John Lancashire Barlow (killed in action23rd September, 1917) 

John Barlow was the son of Alexander and Sophie Barlow of Wivenhoe Hall, Wivenhoe.  He was very fond of shooting and a good shot at an age when many children are still in nursery school.  So when war was declared on the 4th August 1914 it was therefore perhaps not much of a surprise that John, like so many others enlisted into the Army.

He joined the 8th Essex Cyclist Corps, which was part of the Essex Regiment, and became a despatch rider and served with that regiment until December 1914, when he had to leave the Army. 

The reason, well he�d been just a little bit naughty!  Because John had been just fifteen years of age when he enlisted.

Out of the Army and out of the war John pursued his interest in aviation.  Being much under age, he went to Bournemouth Aviation School, where he took his pilots certificate.  He was still too young to rejoin the Army, so he continued his study of aviation by joining the Wells Aviation Factory.

Once the turned eighteen, John joined the Royal Flying Corps and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.  His military flying training was rapid, with John taking a month to qualify for his pilot wings, which were presented to him in April 1917.

So John went to war for a second time, not on a bike, but this time in an aeroplane. Not the sleek jet fighters that we see today, nor the famous Spitfire and Hurricane of World War II fame, but biplanes such as the Sopworth Pup or BE2.  Planes which if you look at their pictures have an open cockpit and look rather like they�re held together with sellotape, paper and string.

John would have been exposed to the wind and the rain, as well as oil from his own engine.  So each time he flew, he would have wrapped himself up in gloves, coat, goggles, scarf and flying helmet, it wouldn�t have been particularly comfortable!

While in 1917 the planes were much better than those used at the start of the war, this was still the early days of military flying and it would have been quite a task just to keep the plane in the air, let alone find time to fight the enemy.

John was sent to the front and took part in the Battle of Messines, and many other fights over the skies of France and Belgium.  It is reported that he took a good toll of enemy machines and was a brilliant pilot, popular with both his fellow officers and the enlisted men.

He was killed while flying over France with 40 Squadron RFC, on 23rd September, 1917.  It is said that in the fatal dogfight John took on six enemy aeroplanes, before his plane was forced into a nosedive.

For his bravery John was Mentioned in Despatches.  

After John had died, his Brigadier General wrote the following message to John�s father �No loss experienced by us this summer has been more regretted than that of your son.  He was so gallant and cheerful that his example will always be remembered by those that knew him�.

John Barlow is buried in the Bruay Communal Cemetery near Arras in Pas de Calais Department of France, and his name is inscribed on the War Memorial in St Mary’s Churchyard, Wivenhoe.   

" We will remember them "


Researched and written by Darrin Keeble, November, 2002