Home   Maidstone   News   Article

First World War cavalryman Harry Barling from Hollingbourne deserves to be properly remembered

By Alan Smith

Across the country over the past four and a half years, a great deal has been done to mark the sacrifices of those who died in the First World War.

"We will not forget them" has been the universal cry - even though more than 100 years has passed since the end of the conflict.

Hollingbourne has done as much - perhaps more - than most.

The dedication of Hollingbourne War Memorial on April 9, 1922
The dedication of Hollingbourne War Memorial on April 9, 1922

The village's granite memorial Celtic cross in Eyhorne Street, first dedicated in 1922, has been restored and a new plaque added at the base to clearly show the names of the fallen, some of which had weathered and were becoming illegible.

Last November, to mark the centenary of the end of the war, an Avenue of Remembrance comprising 100 hawthorn trees was unveiled on Hollingbourne Meadow in front of a large crowd.

The dedication of the Avenue of Remembrance last November
The dedication of the Avenue of Remembrance last November

Sadly it was on this occasion that Michael Barling, the great nephew of one of the fallen, first became aware of a discrepancy.

The name of his great uncle Harry Barling is recorded incorrectly on the plaque at the base of the War Memorial as "Henry" Barling.

Originally the names of the fallen had been inscribed on the stone with only an initial and Trooper Barling appears correctly - the first on the list - as H. Barling.

It seems someone has taken a punt on the H. standing for Henry, and in this they may have been deceived by the Roll of Honour inside the village Church of All Saints in Upper Street, which also has Private Barling's name misrecorded as Henry.

The war memorial plaque which shows Harry Barling recorded as Henry
The war memorial plaque which shows Harry Barling recorded as Henry

Mr Barling said: "It's very sad and seems somewhat disrespectful. It's also incomprehensible how it happened because within the church there is also a large brass plaque to my great uncle which clearly shows his name as Harry. The plaque was paid for and installed by my grandfather, Harry's brother."

The brass plaque to Trooper Harry Barling inside All Saints Church, which was erected by his brother
The brass plaque to Trooper Harry Barling inside All Saints Church, which was erected by his brother

To avoid any doubt, Michael Barling has also obtained copies of Harry's birth and death certificates, which both record him as Harry.

It does seem a shame that Harry, who was named after his father, should be so misremembered as he died a hero in one of those many gallant and courageous actions of the war - which today, with our benefit of hindsight, also seems incredibly foolhardy.

Harry was one of six brothers brought up in Hollingbourne Workhouse, where their parents Harry (senior) and Kate Louisa were the last master and mistress.

Harry Barling's birth certificate
Harry Barling's birth certificate
Harry Barling's death certificate
Harry Barling's death certificate

He was serving with the 19th Queen Alexandra's Own Royal Hussars when they went into action on Tuesday, October 8, 1918 - just a month before the end of the war.

The regiment was part of the 9th Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division.

On that day, the 19th Hussars made a total of three mounted charges on enemy positions, described at the the time by the Marquess of Anglesey as "wonderfully gallant."

It seems that the Commanding Officer of the 19th Hussars, a certain Colonel George Franks, had been responsible for a successful cavalry charge that had forced the Germans off a bridge at the Somme in March earlier that year. He was confident he could repeat that success. Before the last charge, he told his sergeants: "I am the man to drop the flag and off we go to death or glory."

It turned out to be death in his case.

In a move reminiscent of the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Hussars galloped towards a German battery. They did, astoundingly, reach the enemy and put a number of gunners to the sword but they couldn't hold the position and were driven back.

Sergeant Brunton, one of those lucky enough to survive the attack proudly wrote in his diary that night: "The true cavalry spirit still lives!" But he also added: "Altogether a bad day's work for the regiment."

Harry Barling (standing) with his older brother Edwin who survived the war
Harry Barling (standing) with his older brother Edwin who survived the war

Three officers were killed, six wounded and two listed as missing.

Eighteen other ranks - which included Harry Barling - were killed, with 36 wounded and three missing. A total of 113 horses were also killed or injured.

Colonel Franks' body was recovered and he was buried by torchlight in a civilian cemetery at Brancourt Le Grand. His officers erected a cross carved with the words: "He fell while charging German machine guns."

Harry Barling was initially buried in the same civilian cemetery but was later exhumed and reburied in the military cemetery at Busigny Communal Cemetery.

He was 19.

"His manly and upright character leaves behind him a sweet memory," records the memorial in All Saints.

Michael Barling, 41, from Bearsted, has contacted the church, Hollingbourne Parish Council, the Royal British Legion and even Helen Whately MP in a bid to have his relative's name corrected, but so far without success.

"Mrs Whately did write to the RBL for me," he said, "But apart from her, no-one seems that interested."

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

Join the debate...
Comments |

Don't have an account? Please Register first!

The KM Group does not moderate comments. Please click here for our house rules.

People who post abusive comments about other users or those featured in articles will be banned.

Thank you. Your comment has been received and will appear on the site shortly.

 

Terms of Comments
We do not actively moderate, monitor or edit contributions to the reader comments but we may intervene and take such action as we think necessary, please click here for our house rules. If you have any concerns over the contents on our site, please either register those concerns using the report abuse button, contact us here, email multimediadesk@thekmgroup.co.uk or call 01634 227989.

Follow us

Most popular

Kent Travel News

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More