Colonel Hilaro Nelson Barlow


Unit : Headquarters, 1st Airlanding Brigade

Army No. : 34606

Awards : Officer of the British Empire


Hilaro Barlow was born 3rd October 1906 in Barnsley, Yorkshire, and was the eldest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Nelson William Barlow. Commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry on the 4th February 1926, and promoted to Lieutenant precisely three years later, Barlow served on Regimental Duties between 1926 and 1932. From 24th August 1932 until 23rd August 1934, he was seconded for service under the Colonial Office (employed with RWAFF). On the 1st September 1934, he took up the post of Adjutant in the 1st Battalion The Somerset Light Infantry in Poona, India, and remained there until 31st August 1937. Promoted to Captain on the 1st November 1937, and from the 27th January 1938 he spent a year as an Instructor to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. In that 1939, Barlow married Bettine "Betty" Turnbull, of Lymington, Hampshire, the daughter of the late Colonel J. A. Turnbull DSO, of Taunton, Somerset. He was promoted Acting Major on the 19th November 1940, and was made a substantive Major on the 4th February 1943. Barlow was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel on the 21st March 1943. He commanded 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. He received an O.B.E. in the New Years Honours List of 1944.


As part of the plan for Operation Market Garden, Colonel Barlow, in the event of a victory, was designated to become the Town Commandant of Arnhem. With Lieutenant-Commander Arnoldus Wolters of the Dutch Navy as his assistant, he was to sort through the top secret lists of local members of the Dutch Resistance and organise them into specific groups; intelligence gathering, sabotage, etc.


After the disappearance of Major-General Urquhart, Barlow was given temporary command of the Brigade throughout Monday 18th September and the following 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 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 Staffordshire Regiment, 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."


In 1954, Colonel John Waddy (Commander of "B" Company, 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 jeweler, it was found that the case had been presented by John Waddy's father, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion The Somerset Light Infantry in the mid-130'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.


My thanks to Bob Hilton for his help with this account, part of which was taken from "Arnhem 1944, The Airborne Battle" by Martin Middlebrook.


See also: Maj John Waddy.


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