War hero’s shining example to be honoured in exhibition

IPSWICH: A decorated war hero from Ipswich is to be honoured in a new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum dedicated to celebrating extraordinary acts of heroism.

Major Herbert John Leslie Barefoot, once an architect in Ipswich, was awarded the prestigious George Cross medal in 1940 for working non-stop on September 1 that year to defuse six unexploded bombs which were blocking the LNER main line.

He started at 7am and completed the work, which would normally take a week to perform, in less than 12 hours, meaning trains were up and running again by 6.40pm.

His contribution to fighting a series of fires following an air raid in Great Yarmouth on July 28, 1940, was also mentioned in his citation for the award.

The medal will be on display along with 240 other Victoria and George Crosses in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at London’s Imperial War Museum in Lambeth Road from November 12.

Diane Lees, director-general of the museum, said: “The Imperial War Museum is delighted to be opening this new gallery.

“Our mission is to enrich people’s understanding of war and its impact on ordinary people, so we are very grateful to Lord Ashcroft for enabling us to share the stories of some extraordinary heroes through these medals.”

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The George Cross is the most prestigious civil decoration that can be awarded in Britain, and the inspiring stories behind the awards of such medals will form the main focus of the permanent exhibition, called Extraordinary Heroes.

The gallery will be focused on themes of leadership, sacrifice, endurance and boldness, among other qualities displayed by the incredible men and women honoured there. There will also be memorabilia from other conflicts, including the badly damaged backpack worn by Lance Corporal Matt Croucher, also awarded the George Cross, when he threw himself on to an exploding grenade during a covert patrol of a Taliban bomb factory in Afghanistan in 2008.

His actions saved the lives of his comrades and, remarkably, he too escaped with few injuries.

n Do you have an inspiring tale of wartime heroism in your family? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or alternatively you can e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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