Ralph James Barwick was born in County Durham in 1924. He had been born out of wedlock and, in keeping with accepted practice back in these times, it was all kept very Hush-Hush and arrangements were made for him to be fostered within the family unit. Meanwhile it was decided that perhaps it would be best were the young mother to start a new life elsewhere. Thereafter there was no mention of ‘Jimmy’, as he was now known by his adoptive parents.

A young Hilda Barwick later married her boyfriend, John Small, and they set up home together in Tottenham, many miles away from their places of birth. They were later to have a further 4 children of their own (Charles, Fred, Peter, and Beryl) and their happy family unit lived in Summerhill Road, Tottenham.

It was early in 1950 that Charles (Charlie Small), was conscripted into the army. He joined the Royal Artillery and was posted to Korea where there was a bitter conflict between North Korea and South Korea. It then transpired, by sheer coincidence, that Jimmy Barwick was aboard the same ship. Neither of them knew each other but, without knowing it, they had more in common than they thought.

 During a short period of shore leave, Charlie Small took his new pal Jimmy home to meet his Mum. It was only then they realised that Jimmy was in fact the very same Jimmy who had been adopted back in 1924. So both Jimmy Barwick and Hilda Small got to know each other after many years, and he was then introduced to his other siblings, who had no previous knowledge of their half-brother. Unfortunately, their time together was short lived.


This is a photograph of Lance Bombardier James Barwick. Unfortunately, he was never to meet his mother, siblings or indeed nieces and nephews again, as he was killed on the 8th July 1950. He was aboard HMS Jamaica on his way to Korea. The ship was hit by a missile and he was the only one that died and was buried at sea.

See below a short description of the conflict as reported in Wikipedia.

 The Korean War
Fighting between North and South Korea had broken out on 25 June 1950, whilst HMS Jamaica was on passage to Japan, she and her escort HMS Black Swan were ordered to rendezvous with the American light cruiser USS Juneau off the east coast of Korea to bombard advancing North Korean troops.

On 2nd July, a North Korean supply convoy was returning from Chumunjin when it was spotted by the Allied ships. The escorting motor torpedo boats and motor gun boats turned to fight but three torpedo boats and both gun boats were sunk without inflicting any damage on the Allied ships.

They resumed bombarding coastal targets. Six days later HMS Jamaica was hit by a 75-millimetre (3.0 in) shell that killed six and wounded five.


The death and heroic actions of Lance Bombardier Barwick was reported in the local newspaper after his parents had received a telegram announcing his death.

“Regret to inform you that your son was killed in action off Korea on board H.M.S Jamaica”

It also announced that Ralph (Jimmy) Barwick had a fiancée in Surrey, and they had intended to marry when he came home from the Far East.

But by far the most incredible outcome from his heroic death was when the family received a personal letter of condolence from none other than General Douglas MacArthur who was commander in Chief of the United Nations Command in Korea.


His letter to the family is shown below



Following receipt of the letter from General MacArthur an article appeared in the Sunderland Evening Echo reporting on the sincerest of letters received by the family.


This commemorative memorial dedicated to many victims of the Korean war is located in Korea
and includes Ralph James Barwick - Royal Artillery



Although she had never met her Uncle, his niece Janet writes:

“I think there is a lot more to the story but have no way of ever finding out. I've got his medals as well and although I never knew him it feels only right, I keep the things. My poor Nan must have been devastated, firstly losing him to her parents, finding him after so many years and then losing him again to the sea.

I found this really sad and my poor Nan must have been so sad which is why I'm trying to keep his memory alive for her. Although I never knew him, he'll always be part of me. I was extremely close to my Nan and I'm sure this will make her very happy and proud of the son she barely knew, knowing that he is being spoke about and thought about after all these years”


Should you be interested in more detailed accounts of the shelling of HMS Jamaica, please CLICK the Key on the following links
   H.M.S. Jamaica - Korean War Service 1950
By John Hegarty. Lieutenant Commander RN Rtd
(Original Website page re-created)
Website -Britain’s Small Wars but link mislaid
 H.M.S. Jamaica -The Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast
by Boy Seaman 1/C, Michael Stephens


Article written by Alan Swain - based upon original notes from Janet Roberts. -February 2021

Background Image - Cap Badge for The Royal Artillery