Biographical article on Colonel Hilaro Barlow

Hilaro Barlow served as a Captain in the 2nd Somerset Light Infantry before the war. He was the Commanding Officer of the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion from its formation in 1942 until 1944, when he was promoted to Colonel and made Second-in-Command of the 1st Airlanding Brigade (25 February 1944).

In the event of the battle being victorious he was designated to become the Town Commandant of Arnhem. After the battle, he and his assistant, Lieutenant-Commander Arnoldus Wolters of the Dutch Navy, were also to go through top secret lists of members of the Dutch Resistance in the area, and organise them into specific groups - intelligence, sabotage, etc.

After the disappearance of Major General Urquhart, Barlow was given temporary command of the brigade throughout Monday 18 September and Tuesday morning, while Brigadier Hicks assumed command of the division. Upon Urquhart's return on Tuesday morning, he realised that the units fighting in Arnhem had no overall leader as Brigadier Lathbury had been wounded and was now presumably captured. He decided to send Colonel Barlow, the ideal choice, to the area to take control of the 1st Parachute Brigade, the 11th Parachute Battalion, and the 2nd Battalion, The South Staffords, and then produce a coordinated advance towards the bridge.

Barlow and his batman, Lance-Corporal Raymond Singer, sped off to the area in a jeep, but they were never heard from again. Official reports state that Barlow never made it to the area and that he simply disappeared*. However Captain John McCooke of the 2nd South Staffords confirmed that the Colonel did indeed reach the area.

'Lieutenant Colonel McCardie had sent me back to make sure our transport didn’t come any further forward. I found the transport near the junction Utrechtseweg and the lower road. Colonel Barlow appeared there with his batman and asked me about the situation in front. I decided to go forward with him. Heavy mortaring started, and we made a dash for one of the houses which backed onto the river. But the one we got into was on fire in the top storey and it had some bodies in it, and we were being sniped at. So we decided to move on to another building, two houses along. We arranged that I would go first, Colonel Barlow second, and his batman third. As I ran, I heard a crash behind me and was slightly injured in the leg by a mortar-bomb fragment. I collapsed in the doorway of the house we were making for. No one followed me in. I looked out, back down the street, but couldn’t see anything. I went upstairs and looked out of the front bedroom window. There I saw what I can only describe as a mess on the pavement – which I presumed was Colonel Barlow – and a dead body behind that, which must have been his batman. I can never understand why Colonel Barlow’s death was always described as a mystery. I reported the incident when I was debriefed after the battle and after the war wrote to some of the authors whose books kept referring to the mystery’.

Sequel: In 1954 Colonel John Waddy (B-Company Commander 156 Parachute Battalion) was in Arnhem and he was given a blackened and crumpled silver cigarette case on which the name ‘Waddy’ could be discerned. When John Waddy returned home and had the case straightened and cleaned by a jeweller, it was found that the case had been presented by John Waddy’s father, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Bn The Somerset Light Infantry in the mid-1930’s, to Hilaro Barlow – then a Captain – for winning a point-to-point race. The battered case had been found by an Arnhem boy in the Alexanderstraat about 150 yards from where Colonel Barlow was killed**.

5381455 Lance-Corporal Raymond Singer, aged 28, was initially buried in the Arnhem General Cemetery, he now lies at rest in the Arnhem/Oosterbeek War Cemetery, 19 A 7.

Colonel Barlow is remembered on the Groesbeek Memorial for those who were listed as missing.

Other biographical details for Colonel Barlow
Colonel Barlow was born 3 October 1906 in Barnsley, Yorkshire and was the eldest son of Lt Col Nelson William Barlow.

In 1939 he married Bettine ‘Betty’ Turnbull of Lymington, Hampshire, daughter of the late Col JA Turnbull DSO of Taunton, Somerset.

He was commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry 4 February 1926 and promoted to Lieutenant 4 February 1929. Between 1926 and 1932 he served on regimental duties.

From 24 August 1932 until 23 August 1934 he was seconded for service under the Colonial Office (employed with Royal West Africa Frontier Force).

On 1 September 1934 he took up his post as the Adjutant in the 1st Bn, The Somerset Light Infantry, in Poona, India. He remained there until 31 August 1937.

He was promoted to Captain 1 November 1937 and on 27 January 1938 he was seconded as an instructor to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst until January 1939.

Barlow was made an Acting Major on 19 November 1940, and a substantive Major 4th February 1943.

He was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant Colonel 21 March 1943 and appointed as an OBE in the New Years Honours List of 1944. The citation for the award states:

'Lieutenant-Colonel Barlow took over command of the 7th Parachute Battalion in December, 1942, just after conversion from 10th Battalion, [The] Somerset Light Infantry. His personal example and leadership during the difficult months following the conversion has proved an inspiration not only to his own Battalion, in which he has set the highest standards, but to all ranks of this Brigade.'

Colonel Barlow’s widow, Phyllis, received the award from HM The King at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 30 July 1946.

He was temporarily attached to the 6th Airlanding Brigade in Normandy as the Deputy Commander, 30 June to 19 July 1944.

Reference Sources
Part of this account was taken from ‘ARNHEM 1944, The Airborne Battle’ By Martin Middlebrook.
* Official War Office letters dated 19 October 1944 and 19 August 1945.
 ** Letter from John Waddy dated 4th November 1954.

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