Alfred Barlow D-Day
|June 26, 1921
|Date of Death
|May 5, 2019
Alfred Barlow was born on 25 June 1921 in South Elmsall, Yorkshire, the youngest of 3 children. When he left school he took an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic and when qualified he was employed by a national delivery firm based in Manchester which run trucks around the country. Alfred was a Journeyman Fitter – he was required to travel (journey) around the country to repair lorries that had broken down. At the start of the war this was a reserved occupation but in February 1942, aged 21, Alfred was called up to join the army. He remembers his last day at work in the company, when all the directors came out to shake his hand as he left the building.
World War 2 Service
Alfred’s initial training was at Scarborough where he was made section leader. Because of Alfred’s motor mechanic training and his experience repairing vehicles ‘on the road’ Alfred was put in charge of Head Quarters (HQ) Squadron International Half-Track vehicles, which have regular wheels at the front for steering and continuous tracks at the back to propel the vehicle and carry most of the load. The purpose of this combination is to produce a vehicle with the cross-country capabilities of a tank and the handling of a wheeled vehicle.
The Normandy Campaign
In the preparation for D-Day Alfred’s role was to ensure that all the vehicles were sealed and made water-proof so that they could land in up to 4 feet (over a metre) of water and not stall. It was his proud claim that all of his vehicles made it safely through the water and up the beach when the time came to land the trucks.
Alfred landed on Sword Beach close to the River Orne on 6 June 1944 with the ‘Contact Detachment’ of Regional Head Quarters (RHQ) 3rd Reconnaissance (RECCE) Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. When asked by pupils on his school visits if he ever felt afraid, Alfred uses the time when he was on the Landing Craft in the hold of the boat, waiting for the TLC to dock on the beach. It was dark and Alfred did not know what to expect – in a way it was fear of the unknown. Then the TLC landed on the beach, the front of the Craft opened up and light flooded in. Alfred could see hundreds of other craft and thousands of troops and vehicles – and then training kicked in and he forgot his fear. He got on with the job of driving the Half-Track up the long, gently sloping beach that was Sword Beach and onto the pier head.
He explains his role of Reconnaissance as one of stealth and observation. He (and other men involved in Reconnaissance) were not required to engage with the enemy. Their role was to report back to RHQ the numbers of men, transport (and type) and the direction of travel of the enemy. They never wrote anything down – it could have been viewed as spying – and they were in normal khaki uniform. Everything had to be memorised and reported. Alfred feels that his cap badge illustrates how his group were in the forefront of action, as spearheading any attacks.
He stayed in this area until the remainder of his regiment arrived at Courseulles-sur-Mer on 19 June. Alfred’s responsibility in RHQ was to ensure military vehicles remained mobile and were recovered and repaired if broken down or damaged. He stayed with RHQ in the Caen area and actively participated in operations throughout July. Early in August 1944 he moved south to liaise with US forces following the German retreat. By the end of August 1944 Alfred was moving east to Belgium, Holland and ‘chasing the Germans back into Germany’.
Alfred was promoted to Corporal during the war and when hostilities ended in Germany in May 1945 he was sent to Palestine (as it was then known) as part of a peace-keeping mission. (In late 1945, in response to full-scale riots in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and bomb attacks on the railway system, British troops from the 1st Infantry and 6th Airborne Divisions had to be deployed in support of the civil police. When the 3rd Infantry Division arrived in Palestine in 1947, the number of British troops deployed there had risen to about 100,000)
In February 1946 Alfred had met his future wife Maisie. He was discharged from the army in January 1947 as a Vehicle Mechanic (Group A Class 1) and married Maisie (they celebrated 70 years of marriage in September 2017). Alfred settled in Romiley, Stockport and set up his own garage, doing motor repairs and selling petrol. He retired in 1962 and has used his active retirement as a founder member and supporter of Rescare (The Society for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities and their Families) and in later years as an active member of Stockport NVA. He and Maisie have been a strong supporters of the Schools Legacy Competitions.