Sir Robert Barrie

Harrogate is twinned with Barrie in Ontario, Canada, and is Harrogate’s most recent twinning of 10 years, however its origins date back two centuries.
Harrogate’s link to Barrie is through Sir Robert Barrie, who the town is named after. Robert Barrie was a British soldier who commanded HMS Dragon and sank, captured or destroyed 85 american vessels during the war of 1812. In early 1824, Barrie took up the post of commissioner of the Naval Dockyard in Kingston, Upper Canada. He was instrumental in developing the facilities at Kingston, as well as supporting the building of the Rideau and Welland canals.

Robert Barrie went to the Barrie area to inspect the Nine Mile Portage, a key trading route from Kempenfelt Bay to the Nottawasaga River and Georgian Bay. Lady Julia Wharton-Ingilby (a relation of Ripley’s infamous Ingilby family), Barrie’s wife thought the area at the end of Kempenfelt Bay was one of the most beautiful places on earth and suggested they settle there. In 1833, the area was named Barrie in his honour.

In mid-1837, Barrie returned to England and King William IV made him a knight commander of the Royal Guelphic Order. He was promoted to rear-admiral in 1837 and knight commander of the Order of the Bath in 1840. Barrie lived in retirement in Swarthdale, Lancashire and died on 7th June, 1841. His final resting place is in All Saints Church, in the shadow of Ripley Castle in Harrogate.

Sir Robert Barrie

Commonwealth Graves at Stonefall Cemetery

During the Second World War, Harrogate itself was an important administration, training, medical and logistical base. Throughout the war, No. 7 Personnel Reception Centre was based in Harrogate and many of the large hotels in the centre of town were requisitioned for RAF staff.
By 1942, two Bomber Groups were based across Yorkshire. No.4 Group was based at airfeield to the south and east of York and for much of the war their headquarters were at Heslington Hall on the outskirts of York. No. 6 Group of the Royal Canadian Air Force was located to the North of York, with their headquarters at Allerton Park near Knaresborough, which the Canadians nicknamed ‘Castle Dismal’. Between them, 4 and 6 Groups flew more then 102,000 sorties from Yorkshire and lost over 2,200 aircrafts on operations.

The squadrons of 4 and 6 Groups suffered heavy losses throughout the war. Many aircraft were shot down, but others limped home with badly wounded crew aboard. These injured airmen were cared for in hospitals across Yorkshire, including in the military wing of Harrogate General Hospital. In 194, with casualties increasing, the decision was taken to create a much large air forces section in Stonefall Cemetery. By the end of the Second World War, more than 950 service personnel had been laid to rest in the air forces section, with over two thirds of those buried or commemorated here were members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. After the war, the Ontario Horticultural Association presented the Commission with the Canadian maple trees planted here in the war graves plot.

Aircrew of No. 405 (Vancouver) Squadron RCAF board their Wellington Mk II at Pocklington, July 1941