Victoria to Vimy The First World War Collections at the University of Victoria Libraries

Barrow Bomb Incident

Frederick Lyon Barrow and Mary Hutton Barrow lived in London, England, during the First World War. Their story illustrates how chance can affect individual lives -- from their meeting in Edmonton to very close encounter with a German explosive device in England.

F. L. and M. Barrow - photograph of Mary Hutton on her way to Canada, March 1913

A Chance Meeting

It was luck, or perhaps fate, that led to the meeting of Frederick Lyon Barrow, born in Devon, England, in 1894 and Mary Hutton, born in Warwick, England in 1893. 

In 1913, Mary undertook the long journey to Edmonton, to visit her younger brother.  During this visit she met Frederick Barrow, who had emigrated to Edmonton as a child. She stayed on in Canada to marry him and begin a new life in their adopted country.

F. L. and M. Barrow - photograph of May, Val and Fred Barrow, August 1917

The First World War

The declaration of war would return Mary and her new husband to the country of their births. 

In 1914, Frederick enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. For the better part of the war, he served with the Canadian Army Pay Corps (CAPC) in England. 

Because of his non-combat position, Frederick's wife and young daughter were able to join him overseas. The family settled into a brick home in Golders Green, an area in northwest London. 

Frederick Barrow - letter from Mary Barrow to her father-in-law Valentine E. Barrow, March 9, 1918

"The experience of a life time"

Mary's letter to her father-in-law gives the impression that air raids were so frequent that they had become part of their normal routine.

We had the experience of a life time on Thursday night. A bomb fell in the field at the bottom of the garden. . . 

It was a beautiful still night & very light owing to the Aurora Borealis. The maroons woke me about 11:20 and I attempted to wake Lyon but lately we have stayed in bed as we were growing accustomed to them.

F. L. and M. Barrow - coal shed bolt

A bomb in the garden!

There was a fearful flash & explosion. The house shook, and one could hear bricks falling. I flew out of bed, seized Val who was asleep in her own room.

All the doors at the back burst open. The lock fell off the coal house lots of fasteners were blown off the windows.

F. L. and M. Barrow - photograph of F. L., Val and May Barrow

The Barrow Family Endures

The Barrow family remained committed to serving the needs of soldiers and returned veterans throughout their lives. 

After the war, Frederick Barrow became an Adjustment Officer, Dominion Command, Great War veterans' Association and Canadian Legion.  And, in early 1928, gave extensive evidence before the Federal Special Committee on Returned Soldiers' Problem. He later served as the first Departmental Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Mary did extensive volunteer work for many organizations, including, the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, and wartime canteen.

Valentine Kathleen grew up to join the first class of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Women's Division and serve in the Second World War.

The Frederick Lyon Barrow and Mary Hutton Barrow fonds in the University of Victoria Special Collections consists of letters, photographs, diaries, and more related to the Barrow's activities between about 1913 to 1965. To view the finding aid:

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