Chaplain Albert W H Harlow DSO

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  • Africa Star medal
  • Distinguished Service Order medal
  • France and Germany Star medal
  • Mentioned in Despatches medal

 Albert Harlow enlisted into the Royal Army Chaplains Department on 23 July 1940 at the Chester Depot.  He had previously seen service in the 1st World War as an Infantry man, serving with an Australian unit before his ordination into the Church of England. 

On joining the Royal Army Chaplains Department he was sent to the North Highland Area where he completed specialist training.  In April 1941, he embarked for the Middle East, becoming in June 1941, the Area Chaplain for Palestine.  He was posted in April 1942, to become the Senior Chaplain for 50th Division.  However in the June he was taken POW whilst they were fighting a rear guard action near Alamein.  It was during this period that he received a Mention in Despatches for gallant and distinguished services.  He remained a POW until April 1943 when he was repatriated from his POW camp in Italy. 

On returning to the UK he was posted to Southern Command Bulford as the Senior Chaplain and was promoted to 3rd Class, before moving to South East Command at Shorncliffe Garrison.

In January 1944, Reverend Harlow was posted to the 1st Airborne Division as Senior Chaplain.  On  17 September he emplaned by glider with the 1st Airborne Division to Arnhem.  He landed with the rest of the Headquarters of the Division at landing zone ‘Z’ southwest of the Psychiatric Hospital at Wolfheze.  The Headquarters was based at the Parkhotel “Hartenstein” where he could be generally found carrying out his duties.  On 24 September he was taken POW for a second time when during a visit to the Tafelberg Hotel it was overrun by a group of Waffen-SS.  The Germans wished to move around one hundred and fifty of the walking wounded and required a Chaplain or Doctor to lead the group.  Harlow went with the men to St Elisabeth Hospital and then on to Apeldoorn where the wounded were being gathered.  On arrival at Apeldoorn he assisted in converting the barracks into a hospital.  He organised the other Chaplains to cover all the wounded in their care and used his knowledge of the Geneva Convention and tactful nature with the Germans to ensure the men were given the best care in the circumstances. 

During his captivity at Apeldoorn, he arranged for the bodies hastily buried at the hospital to be exhumed and moved to Apeldoorn’s General Cemetery, where he carried out the burials.  The Chaplains were allowed some freedom of movement around Apeldoorn to visit the wounded and became the main source of information on what was happening outside.  On Sunday 15 October, he is recorded as assisting with an escape plot by the late running of Sunday Service, his sermon was on Peters escape from prison with the last hymn ‘Awake my Soul’, with the line ‘ The prisoner leaps to loose his chains”. 

Having assisted in the movement of the wounded, the hospital at King William III barracks was closed.  It was during this time Harlow assisted in the escape of Col Warrack by helping him to hide in the recess of the bedroom where he waited for everyone to leave. Harlow was sent to Oflag VIIB POW Camp. He was repatriated in May 1945.

On his return he was sent to Merseyside Sub District as Senior Chaplain. He took the first memorial service at the British Military Cemetery at Oosterbeek on the 25 September 1945.  In October 1945, he emplaned for Cairo and was promoted to Acting 2nd Class. The following month the London Gazette announced that he was to be awarded the Distinguished Service Order.  His promotion to 2nd Class was confirmed in January 1946.

He returned to the UK in September 1946 and was discharged the following month.  After leaving the army, he returned to Middlewich as Vicar where he had served before the war. He continued as a Vicar, ministering in Cornwall, Gothenburg (Sweden), London and Sussex before retiring to South Australia.  

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Service History


Albert W H  Harlow

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  • Newspaper article relating to Padre A Harlow at Arnhem, 1944

    Newspaper article relating to Padre A Harlow at Arnhem, 1944

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