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a blog by Chris Barrow

Sri Lanka

Christmas letters #1

Here is a rather grainy photograph of my Dad, Charles William Barrow (Charlie) in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1948.

This was, I believe, his first year as a “sparks” (radio operator) in The Royal Navy, following a military tradition that saw his father Jos Barrow serve in the Coldstream Guards.

By the time Charlie enlisted, he had already married my Mum, Norma Mellor.

He left her behind in Manchester, living with various relatives as well as serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS- which merged into the Women’s Royal Army Corps) and serving in Fort William, Western Scotland.

My father’s 5 years or so in the Navy saw him visit most of the Persian Gulf, Egypt, Suez and the fledgling Arab States and, in an old briefcase which I am browsing through over the holidays, are many photographs – some of which I intend to share with you over the days ahead.

In later life, he seldom spoke about his experiences, other than to say that he suffered terribly from home-sickness. He had married his sweetheart and the extended time without her was bittersweet – even though many of the photos I have show him playing just as hard as he was working!

For a working class boy from the grimier ghettos of industrial Manchester – one of 5 children of Jos and May Barrow, living in Bennett Street flats (he told me of rats running over the kids’ heads as they slept at night), the sights and sounds of the Middle East and the Indian Ocean must have been a wonder to behold.

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