BARLOW Albert Edward (725B)
5B KIA 19/4/18
The Barlow family had been living in the district from the late 1850s. Albert Edward (Bill) Barlow was a grandson of Thomas Barlow (c 1830-1917) who was the patriarch of the family. Thomas had been, variously, a local mailman, contractor, labourer and he had operated a coach service as well as having land at Woranga. He had married Mary Kent and there were 10 children.
Even though Thomas had 7 sons, by the time of WW1 the number of potential Barlow enlistments was limited. Only 5 of the 7 sons were still in the district: Thomas, Charles, Henry/Harry, Caleb and Albert. Moreover, the ages of this second generation were generally too old for enlistment and, at the same time, the ages of the next generation were too young. Also, Thomas – the second of Thomas’s sons – had 3 daughters. Realistically, there was only a handful of local Barlow men who could have enlisted in WW1: two sons of Charles Barlow – Albert, born 1887 and Frederick, born 1892 – and one son of Caleb Barlow – Albert Edward, born 1897.
More than for most other families, the issue of enlistment was of fundamental significance for the Barlow family. Principally, this was because of the activities of Charles Barlow, brother of Caleb and uncle of Albert Edward Barlow. Charles Barlow was one of the most outspoken Imperial Loyalists in the Shire of Alberton. He was on the local recruiting committee. He spoke regularly at soldiers’ farewells and welcomes. He participated and officiated in all manner of pro-War and Imperial functions, from recruiting drives and pro-conscription campaigns to memorial services and the unveiling of honour rolls at local schools. He was also a local councillor and had served as Shire President just before WW1, and he was elected to the same position in 1918. He also served on the local JP court. Obviously, he had a very high profile in the local community. Yet it appears that neither of his sons enlisted. Rather, it was his nephew, Albert Edward Barlow who enlisted as an eighteen-year-old and who made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. Post 147 and Post 148 described how Barlow himself expressed public regret at his sons’ reluctance to enlist and noted how his authority to speak on issues such as sacrifice and patriotism was being questioned, particularly by returned soldiers.
There was yet another twist to this background because it appears that prior to his son enlisting – in January 1916 – Caleb Barlow had himself attempted to enlist. Caleb Barlow, who gave his age as 45 – he was in fact 47 yo – had his medical in Yarram on 16/7/15. Not surprisingly, given his age, his enlistment did not go ahead. However, unlike his brothers – Charles was only 2 years older – Caleb did make the attempt to enlist; and his young son was the only one from the Barlow family at that time who did enlist. It is also possible that Caleb Barlow’s family had not enjoyed the same social and financial success as that of his brothers’ families, particularly the family of Charles Barlow.
Albert Edward Barlow was born in Devon, grew up in the local area and went to North Devon State School. Another student from the same school – Edwin Alford (Post 158) – was killed at Hazebrouck, only a few kilometres from where Barlow was killed 5 days later. In another cruel link, Albert played football for Devon North and Patrick Sexton (Post 159) , also a keen local footballer, played for the opposing Devon team. Sexton was killed at Mont Kemmel only 2 days before Edward’s death, and, again, only a short distance away. Probably the last football match in which these 2 local footballers played against each other was in early July 1914, when Devon beat North Devon.
Private Barlow enlisted in late January 1916 (29/1/16). He was nearly 19 yo. He had his medical in Yarram with Dr Crooks and was then re-examined in Melbourne. He variously gave his occupation as ‘labourer’ and ‘farm labourer’. His father had a small farm at North Devon so it is likely that besides helping his father, Edward worked on other local farms. On the enlistment form he gave his religion as Church of England but others in the extended Barlow family appear to have been strong Methodists.
The Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative published on 5/5/16 a detailed account of the send-off for 4 young soldiers – Albert Barlow, Henry & George McKenzie and Clyde Rendell – from Devon North. The event was held at the local school and it was very well attended. Cr Barlow, Albert’s uncle, attended to award the shire medallion and card – each man also received a wristlet watch from the community – and he was the key speaker. He used the occasion to speak for conscription and asked, Why should not the burden be borne by all, and not by a few. He also offered that, Conscription is the only means of ending this terrible war. He also specifically drew attention to his nephew, noting that, He was glad to see one Barlow representative going – he will not be the last – and these fine men will not be the last lot sent form here. (Applause).
Others there that night gave the usual stirring reminders to the young men:
And remember, boys, if the worst comes to the worst, and you are to die for your country, do it with your back to the wall; ask no mercy and give none. (Loud applause).
The individual soldiers responded and thanked their well-wishers. Albert Barlow … thanked all the ladies and gentlemen, and hoped to be be back once more with them after the war.
However, of the 4 men farewelled that night, Barlow and Rendell were killed and George Mckenzie was seriously wounded and discharged on medical grounds. Only Henry McKenzie survived intact.
Private Barlow joined 37 Battalion and left for England on 3/6/16. He undertook further training in England and then moved across to France in September 1916. At that point, he was taken on strength of 5 Battalion and remained in that unit until his death.
There was an extended period of hospitalisation – he was transferred to hospital back in England – with trench feet from mid December 1916. The convalescence lasted 52 days and even when he was discharged in mid March 1917, the medical notes recorded,
Circulation poor and fairly painful. Feet still tender.
He rejoined his unit in France in early May 1917. However, there were still problems with his feet and at the start of 1918 there was another brief period of hospitalisation.
Private Barlow was another victim of shell fire. However on this occasion, his unit was well behind the front line, near Meteren some 20 Km S-W from Ypres. They had been withdrawn from the front line that very day and one witness statement had the troops as far back as 3 miles from the front. The war diary for the battalion records that on the night of the 19th April,
Billets of Bn. Shelled at night caused casualties 4 ORs killed and 9 ORs wounded.
Private Barlow was one of the 4 killed.
There were numerous witness statements concerning his death. Essentially, he was hit by HE shellfire at about 8.30 pm when the troops were in their billet, an old mill. There was one explicit account that had his head blown off; but another had him hit by a ‘piece of shrapnel to the heart ‘which killed him instantly; and yet another had him ‘hit by a piece of shell through the head’. While these are significant differences, there was consensus that death was instant.
There were several references to the others killed in the same bombardment:
I saw him [Barlow] killed by an H.E. shell which killed 4 and wounded 5 others. 2 kilos out of “Caestres” near River Somme. Buried at Borre, cemetery – cross on grave. Enlisted Victoria 3-6-16. Left with 37th Battn. About 20, 5ft 9ins, stocky built, dark, nicknamed Ben (sic). Came from Gippsland – his people – farmers. Barnes H. C. 540B 5th Battn H.Q. 7/9/18
I did not see him killed but I helped to dig “Bill” Barlow’s (D. Company) grave in the new cemetery at Borre near Hazebrouch (sic), he was buried with 4 others in the same grave (Pte. Woldron, Pte. Brown, one British soldier who we could not identify and an Australian). I saw the cross giving particulars. Pte. J. Kendall 5th Battn. 5/9/18
Private William Waldron (7340) was also in 5 Battalion. He was from Stawell. He was killed on the same day as Private Barlow, as was Private Thomas Sheridan Brown (3731), also of 5 Battalion, from Bendigo. Privates Brown, Barlow and Waldron are all buried in Borre British Cemetery. They are all in Plot I, Row A, in graves 14, 15 and 16 respectively.
There were several references in the witness statements to Private Barlow being a good sportsman: footballer, athlete and boxer. One even referred to the fact that his front teeth were missing. He was described as … very well known and liked in the Battn.
It appears that the cable advising of the death came in early May (7/5/18) and news of his death was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 10/5/18:
The sad and regretful news came through on Wednesday [8/5/18] that Private A. Barlow, the eldest son of Mr. Caleb Barlow, had been killed in action in France. Naturally a shock came to the parents, when they were informed that the supreme sacrifice had been paid by their son, who was a fine athletic young man, and had enlisted nearly two years ago.
The following death notice appeared in the same edition:
BARLOW – Killed in action on 19th April, somewhere in France, Albert Edward, eldest son of Caleb and Dinah Barlow, brother of Daisy, Percy, Harold and Thomas, aged 20 years and 1 month. On active service 1 year and 11 months. [At that time, Percy would have been either 18 or 19 years old.]
He marched away so bravely,
His young head proudly held;
His footsteps never faltered,
His courage never failed.
When on the battlefield
He calmly took his place;
He fought and died for Britain,
For country and his race.
The midnight stars are shining on a grave I cannot see,
There sleeping without dreaming is the one so dear to me.
No matter how I pray, dear Albert, no matter how I call,
There is nothing left to answer but your photo on the wall.
– Inserted by his loving parents, North Devon.
The personal effects to reach the family in September 1918 were:
Disc, Silver medal, Metal wrist watch (damaged) & strap [presumably the one presented at his farewell], Testament, Wallet, Photos, 3 Cards.
In May 1919, the local solicitor, BP Johnson wrote, on behalf of the mother, to Base Records to ascertain if she was eligible for the ‘mother’s badge’ [First World War Mothers’ and Widows’ Badge]. In June, Base Records replied, attaching a … form of application for the badge issued to the nearest female relative.
Albert Edward Barlow’s name is featured on both Shire of Alberton memorials – roll of honor and soldiers’ memorial – and it also appears on the honor rolls for the state schools of Devon North and Alberton and also on the roll for the district of Devon North.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 1, The Alberton Project
National Archives file for BARLOW Albert Edward
Roll of Honour: Albert Edward Barlow
First World War Embarkation Roll: Albert Edward Barlow
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Albert Edward Barlow
Honour and Awards: Albert Edward Barlow