From 1939 until he was invalided out in 1944, my father was on the Executive of the Friends Ambulance Unit, and from 1941 was Deputy Director.
From Fire Watching in London’s East End, to Officer in Charge of the Middle East, embedded with the 8th Army at Alamein; with Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, in India during the Bengal famine, and with the China Convoy in the Sino-Japanese war, Ralph Barlow saw it all.
He writes movingly to my mother of his doubts and uncertainties of being a Conscientious Objector and of his anguish at being away from home and his young family (above). My mother writes of the trials of moving from house to house and bringing up two children in war-torn Britain.
But there is humour too – hilarious accounts of my father being billeted with titled dignitaries in East Anglia whilst searching for homes to house those displaced by the blitz, of sharing a meal in a Bedouin tent with a Sheik, or of a boxing match on board a troop ship en route to Cairo. My mother shares her love of books and poetry, while informing my father about his children growing up: of Christmas without Daddy, of a 1 year old Antony, breaking blackout, standing naked at the window; or of just waiting anxiously for news when my father is ill in India.
“The letters from Ralph Barlow to his wife, Joan…..are full of carefully observed detail which, with warmth and humour, bring to life his experiences as a conscientious objector, in the FAU, as well as his painful separation from his wife and children.”
From the Foreword by Rupert Cadbury