Killed in Action November 16th 1914 Age 32
James was born circa 1883 with his place of birth variously given as Biddle (sic) and Tunstall. His mother, Mary, resided at Heath’s New Row, Black Bull and it would appear that it was at Robert Heath’s works that James worked at various times as a puddler. He married Louisa Barlow in 1907 and together they had four children; Elsie May (26.6.1907), Florrie (3.10.1909), Stanley (26.1.1912) and a son born two days after his posting to France and named James (2.9.1914). By this time the family were living at Newcastle (5, Old Roebuck Lane), where they had been living at the time of the 1911 census and it was to this address that communication was sent from the War Office.
Already a trained soldier, having enlisted initially at Tunstall in 1901 at the age of 18, James served in the 2nd Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment, both at home and Ireland. He was on the Army Reserve in 1909, and then returned to the colours, re-engaging at Warrington in March 1913 into the 1st Battalion King’s, 2nd Division. Fortunately his army record has survived. When war broke out on the August 4th 1914 the battalion crossed the channel landing on August 30th, and moving forward in readiness to fight in the Battles of the Marne and Aisne in early September. The following months saw the men move north into Belgium where during October and November the first Battle of Ypres was fought. In late October another Biddulph soldier, pal John Bailey, who served in the same battalion was to fall in battle.
Between November 1st and 16th the battalion fought in the Westhooke-Polygon Wood area where heavy losses were inflicted on the men by the elite 11th Prussian Guard. It was during this period that our brave soldier, James Barlow, received serious wounds from which he sadly died on the November 16th aged 32 years.
His death was reported in the Sentinel. However, this leads to something of a puzzle. His service records give the month of his death as November - however, the Weekly Sentinel reported his death as occurring in December.
Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel – January 2nd 1915
At a meeting of the Newcastle Relief Committee, Mr. Forster “also reported on the death of Private James Barlow, of the 1st King’s Liverpool Regiment, who was killed in action (place unknown) on December 16th.”
Louisa was left with four young children – the youngest only a baby. She applied for a pension and received 22/6d per week for herself and the children from June 21st 1915. Louisa must have wondered as to what had become of her husband’s belongings and a poignant letter written to the Infantry Record Office still survives, although there is no documentation surviving to provide an answer:
March 16th 1915
Having wrote to the War Office about the belongings of my husband Pte James Barlow, 1st Battalion Liverpool Rgt. who has died of wounds received in action I have had a reply to enquire at Preston as all property is sent on to there. Sir I should like to know if you have received a watch belonging to my husband – it is a Silver Hunter number unknown. ‘....?....’ chain bearing a Jubilee sixpence on the end. If so I should like it sent on to me and oblige.
Mrs L Barlow, 5 Old Roe Buck Lane, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffs.
Above: Transcribed copy of letter from Louisa Barlow
Private Barlow was buried near to where he fell and now rests in the beautifully kept Railway Chateau Cemetery Ypres. He is remembered on both Biddulph memorials and the Brindley Ford memorial.
Mike Turnock & Elaine Heathcote