Rob Barlow, the grandson of Bill Barlow, has just got in touch with the very sad news that his grandfather passed away yesterday at the age of 88.
Bill enlisted in 1942 and actually completed his training in P-51 Mustangs. After brief assignment to the 339th Fighter Group, the powers that be decided the 353rd’s need was greater and so Bill had a very quick conversion to P-47s! He served with the 351st Fighter Squadron from May 3 to September 8 1944 flying his aircraft YJ-B bar (for Barlow) called “Flak Bait,” among others, on over 60 missions. During his time with the Squadron Bill became a member of the celebrated “Goldfish Club” after he bailed out of his aircraft on May 29 and was successfully rescued from the Channel. He also claimed an Me109 destroyed in the air August 4, 1944. On September 8 1944 his luck ran out when his aircraft was hit by flak and caught fire over Germany. He bailed out just before it blew up and managed to avoid capture by walking for eight days back to Allied lines. Bill told me that the first time he returned to Raydon was sometime in the early 1980s with his flight leader on the fateful day in 1944, Charles Stafford. As they stood on the derelict airfield at Raydon, Stafford quietly told Bill he had finally managed to get Bill home – even if it was 40 years late.
I was lucky to meet and get to know Bill and his wife Betty as friends on their several trips back to the United Kingdom and at 353rd reunions in the US. One of the many striking things about Bill was his happy outlook on life – my wife always called him “Smiley Bill.” This, for me, was a mark of the man – particularly given the many hardships he faced directly resulting from his time in the service. I certainly have many fond memories of times spent with Bill and Betty.
Bill will be sadly missed and this is posted with condolences to Betty, Rob and all of Bill’s family.