Burnley soldier’s Bene’ tale

Sgt Barlow (left), while serving with his regiment in Egypt
Sgt Barlow (left), while serving with his regiment in Egypt

A Burnley pensioner believes her late father may have been one of the First World War soldiers who brought the popular drink of Benedictine back to the town – a tipple which remains popular to this day.

Miss Peggy Barlow contacted the Express to say how her father Walter Barlow, a sergeant in the East Lancashire Regiment, spoke after the war how the drink kept him and his comrades warm among the mud and filth of the Flanders trenches.

It has been well documented, most recently in the Burnley Express, of the French liqueur’s popularity in Burnley, a love affair that started with troops returning to the town after the Great War.

Many of those former soldiers found work after the war in the area’s many mines, and soon found that a drop of Benedictine would keep them warm.

Today, Burnley Miners’ Club in Plumbe Street is the world’s single biggest consumer of the drink.

Miss Barlow said: “I still have a small glass to this day, usually with a bit of hot water, just like my father enjoyed it.

“He was one of the lucky ones and survived the war. He never spoke about it, other than about Benedictine.

“After the war, he went to work for Massey’s Brewery as a travelling salesman. He worked there for 50 years and died aged 75 in 1967.

“We lived all over the North-West but when the Second World War broke out we returned to Burnley. I remember he would buy a bottle of Benedictine from a little shop near to the old Empress Ballroom where Keirby Walk is now.”

The pub trade obviously ran in Walter’s family – his father Robert was the landlord of the Cross Keys pub in St James’s Street, and was also a recruiting officer for the military in Burnley.

Sgt Barlow didn’t escape from the war totally unscathed.

He was wounded in the head on the Western Front, and sought help from a local cafe owner.

He was eventually invalided back home and treated at Calderstones Military Hospital in Whalley. After recovering, Sgt Barlow was posted to Egypt.

His daughter says that he went back to Belgium in the 1930s and met up with the cafe owner again.

Peggy added: “My father would always wear a black tie on the anniversary of one of the big battles, but I can’t quite remember which one.”

Sgt Barlow is listed on the Burnley in the Great War website as serving with the Durham Light Infantry. It was not unusual for soldiers to be transferred to other regiments during the war to supplement them after heavy losses.