Alfred (Alf) Barley
Veteran of World War Two
1939-1945 Star, Africa Star 1st Army, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-1945.
King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Final Tribute to an amazing man
Alf was an active contributor to the very end.
President of the Thorne & District Branch of the Royal British Legion.
Member of Fellowship of Services.
Member of the Italy Star Association.
Member of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Association.
Fund Raiser for the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
Fund Raiser for the RBL Poppy Appeal
Fund Raiser for the Air Gunners' Association.
On 23 January 2007, the small Parish Church of St. Nicholas in Thorne, Near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England, was swamped by friends and associates who had come to say farewell to this old soldier.
The Reverend Peter Bolton-Lea, Chaplin to the Thorne District Branch of the Royal British Legion, was followed into the church by a lone piper. Behind them was a the Standard of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
Following the Standard was a Veteran from the KOYLI carrying a poppy wreath. They were followed by Wreath Bearers from the Italy Star Association, Air Gunners’ Association and the Light Infantry who were followed by many others.
A guard of Honour, consisting of 17 Standard Bearers, Veterans and Cadets, framed the entrance to the church.
Alf's closest nephew and his nephew's wife, between them carried a medal cushion.
The coffin was escorted by two serving Gurkha soldiers who stood by the coffin all through the one hour service.
Local ladies had prepared the church with special floral arrangements. The church was awash with poppies. A special single floral arrangement sat on the seat where Alf sat every Sunday — he never missed a service.
The coffin was draped with the Union flag and Alf’s regimental beret and chain of office as well as a photograph of Alf taken on the beach at Salerno, Italy, in October 2005 when he accompanied his friend and soul mate, Jacqui Whitehead on a Pilgrimage to the area.
There were Bible readings as well as Alf’s favourite poem,
Footprints in the Sand.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along a beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, He looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it, “Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “my precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During the time of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
The Fellowship of Services, sang their twilight song around the coffin.
Many tributes were made to this wonderful man but surely none more poignant than that from his best friend, Jacqui Whitehead.
You can read Jaqui’s tribute on the right of this page.
This was followed by the sounding of Last Post and Reveille.
A parade followed the cortege 500 yards to the cemetery where people scattered poppy petals into the grave.
At the reception the family was overwhelmed and did not know how to thank all the people concerned.
A book of condolence was laid out and already included many wonderful messages from his fellow Italy travellers of the October 2005 trip.
At Alf’s request in a letter found by his nephew, Jacqui organised the military funeral but she was not sure how she would be on the day and is grateful to Parade Marshall Lieutenant (SCC) Jim Smith RNR Retired, who made sure the complicated proceedings went according to plan.
A message from Jaqui Whitehead
On behalf of Alf's family and Jacqui Whitehead, please accept our most grateful thanks for the kind words, comfort and support which came from people whom only knew Alf for a short time during his visit to Italy.
It is obvious that you all shared something very special on that visit and respect, love and honour was experienced.
Long may this live in your hearts forever. God Bless you all.
Grateful Thanks from The family of the late Alf Barley and including his friend Jacqui Whitehead.
Watch a short Video of Alf, talking about his Italy tour in October 2005 at Alf's Italy Trip
File size is 470 kb. A dial-up connection will take about one minute to open this file.
You can contact Jacqui at JacquiLW@aol.com
THE NEWLY FORMED THORNE DISTRICT ROYAL BRITISH LEGION BRANCH
at the Church Dedication of their Branch Standard
(Alf is on the viewer's left and Jacqui, with black blazer, is near the centre)
Alf and Jacqui worked together closely and tirelessly for the benefit of our Veterans. They had several projects planned for 2007.
Now, a heartbroken Jacqui, with a void in her life that can never be filled, must pick herself up and steel herself for the tasks ahead with only Alf's memory to support her.
October 2005 — Alf revisits Salerno Beach, Italy,
where, in September 1943, he battled ashore,
neck deep in water, under heavy enemy fire.
photo by fellow Pilgrim Susie Swarbrick
Tribute to Alf Barley
by Jacqui Whitehead
Listen to Jacqui's voice as she reads her Tribute
We walked together one last time
past the cenotaph with pride
Echoing in the footsteps of those
memories never died
Our footprints side by side
on Salerno's beach once more
Two friends together in memory,
sharing thoughts of peace and war
How do you say Farewell to a hero?
A mentor and much loved friend
How do you watch a parade?
And not see Alf marching proudly at the end
How do you buy a poppy?
And not see Alf's smiling face
Who will sing The D Day Dodgers?
With such Gusto, pride, and Grace
Short-in height, though a giant in heart,
To tell Alf's tale, where do I start
Dedicated to every task
Those who needed help just had to ask
Age meant little to Alf who still
Visited the lonely and those who were ill
And where would the British Legion be?
Without men with Alf's selfless personality
A special man, we knew with pride
And how we will miss him at our side
He lived his life in such a way
That so many friends are gathered today
Sleep soundly old soldier God bless you and rest
No more will you need to be put to the test
So though we feel a wealth of sadness
Celebrate Alf's life with thoughts of Gladness
In our hearts he's not dead only sleeping
Let's remember Alf with a smile,
he wouldn't want us to be weeping.
Jacqui, who does not class herself as a writer, spent several days worrying about what to say as a tribute to Alf, then one morning at 4.00 a.m. she suddenly awoke, got out of bed, sat down and wrote the above tribute.
Where the words came from she will never know, but they flowed effortlessly and beautifully.
Alf with Gurkha Captain Gurung
during a fundraising event
Alf’s military career began on the 18th May 1940 when he joined the army and became a Private in the 6th Battalion of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. After initial training, during the threat of an invasion of Britain, Alf’s duties were guarding RAF airfields and other vulnerable points, mainly in the Bristol area and the south west of England.
Later, Alf was to join the 2 / 4th Battalion of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry en-route for North Africa.
Alf served with the Anglo/American Task Force in Tunisia until the end of the North African Campaign in May 1943. The British Element (Eastern Task Force) would later become known as the British 1st Army. After the invasion of Sicily in June 1943, the fighting progressed into the Italian mainland and up in the direction of Rome.
A few days after a diversionary attack by the 8th Army in the south of Italy, the Anglo/American 5th Army made the main attack at Salerno near Naples. The Germans were waiting and the Landing was heavily opposed.
Alf’s Battalion formed part of the 46th Division and was to be one of the first regiments of the British Army ashore as part of the Salerno spearhead in early September 1943.
He continued north and was present during the severe and protracted fighting around Monte Cassino. The fighting progressed into northern Italy and at the end of the European war in May 1945, Alf’s regiment had fought its way to Padua near Venice where they were to remain as part of the occupying forces.
Alf’s war came to an end when he was de-mobbed from the army in July 1946 after serving over six years.
Alf recalls Salerno
We boarded an American Tank Landing Craft at Bizerta in Tunisia (North Africa) en route for the invasion of Italy. The Med. was full of warships, troop carriers and assault craft, it took two days to get to Italy and we were protected by the RAF bombers and fighters that had pounded the beaches and surrounding areas where we were going to land.
En route we were told the Italians had surrendered and the landing would be straightforward. By the time we neared, the Germans had taken up the defence of Italy, so it wasn't as easy as we were told it would be. We were bombed and under fire from the air as we neared our objective. In the distance there was a great glow on the mainland which turned out to be Vesuvius in action.
Eventually, the ship stopped and the ramp was put in place in front of the doors, it was lowered ready for our landing onto the beach. Unfortunately, the ramp did not reach the beach so when we were ordered to go we were under fire all the time and in the sea, we had to wade in to get to the beach and dash across to obtain whatever cover we could. The ‘Hampshires’ had already made the assault on the site so we were the second troops to land. We were re-organised on the beachhead and took our positions inland. We were on high ground and could see all that was going on in the Bay of Salerno. The ships stayed there in case we had to abort the area, we were told later that it was touch and go at one point.
It took a few weeks to get everything ashore ready for the next stage of the operation, the bridgehead had been established and we had defended it successfully. The first objective was to cross the River Volturno. We crossed on a bridge which had fallen in the river due to heavy bombardment from the RAF.
While we were in the Naples area, Mount Vesuvius erupted which did not do our cause much good. We survived, and were now on our way north to Cassino, well established and ready for the big push north which Wasn't easy going at all.
ALF AND FRIENDS AT A FOUNTAIN IN ITALY 1944
Alf revisited the fountain in October 2005
Alf and HRH Duke of Kent
at the 60th Anniversary of D-Day
LANDING CRAFT APPROACHING SALERNO