Second World War hero and respected Horndean head dies of coronavirus, aged 95
A DECORATED Second World War hero has died with coronavirus in hospital – a month before his 96th birthday.
Barry Chambers cheated death during the war and was involved in the operation to liberate Burma from the Japanese in the conflict’s closing chapter before it ended in 1945.
The respected educator – who was the founding headteacher of Horndean School – had been serving with the Royal Navy during the war and was awarded the Burma Star for his efforts in the Far East.
But the 95-year-old was rushed Queen Alexandra Hospital last month after suffering a fall at his home in Petersfield and was diagnosed with Covid-19 a week later.
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He succumbed to the disease yesterday, just hours after a final video call with his family.
Barry’s heartbroken son, Frank, said his dad’s death came a tragic shock.
‘The hardest part for us was that he seemed to be getting through it after the first few days,’ the 67-year-old told The News.
‘We thought he was coming back home. We were getting his house organised for his return. We then heard he had taken a turn for the worst and he died yesterday.
‘It was a shock. But he had had a long innings. We had a Zoom call with him the morning before he died. He realised he was very ill and was accepting of it.’
Barry volunteered to join the navy at 18. As a Portsmouth rating, he entered the naval supply branch via a short officer cadet course at Oriel College, Oxford.
Posted overseas into the South East Asia Command, he served ashore at naval bases in Trincomalee and Colombo in Ceylon and on board Flower Class corvette HMS Nigella, on anti-submarine patrol in the Indian Ocean, where he was involved in the Burma landings in 1945.
He returned to Oriel College, Oxford in 1946 and gained an honours degree in history before training as a teacher.
He taught in state schools in Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Wiltshire, before his appointment in spring 1970 as foundation headteacher of the new, purpose-built school at Horndean, which opened in September 1970 with 181 11-year-olds.
By the time he retired in 1985, the number on roll had risen to 1,450, including a flourishing sixth form of 150 students.
Frank added: ‘My dad loved his job. He was well respected by staff and pupils.’
A former county chess player for Yorkshire and Wiltshire, Barry was the founder chairman of Petersfield Chess Club.
A keen walker at home and abroad, he was a member of Petersfield Ramblers’ Club from 1985 until his 89th year and its former chairman and committee member.
A table tennis enthusiast, he was still playing at 94 in home town of Petersfield.
Barry met his wife Enid, herself a Portsmouth-based Wren, just before their demobilisation in 1946.
They married in 1950 and celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 2010. Enid died in 2016.
Barry is succeeded by his son Frank, daughter Dorothy and four grandchildren: Lydia and Caroline, Matthew and Alasdair.
The family hope to stage a celebration of Barry’s life later in the year.