady who had served at Thornet Wood Gun Site.

“She had simply written ‘We lost three of our Gunners’, with no further details, in 1944.

“After a lot of investigation, I tracked her down and she told me that they had been killed in the V2 rocket attack, but could not recall their names.

“With a great deal of detective work, I eventually discovered they were Gunner John Walker, from Ryhope, Gunner John Clark, from Cumbria, and Gunner William Webster, from Wales.”

The Friends hope to track down relations of Gunner Walker, who is buried at Ryhope Cemetery, and invite them to the unveiling of the plaque on May 21.

“It would be a shame if there was nobody was there to represent him,” she said. “We hope he still has family members in the Sunderland area.

“We know that he was the son of James and Elizabeth Walker, who lived in Ryhope.

“The Friends would be interested to hear from any relatives of Gunner Walker or anyone who knows anything more about what happened to him.”

Jennie said during history walks organised by the Friends, people would query why there was nothing outside the pub to remember all those involved in the tragedy.

“We hope this plaque will be a lasting tribute to all whose lives were affected by this terrible event,” she added.

Anyone with information about Gunner Walker should e-mail jubileecountrypark@yahoo.co.uk