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Thomas Barlow was born in Bolton during the last quarter of 1896 to James and Jane Barlow (nee Gillibrand). James and Jane had married in Bolton during the second quarter of 1893 and Thomas was their second child. He was baptised at All Souls church on 2nd December 1896. His siblings were;

  • Walter Barlow (b. c1896)
  • Thomas Barlow
  • Ethel Barlow (b. c1900)
  • James Barlow (b. c1905)

On the night of the 1901 census the family are found at his maternal grandmother’s house at 51 Rise Street.

At the time of the 1911 census Thomas was 14 years old, working as a piecer in a cotton mill  and living with his family at 18 Cardwell Street, Bolton. Peculiarly, his mother now records her first name as Ellen (no idea where this came from – all other details seem to indicate this is Jane, born 1863 and married to James for 17 years.) James was employed cleaning the engines at the mill and Thomas’s older brother, Walter, was a spinner. They later moved a few doors down to 15 Cardwell Street.

On 25th September 1915 Thomas was 19 years 10 months old and enlisted into the Territorial Force where he joined the 4/5th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 6992 (this became 243034 when the TF were renumbered in 1917). He signed the Imperial Service declaration that same day saying he would accept liability, as a Territorial soldiers, serve overseas.

thomas barlow sig

At his enlistment medical it was recorded that Thomas was 5ft 6in tall with a 34in chest and of good physical development.

After a period of training in the UK, Thomas sailed to France on 12th February 1917 to join the 1/5th Battalion who had been in the field for the last two years. However, upon arrival he, along with several other officers and men, were attached to the 170th Brigade Light Trench Mortar battery under Captain Robert Parker.

Thomas was granted class 1 proficiency pay on 4th December 1917 and in April 1918 he spent four days under the supervision of the 3/2 W.L Field Ambulance suffering from bowel problems but then rejoined the battery.

Between 15th to 29th June 1918 he was permitted two weeks leave of absence during which he probably returned to Bolton. Soon after arriving back in France he was taken on permanent strength of the 170th L.T.M battery and sent on a course of instruction that lasted about 3 weeks in which he qualified as a L.T.M. Gunner, 2nd Class Shot.

After the Armistice Thomas remained in France and was appointed acting Corporal on 7th December 1918 vice 240214 Corporal Wright of the 2/5th King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment who had been send to hospital, sick. Thomas sailed back to England on 26th February 1919 and was demobilised two days later.

The London Gazette of 3rd June 1919 announced that Thomas had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for which he had be nominated for during the closing months of the war. His citation reads;

243034 A./Cpl. T. Barlow, l/5th Bn., N. Lan. R., T.F., attd. 170th T.M.B. (Bolton). For gallantry and devotion to duty in the following engagements : —Anneux, La Folie Wood, Proville, Cambrai, September-October, 1918. During these engagements he was in command of a sub-section of light trench mortars, and repeatedly under heavy fire silenced enemy machine guns. On one occasion a gun was in danger of being captured. He shot two of the enemy with his rifle and brought out the gun.

Thomas received his DCM on 12th August 1919 and would later take receipt of his British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal.

Paul McCormick
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