LNER police officer honoured 82 years after he was killed in WW2 air raid at York Station

Jennie Henry was at the memorial for an LNER officer killed during an air raid in York 82 years ago to the day

A headstone has been unveiled for a police officer who died during a Second World War air raid more than 80 years after he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave.

LNER railway police constable Robert Smith was killed during the Baedeker air raid in York during the early hours of 29 April 1942.

Mr Smith, who served at York Railway Station during the war, was among 94 people who were killed in the raid.

Hundreds more were injured in Luftwaffe raids which hit historic targets, with York one of five England cathedral cities bombed.

York Station was badly damaged by Luftwaffe bombs during an air raid on 29 April 1942. Credit: National Rail Museum/Science Museum Group Collection

The raid saw three platforms destroyed and caused paraffin used to light the station to go up in flames, engulfing the parcel office where Mr Smith was on duty.

He was remembered along with another LNER worker, William Milner, who was also killed in the raid, during a memorial and dedication service at York Cemetery to mark the 82nd anniversary.

Until now, his grave was overgrown and unmarked. However, his story started coming to light in 2016, through work by the British Transport Police (BTP) History Group.

Members of that group, along with representatives of LNER, the ‘Raids Over York’ heritage project, and Normandy veteran Ken Cooke, came together for the ceremony today, where a wreath was laid at the site of the new headstone.

People came together to honour police officer Robert Smith, 82 years after he was killed in York. Credit: North News

David Horne, managing director at LNER, said: “With no family of his own having been located, to see Robert Smith’s railway family come together for his memorial service ensures that we will never forget his immense courage and bravery.

"There is now a lasting memorial to a dedicated LNER colleague and family man, who sacrificed his own life to save others.”

Mr Cooke, who served with the Green Howards, said: “It's really important we recognise these civilian people who did brave deeds. I' m very honoured to be part of that ceremony."

He added: "You must keep going as long as you can to remember the things that happened and those people who gave their lives. We must never forget, and a headstone to Robert Smith makes sure that he will never be forgotten.”

Nick Beilby, from the Raids Over York heritage project, said: “Through our work on the Raids Over York project, we were interested to discover more about Robert Smith and the role that he played on the night of 29 April 1942.

"For him to be recognised and memorialised is testament to his bravery and sacrifice and something of which we are immensely proud.”

John Owen, BTP History Group, said: “Robert’s story was first uncovered when researching the Roll of Honour of fallen railway police officers. When we realised he had received very little recognition, we worked on finding out more about his life.

"His grave at York Cemetery had been unmarked and unkept for many years. Now there is a fitting tribute for everyone to pay their respects to a former colleague and to honour Robert’s life.”

During the service, a wreath was also laid on the grave of William Milner, who is buried close by.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…