138th Company, Labour Corps.

Born: Wednesday 25th June 1878 Died: Sunday 5 May 1918. Aged 39.

Eldest child of Anna Alma Barling (née Austin) and Charles Barling, Husband of Matilda Barling (née Worthy) of 14, Kent Avenue, Ashford, Kent.

Buried Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.Grave Ref: V. A. 87.

Commemorated on the Ashford, Kent civic war memorial and on the Great War plaque in the parish church of St. Mary, Ashford.

The Barling family was, for many years, the mainstay of the Aldington Brass Band and has family members residing in Aldington to this day. Frank was born in Aldington where his father was employed at the time, as a Farm Labourer. He did not reside in the village of Aldington for very long though as he and his parents were living at 66, New Street, Ashford, Kent when the 1881 census was conducted and his father, 25 year old Ruckinge, Ashford, Kent native Charles Barling, was listed as working as a Cellarman. Frank’s mother Anna Alma Austin was born in Snave, Romney Marsh, Kent on Thursday 8 November 1855. Her second Christian name, like many girls at about the time that she was born, was post the Battle of Alma which was fought on Wednesday 20 September 1854 during the Crimean War.

Unfortunately, like many other Aldington, Bonnington & Hurst casualties, Franks’ army service papers were destroyed during a bombing raid by German Luftwaffe bombers, which, on Sunday 8 September 1940, hit the Army Records Centre at Arnside Street, London, SE17.

We do know that Frank had enlisted in the army at Canterbury, Kent.

Had his service papers still existed, they would probably have cleared up some confusion appertaining to Franks’ army service; including which Labour Battalion of The Queen’s Own (Royal West Surrey Regiment) he had formerly served in as Corporal, 52998. Frank is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as having served in the 30th Battalion, which did not exist during the Great War, although a battalion with that number was formed during the Second World War, having been raised in August 1943 for Home Defence duties.

Purely speculation on the writers’ part, but it would seem likely that the 30th should be 13th, which could have been a very easy error to make when at some point in the past, a hard pressed and tired Clerk verbally asked a colleague for Frank’s service details to complete a record for Frank, and simply misheard the number, or perhaps there is some other equally simple explanation for the error.

There is also confusion regarding Frank’s rank at the time of his death, when he died of Spinal Meningitis for which he was receiving treatment at the No.1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital at Wisques, 4 miles south-west of St. Omer

Frank Abel Barling

barling grave stone

Franks grave shares a grave with 19 year old Private Thomas Wilson Wood of the 12th (Service) Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) who died of wounds on the same day. Thomas was the son of James and Mary Wood of 5 Piershill Terrace, Edinburgh.

Although at the time of his death Frank was serving in the Labour Corps, his headstone has the badge of The Queen’s Own (Royal West Surrey Regiment), as casualties who had formerly served in other regiments and corps have the badge of their former regiments and corps engraved on their headstones. Casualties who had always served in the Labour Corps have its regimental badge engraved.