By Peter Barrack
Hoyland ‘Bert’ Barrack was born in North Kyme on July 14, 1921, the second of four children, he had an older brother Bert and two sisters Eileen and Marion, who have all passed away. Educated in North Kyme and Walcot, he left school at the age of 14 and worked on Mr Bembridge’s Farm, 52-and-a-half hours a week for 11/- (55p). His job was anything that needed doing!
On May 5, 1939 he, along with 20 odd others, joined up in Horncastle as part of the expanded Territorials. On September 1 he was mobilised and went to Scunthorpe on fire watch. The biggest attraction was that we went on my first holiday to camp in the Isle Of Man, as part of his training he went to Scotland to complete a commando course and to Ringway (today’s Manchester Airport) to be one of the early British parachutists. This entitled him to extra two shillings and sixpence a day parachute pay. After 14 months he was posted to join The Royal Lincolnshire Regiment in India stationed on the North West Frontier. He spent the next five years in the Far East without any home leave.
In 1943 Bert was moved to the Arakan Peninsula where he took part in both of the allied campaigns, surviving most of the tropical diseases and being wounded.
After the first nine months continuous service on the front they had a break, they had no money as nothing to spend it on, they were met by the Salvation Army, who greeted him with the question “what do you want?” - “I didn’t know what to say as I had no money”. When he was convinced his request would be free he ordered egg and chips, a cup of tea and bread and butter - “A wonderful meal”.
In November 1945 he sailed for home and again the only people to meet them were the Salvation Army - they gave him five woodbines, a bar of chocolate and a Warcry. That’s why he always made a point in making a donation wherever he saw them.
He had a month’s leave and was sent to Aldershot but the Indian Airborne was not compatible with the European soldiers so he was sent to the County Regiment at Lincoln where he spent three years in charge of the ration stores. Finally demobbed in 1948.
While on home leave in 1946 he met Lillian at a dance in Billinghay, he married his sweetheart a year later at St Helens church Stickford. They had a short honeymoon in Manchester before moving into married quarters at Dunholme.
After demob the couple moved to Boston where Bert worked for Sinclair’s, the seed people.
While living in Boston he was a founder member of Boston Burma Star of which he is now a life member.
Their son Peter was born in Boston in 1949 following which the family moved to Sibsey where Bert first worked on the land before leaving and working for the Post Office laying telephones underground.
He then took his first steps into the world of retail.
He bought a van round selling fruit, veg and wet fish in villages between Sibsey and Freiston Shore.
On Saturdays and school holidays Peter went along as assistant to earn his pocket money until going away to school in Market Rasen.
The family moved to Tattershall in 1963 when they bought the village shop. Initially this was a small village general store about half the size of the current Post Office. By working long hours and having a policy of getting anything for anyone and delivering anywhere by bicycle or van, the shop was rapidly expanded first adding the Post Office then the newsagency and embracing the idea of self service. Peter joined the business in 1970 after training as a supermarket manager. Eventually the shop expanded to become what is today the Co-Op supermarket.
Peter married Jenny in 1969 and has two daughters, Tracy and Karen who have all worked in the family business.
The supermarket was sold but the Post Office was retained as the family business where Bert worked until retirement in 1988 having completed 24 years as a sub-postmaster.
Throughout his working life Bert had helped others and always been an active participant in the community and various organisations. He carried this on in his retirement, the carpet slippers were at the side of the chair but saw little use until the latter years.
The Royal British Legion played a large part in his life - he was made a life member in 1988 and always proud of the National Certificate of Appreciation awarded in 1979, this is the highest award the Legion can bestow.
He first joined the Legion as an associate member at Billinghay in 1939 then the Boston Branch in 1948 where among other things he re-organised the Poppy Appeal and was a collector for the next 60 years
Sibsey was hís next branch in 1953. It was here that he first got involved with the welfare committee and this was a service he continued until he was no longer able.
He moved to Coningsby branch in 1963 where he was always a committee member holding various offices.
He joined the county committee in 1969 and became county chairman for nine years with two years as area chairman. When he retired from this position he was made county vice-president. During this time the local festival of remembrance was initiated, with Jenny and her sister as one of the first singing acts, and is still going strong.
Another achievement was his part played in the restoration of the memorial in the field at Sibsey Northlands where there is now a large annual act of remembrance. He particularly enjoyed his regular maintenance trips to the memorial, “on a nice day it’s beautiful” he said “with the birds singing and the sun shining it is a wonderful place to sit and pause a while”.
He was elected to Tattershall Parish Council in 1974 and served for more than 20 years, holding various offices including chairman. Throughout this time he kept a close eye on the appearance of the Market Place and the church yard where along with his friend the Reverend George Taylor, they cut the grass for a number of years.
He was honoured with the presentation of the manning trophy for service to the community.
He was a member of the Community Council being involved with the Village Hall Advisory Committee as well as judging Best Kept Village and Best Kept Village Hall competitions.
He was also a member of LALC since 1992 and CPR and was seven years on Post Office Users Council.
He felt the village hall was an important part of community life.
This was shown by being an original member of Sibsey Village Hall committee when a small group each put 10/- in the kitty to kick start the project.
This was followed by being a founder member of Coningsby Community Hall Committee and attending the auction when they purchased the hall despite not having any money.
At both halls he was a bingo caller and dinner and dance organiser.
He helped found short mat bowls at Coningsby Hall.
He thoroughly enjoyed Lorna’s Wednesday luncheon Club and attended regularly until unable to drive.
Delivering meals on wheels was another job he always enjoyed - he could only deliver a few as he stopped talking at each one. When it was time to leave Pilgrim after an illness one of questions they asked him was if he had thought about meals on wheels, he replied that he “would continue delivering them!”.
He got a great deal of pleasure from helping at the Dogdyke Pumping Station, especially talking to the visitors. He “enjoyed talking about the area” and said “I can go back 150 years with first hand knowledge of draining the fens. My mother lived to be 96, my Uncle Fred was 100 - I learned it at the knee when I was a lad. Especially about setting up decoys!”.
Another enjoyable activity was organising bus trips for parishioners both one-day and five-day tours both in this country and abroad, giving some travellers their first experience of “foreign” travel.
Proud to claim that not many people had read the lesson in as many churches in Lincolnshire as he had but finished up just auctioning the produce at the harvest festival when you didn’t have to raise your hand to bid, he did it for you, some buyers and contributors were not even in attendance.
A particularly sad time for Bert was when he lost his beloved wife Lilian in May 1996 and he missed her until the end.
He used to call her “The Boss”, but in fact they made a very good team sharing life and interests together.
The sad thing is that Lillian didn’t live to see Bert awarded the MBE. This was one of the proudest moments in his life.
He always considered it marvellous that an ordinary working boy brought up in a poor family could receive such an award from the hands of the Queen.
In 2005 he returned to Burma with Peter as his carer. He laid a wreath in Rangoon Cemetery on behalf of the Regiment, placed a cross on the grave of his company commander Major Hoey VC MC. He continued on to a service in Akyab Cathedral where he did the Act Of Homage.
In his latter years Bert especially enjoyed the activities of his family which then included four great grandchildren, with the eldest Sam working in the business. One of his first questions was “is there anything happening in the village?” followed by “have you had a good day at the shop?”.
Mr Barrack died on October 1, 2016.