‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

Date of Death:26/08/1916
Rank: Private
Service No:32929
Regiment: Manchester Regiment
Unit: 23rd Bn
Thiepval Memorial
Panel Reference: Pier & Face 13A or 14C

John,born in Royton in 1891, was the only child of Robert & Alice Barlow of 33 Queen Street,Royton. Another boy,Joseph,had died in infancy. Robert was the Secretary of the Royton branch of the Oldham Operative Spinner's Association and son John worked at the Vine Mill.
John enlisted in early 1916 and was summoned to the colours on February 5th,1916. It looks like he signed up with a friend from the Vine Mill, Harry Brassington, and together they spent time together in the 27th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Southport before they were allocated to different battalions. Also reporting for duty at Ashton the same day was Abraham Singleton. John & Abraham were sent together from England to France, arriving on July 4th 1916 and being posted to the 23rd Manchesters the following day.The battalion has been formed in Manchester in November 1914 as the 8th of the City's Pals Battalions. They were one of the army's new Bantam Battalions. These were for men under 5 foot 3 inches tall (the old, prewar, army height restriction) and  were drawn from industrial and coal mining areas where short stature was no sign of weakness and probably also rather more common.
On July 18th the battalion had arrived in the area of the Battle of the Somme where after severe fighting the British had gained possession of Trones Wood, Bernafay Wood, and Montauban. The French Army on the right had pushed forward a similar distance to the east and north-east bringing the junction of the two armies together near Maltz Horn Farm, half a mile south of Trones Wood. Two ruined villages, Guillemont and Ginchy, lay on the right flank of the British advance, and father to the south lay Falfemont Farm. All of these points were strongly fortified by the enemy.
On July 20th the British and French launched a joint attack. The 15th Sherwood Foresters who were in the trenches opposite Maltz Horn Farm had been chosen to make the attack but the day previous they had been badly shaken by shelling and gas which left only two of it's four companies in a fit state to operate. The 104th Brigade, of which the 23rd Manchesters were part of, were instructed to supply supporting troops and at very short notice two companies of the 23rd were ordered up and reached their positions at 3am. They Sherwood Foresters went over the top at 5am in an attack that proved unsuccessful. The rising sun illuminated the troops as they advanced, the company on the right reached their objectives but were forced back, that on the left was devastated by enemy fire upon topping a ridge. Survivors from both arrived in dribs and drabs to the trenches manned by the 23rd Manchesters.The French attacking to the right of the Sherwood Foresters had made headway and the two companies of the 23rd Manchesters in the front line were sent forward at 10:45 to secure their flank with the remainding two companies also moving up, one was ordered to follow the other two and the remainder was to hold the trench. The attacking troops again reached the shattered German trench but were swept by machine gun fire and were forced to retreat. Word then came from the French that a German counterattack was coming,and the men of the 23rd and the hard hit 15th Sherwood Foresters (who counted amongst their number Royton man Frank Sutcliffe) dug in for an attack that thankfully never materialised.
The following days found the men of the 23rd under prolonged German shellfire with a fair few deaths and many more being wounded and shellshocked. They were relieved from the frontline on July 25th. On July 29th the battalion was lent to the 90th Brigade to provide working and carrying parties to support an attack on Guillemont. In this action 5 men from the 23rd Manchesters were listed as being killed, 30 wounded, 4 gassed and 11 missing. The death toll would later be established as eight, one of whom was Royton lad Albert Hill. Two other Royton men were killed in the fighting at Guillemont that day - Alfred Bardsley and Samuel Swinson.
After a spell out of the front line the battalion, on August 19th, took up position again on the front line. The position taken up was in a very poor condition with many dead British and German bodies to be found. The battalion managed to improve their position greatly before being temporarily relieved on August 22, they were back again on August 24th. They were neighbours to the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers who were to launch an attack the following day at 17:45. The Manchesters were to act in support carrying up rations, ammunition and water. Over the course of the 25th and 26th nine men from the battalion were to die, John Barlow was one of them.
The others to die were:

BARNARD LEWIS 23 Lieutenant from Manitoba,Canada                    
CUNNINGHAM ARTHUR from Manchester                    
GAVAGHAN MICHAEL 23 Lance Corporal 21731 from Rochdale                        
GREEN JOSEPH 28  21586 from Miles Platting                    
HOWELL JOHN 34249 from Oldham                            
LUPTON ENOCH 33431 from Oldham                        
RODGERS ROBERT 34421 from Manchester    
WAITE WILLIAM 20 27237 from Oldham

His commanding office wrote to his parents:

"Dear Mr and Mrs Barlow - I have the painful duty of informing you of the death of your son J.Barlow(32929). He was killed on the night of August 25th while carrying out his duty during our tour of the trenches.He was buried on the battlefield,as all heroes are.Please accept my sincere sympathy on losing your son.Try not to mourn his loss,but glory in the fact that he
has done his duty"

The Oldham Chronicle of 9/9/1916 reported on the Memorial Service that had been held at St.Paul's,Royton for John & another Royton casualty,Eric Mellor:
First the Rev JH Humphrey went over the letter received by Barlow's parents and then..

"I am quite sure of that - that John Barlow would do his duty.My mind goes back to him as a boy who used to take the deepest interest in the foreign mission work of the Church,and whose missionary box fo rmany many years always headed the list of "amounts collected".That was merely a sidelight into his life generally.He was a good,honest,God fearing young fellow,a credit to his parents,to his church and to all who had the pleasure of his friendship.He never came home on leave without making it his rule to receive the blessed sacrament. The last time he was with us was at Whitsuntide.In one of his letters he tells how under trying conditions he chaplain administered holy communion.Shells flying,and an air duel up above,and a full view of the battlefield.
"Anybody coming out here will say his prayers if he has never done before".
On the day on which he was killed he wrote his last letter to his parents,and how solemn the words - his last words - ought to be regarded by us! Listen to them:
"I only wish I could see you,if it was only once more.The times that I have said my prayers in the trenches - well, I cannot count them!You must keep on hoping and praying for the best While I am away.We shall have to wait and see what God's will is.I am all right,mother. I hope you are the same.If anybody wanted a wish fulfilling it is the lads out here.They want peace,and pray for it.I will write again as soon as I get more time.Till then,
God bless and guide you till we meet".
Till we meet! Yes, the brave young soldier has fought and laid down his life doing his duty.He is now resting from all the awful din and fury of the contest.He has got the peace which God has now given him.Till we meet.Let us pray as humbly and sincerely as he did and then indeed his last wish will be fulfilled."
Special hymns were sung and special prayers said and the "Dead March" was played at the conclusion of the service.

From the Chronicle of 23/8/1916
In affectionate remembrance of our dear son,Private John Barlow,Manchester Regiment,killed in
action near Guillemont,France on August 25th,1916
Can a father and mother forget
The son they loved so well?
God takes them first who are the best,
His vacant place no one can fill.
Father and Mother.

I often sit and think of you
When I am all alone
For memory is the only thing
That death can call its own
Sweetheart Beatrice