Harold Barlow had three cousins who were killed during the War – Geoffrey Bagshawe, Basil Carver and Oswald Carver. He was the son of Frank and Mary of “Woodville”, Marple and Ystymeolwyn Hall, Montgomery. He had been born in Marple on 29 August 1891 and, as with most middle class boys of his generation, was educated at boarding school. The 1901 census found him a pupil at the Down School in Colwell, Herefordshire. Later, he attended Sywell House School in Llandudno and Leighton Park in reading.
When War was declared in August 1914, Harold was working for the family firm of Thomas Barlow & Barlow, believed to have been involved in the importation of cloths and silks. He was also a member of the Manchester University Officer Training Corps. On 2 February 1915, he applied for a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 20th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (the 4th “Salford Pals”). It was quickly granted and he will have gone overseas with the newly formed Battalion at the beginning of 1916. He will have seen action with the Pals during the Battle of the Somme in the summer and early autumn of that year and was promoted to Lieutenant during this time.
In February 1917, a request to transfer to the Royal Flying Corps was granted and he joined 9th Squadron as an observer. At 11am on 18 June, Lieutenant Reginald W Ellis took off with Harold as his observer on a photographic reconnaissance mission. Their plane was an RE8, numbered A4290.
There is some conflicting information about what happened to the plane. Some reports suggest it was brought down by German anti-aircraft fire. Others suggest that they were shot down by Manfred von Richthofen, the famous “Red Baron”. The difficulty arises from the fact that there were two other British RE8s in the same area at the same down which were also brought down. One of them was also from 9th Squadron. German combat reports claim that one was shot by their anti-aircraft gunners; the others in combat with German fighters.
However, the consensus of reports suggests that Ellis and Barlow had, indeed, become von Richthofen’s 53rd “kill”, north of the Belgian town of Ypres. His combat report for the day records that that he fired some 200 shots from a close distance and then flew over the British plane. “In this moment I noticed that both pilot and observer were lying dead in their machine. The plane continued without falling, in uncontrolled curves to the ground. Driven by the wind, it fell into Struywe’s farm where it began to burn after hitting the ground.”
The plane had crashed on the German side of the front line and Harold was originally posted as being missing. Reports reached Marple that he had not been injured and had been taken prisoner. The reports were mistaken and both men had died. They were buried by the Germans. However, over the course of the War, the location of their graves was lost and they are now commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Arras. It was not until 17 April 1918 that the War Office made an official determination that he had been killed on 18 June 1917.
Further information about Harold, including a photograph, can be found in the book “Remembered” by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.