A York police officer killed in a wartime air raid has finally had a memorial headstone placed on his grave - more than 80 years after his death.

Robert Smith, an LNER Railway Police Constable who served at York Railway Station during the Second World War, was one of 94 people who lost their lives during the Baedeker air raid on the city during the early hours of April 29, 1942.

Until now there has never been a memorial stone for Robert, although in 2017 the British Transport Police (BTP) History Group unveiled a wooden cross on his resting place.

But now, a permanent stone has been unveiled on the site at York Cemetery. 

A memorial and dedication service was held on Monday, April 29, attended by York-based LNER, the BTP History Group, the ‘Raids Over York’ heritage project, and York Normandy veteran Ken Cooke.

In a moving ceremony, Ken placed a wreath on Robert's grave. 

York Press: The new headstone at York CemeteryThe new headstone at York Cemetery (Image: LNER)

Ken said: "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."

Hundreds of people were injured in the Luftwaffe Baedeker raids which hit historic targets, with York one of five English cathedral cities bombed. Another York victim was  LNER worker William Milner.

Warning of an imminent air-raid attack had already been given that fateful night as the late running 10.15pm London King’s Cross to Edinburgh sleeper service arrived at York station.

Eight hundred passengers had been safely evacuated from the train when the first bomb fell.


Debris from the roof set fire to the station and was further fuelled by hundreds of gallons of paraffin in the lamp-room. Robert was working in the station’s post room and was killed. William also lost his life.

Until now there has never been a memorial stone for Robert, however in 2017, the BTP History Group unveiled a wooden cross for Robert and his family on his resting place.

York Press: The memorial service at York CemeteryThe memorial service at York Cemetery (Image: LNER)

Before a wooden cross was placed on Robert's grave in 2017, it had been unmarked.

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."

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

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 April 29, 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, of 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.”