Interview with Alfred Barnett

Title

Interview with Alfred Barnett

Description

When Alfred’s mother’s house was destroyed during Luftwaffe bombing, he was determined to join the RAF and fight back. He trained as a gunner and completed two tours and a spell as an instructor. After his final tour of operations, he joined the British Bombing Survey and CSDIC (Combined Services Detailed Interrogations) based at Bad Nenndorf in Germany. He was also involved in the Nuremberg War Trials.

Creator

Date

2021-08-11

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:33:21 Audio Recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

ABarnettA210811, PBarnettA2101

Transcription

RP: This interview is being conducted on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln. The interviewer is Rod Pickles. The interviewee is Alfred Barnett. Also present is a friend of Mr Barnetts’, Brian Leveridge. The interview is taking place on the 11th of August 2021 at Mr Barnett’s home near Bodmin in Cornwall. Good afternoon, Mr Barnett. May I call you Barnie?
AB: Certainly.
RP: Right. Our first, our first question is the usual one. Could you just tell me a little bit about your early days, and your childhood and what prompted you to join the RAF?
AB: Well, at the beginning of the war I was in Kent and I got rather annoyed with the Germans bombing London. Bombing. And the only way to hit back was to join the Air Force. That’s how I came. So, I joined. I don’t regret it. I went to Padgate to start with. Then I thought the easiest way, well I hadn’t got a lot of brains, I thought the easiest way would be an air gunner because don’t forget the air gunner, the rear gunner defends the aircraft and so I became and I think within a matter of a few months I went to 100 Squadron at Waltham. That’s Grimsby. I think I did six trips there and then with Len Overton we volunteered to go to Pathfinders under DCT Bennett, and I went to 156 Squadron. And I think I did, we were just coming on my third tour. I got put off because I got involved in low flying at Skegness. We forgot the clock tower. We missed it but only by just. And then I went to, to an OTU. I didn’t care much on some of the fellas there because all they wanted was to keep off operations so I went over to see Air Marshall Bennett at Huntingdon, and before I finished the conversation I was back on the squadron.
RP: What rank were you at this time?
AB: Flight lieutenant.
RP: A flight lieu. Yeah.
AB: I went through the ranks and I got commissioned. Well, it was Bennett that gave me my commission and how he gave that, I was rather keen of looking after my guns because we had a Fraser Nash FN-4 before the Browning 303s and I was out working on them one day and a character came along in an old Irvin jacket and he said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Cutting the Perspex off the turret.’ He said that’s going to be so and so cold. I said, ‘Yes, but Perspex stops a lot of your vision.’ So, we took out all the Perspex off, and just sit in the open. I know it sounds daft. And also with my guns it had Palmer firing gear which is a stupid ruddy thing because of the hydraulic firing gear and if the temperature was about minus fifteen the hydraulic fluid used to freeze. So I did away with that, and I put bowden cables through so I could push down and get at least two guns working at the same time. And then the next thing I was told to go to Huntingdon, 8 Group Headquarters. When I went there the character sitting there was Air Marshall Bennett. So, he gave me a commission and I was quite happy. I linked up with Len Overton and —
RP: Len Overton was the pilot, yes?
AB: He was the pilot.
RP: He was the pilot.
AB: Funny thing I was flying as well, because Bennett liked all the crews to be able to do the other person’s job and —
RP: So, what aircraft were you flying at this time?
AB: Lancasters.
RP: You were flying Lancasters. Yes.
AB: Yes. I was at Warboys. And so I got put off. I think I’d just done my third tour then. I went on. I went to an OTU and I’ve never met so many bloody stupid people trying to keep off flying and I was ruddy daft wanting to go on it. And I’m afraid I’m a bit more loud-mouthed but I say what I think.
RP: So where was the OTU? What station was this at? The OTU.
AB: At, oh it would be in my book.
RP: Yeah. Ok.
AB: And by the time I finished having a word at 8 Group Headquarters, by the time I got back everybody thought I was I was going to be court martialled but I was posted straight back to the squadron and I was quite happy then.
RP: Because you were actually working on the OTU. You weren’t a trainee. You were actually part of the trainers.
AB: Yes. I was doing the training.
RP: Right. Right.
AB: I’ll tell you one fellow. I went back. You may have heard of him, Ken Letford [pause] He flew F-Freddy when they did that broadcast over Berlin.
RP: Oh right.
AB: We was old school friends together and I always remember that. Meeting him. He’s still on, I think, I think he’s still alive at Wyton, and and that’s where it all came. So, I did my time there. Then I got sent, when the war was ending I got sent out to Germany on the British Bombing Survey at Bad Nenndorf. Then I got mixed up with CSDIC, Combined Services Detailed Interrogations. Messed with Colonel Stevens, Major Warden, Lieutenant Langham. Do you remember that case? They were, they were doing interrogations at CSDIC, and people were saying you know, that they was ill-treated. Well, if someone, you’re doing an interrogation and he throws a hot coffee in you face it kicks you in the crutch you get awfully annoyed. You know that.
RP: You would. Yes.
AB: Yeah. So there. Then I came back and went, was out in Germany on British Bombing, then I got to war crimes Nuremburg in CSDIC. Then I came back. The only funny thing is I had a Boxer dog. I got it for a Group Captain Ford but he couldn’t get it back to this country so I kept it and we landed at Croydon. The Veterinary Unit in Hanover knew all about it. Unfortunately, the bloody dog went and bit the customs officer there [laughs]
RP: Oh dear. That’s not going to get you into the country, is it?
AB: It did. The dog went into quarantine.
RP: Right.
AB: At Hag Bridge. That cost me a lot of money but he became a champion in this country.
RP: Oh right.
AB: [unclear]
RP: Crikey.
AB: It was a lovely dog.
RP: Yeah. So, so going back to your flying was the Lancaster the only aircraft you flew then?
AB: No. I was in, look in my logbook.
RP: Yeah.
AB: Wellingtons. Whitleys.
RP: So, would, would a Whitley be the first one before the Wellington or —
AB: Yes.
RP: Because they were quite an early type.
AB: I think the first ones were the Bothas, I think.
RP: What did, what did you do your training on then? What was the aircraft?
AB: On a Botha.
RP: Oh, it was a Botha. Yeah.
AB: Yeah.
RP: Of course, they weren’t, they weren’t really any good for warfare but they were good for training.
AB: No. No. No. Polish characters, which don’t forget, the Poles did a lot of good work in this kind of country.
RP: Yes. Yes.
AB: And I met some very nice Polish people. I know a lot of them are condemned but don’t forget if they got shot down in Germany that was their end. Then I got sent out to Germany on British Bombing Survey at Bad Nenndorf, and while I was there I went to War Crimes Nuremberg. To the trials there. And then I had a funny job of picking people up. Now, my German is almost nil but there were so many displaced persons floating around Germany, and if you sit and keep quiet, and you’ve got a job for me I could get away with it.
RP: Right.
AB: And as you were travelling in an old car, our old Hannomag with this Boxer dog picking people up from say Hamburg right down to Munich.
RP: What? These were displaced people.
AB: Yes.
RP: Yeah. Ok.
AB: And it’s amazing. I never realised the Germans were so meticulous in keeping records of people.
RP: Oh yes.
AB: And you say go to one place, and say [unclear] oh that’s so and so. He went to so and so, and I used to travel Germany going from one to another and picking up and I never had any trouble at all. I only had one character who tried to pull out a small automatic. Fortunately, I had one before him, so he was all right.
RP: So —
AB: Then I came back to this country and Air Commodore Wynter-Morgan, Air Marshall Combe. I ended up living with Air Marshall Combe at the Woodpeckers at Brockenhurst. Then I went to the Ordnance. I went to 12 Group Headquarters. Became their group armament officer. Then I went back to the Ordnance Board. That was formed in 1414. That was in Kensington. That was organised the year before the Battle of Agincourt. Then I became secretary to the Pyrotechnic Panel. That’s anything from say a small hand-held signal to a bloody great rocket. Then I went from there. Where did I go from there?
RP: Can you, when, when did, you obviously stopped flying by the time you’d been sent to Germany.
AB: Yes.
RP: So, when, your last flight was a sort of a wartime thing.
AB: Yes at [unclear]
RP: It did. Yeah.
AB: Yeah. But then I used to fly from different places.
RP: Yeah. But your actual career as a flyer ended with the war. Yeah.
AB: Yeah. More or less as a transport from A to B.
RP: Yeah. Just looking at this 1942, you’ve got a Botha here on air to sea exercise and that. So, between the time you left school and joined the RAF what were you doing then as an option?
AB: I was hoping to become a vet.
RP: Oh right.
AB: Slightly different.
RP: Yeah.
AB: And that’s what I was working on then so, but when the war came along I joined up.
RP: Where did you join? Where were you living when you joined then?
AB: I was living in a place called Blackheath.
RP: Yes.
AB: It was Kidbrooke at one time. Then London expanded.
RP: Yes.
AB: There was an airfield there at Kidbrooke. That’s the start of the old M2. Remember it?
RP: Yeah.
AB: Do you know London at all?
RP: Not very. Not that well. I know it.
AB: Oh.
RP: But I never lived there.
AB: They turned there. Then what was it? When I went to 12 Group Headquarters as a Group Armament Officer I met a bloody twit called Donaldson. You may remember him. He flew hundreds of aircraft at six hundred and six miles an hour.
RP: Oh right.
AB: But he had a brother and his brother was a very nice fellow but Donaldson, the one that did that was a complete bloody twit. Excuse me. Now then —
RP: I think you’re allowed to say that.
AB: There was a court martial going on for low flying. So, what does he do? There’s a place called Newton. He was beating the airfield up. He thought that was funny. There’s a poor blighter there losing his, well his rank and everything for doing a bit of —
RP: Doing a bit of that. Yeah.
AB: It was only a bit of low flying.
RP: And he gets, he gets away with it.
AB: Yeah.
RP: Ok. So, so did you finish the war as a flight lieutenant then?
AB: Pardon?
RP: Did you finish the war as a flight lieutenant?
AB: Yes.
RP: Was that your rank when you finished?
AB: Yeah.
RP: Yeah.
AB: So, there it is. I had quite an interesting little job.
AB: Oh yes.
RP: Wandering around the continent picking people up. I’ll tell you something funny. Brian, can you pull that box over there please. That plastic box.
AB: The people you were picking up were they suspicious people then? Were you, were you thinking of —
RP: The plastic box on the floor.
[recording paused]
RP: Ok, Barney. If we could go back to your training days.
AB: Yeah.
RP: In the RAF. What was your first training base and what did you do there?
AB: Padgate was my first base.
RP: And what, what were you doing there?
AB: Well, that was when I joined the Air Force. And I went from there to Blackpool to do more or less the square bashing. And then from there I went to a place called Morpeth.
RP: Oh yeah.
AB: Flying in Bothas to do air gunnery.
RP: So that was the air gunnery training.
AB: It’s the training. Yeah. Then from there I went to 100 Squadron at Grimsby called Waltham. I did six trips there with a fellow called Overton. Len Overton and —
RP: So, what aircraft were you on now?
AB: That was on, started off on Lincolns. Not Lincolns. No. What was the one before?
RP: Manchester was the one before.
AB: Manchester. That’s it.
RP: Yeah.
AB: I got rather put off there because when I went there I looked up at the sky and one was coming down in flames and I didn’t like that.
RP: They were a bit under powered were they?
AB: Yes. Then we got converted on to Halifaxes and went to a Lancaster squadron. That’s typical, isn’t it?
RP: So where did your Halifax, where did you do your Halifax training?
AB: That was a place called Lindholme, I think.
RP: Oh yes. Yeah. Yeah.
AB: It was Lindholme. Then I went to Waltham. Did six trips there. From there we got sent down to Warboys in Huntingdon to more or less NFU training for Pathfinders with Bennett. Rivett-Camac was the CO at the time. He was an excellent fellow. Then they brought this fellow, Collings in which was a complete twit. And I did, I did two tours and we was due —
RP: How long was a tour? How many?
AB: Well, it was supposed to be thirty trips.
RP: Right.
AB: Or if we’d done a double tour it was forty odd.
RP: Right.
AB: But I’d done I think it was getting on for fifty trips, and then we got court martialled for low flying over Skegness. JB921. Everybody saw that bloody number and I still remember it.
RP: So what was the result of the court martial then?
AB: Well, they couldn’t do much with us all because we were all nutty as a fruit cake and I got sent off and I got sent to an OTU, and I rather fell out. Maybe I’ve got a big mouth but I fell out because they, they didn’t want, no they, these people working there they thought they had a safe little job and I wanted to get back on flying.
RP: So, you, this is where you were doing the training.
AB: Yes.
RP: You weren’t a trainee.
AB: No, I was instructing.
RP: You were instructing. So what was the aircraft on the OTU then?
AB: That was Wellingtons. Whitleys and Wellingtons. And so, I took myself off and went to see Air Commodore Ayres. Well, first of all I went to 8 Group Headquarters in Huntingdon and asked could I see the big chief. And it was Air Commodore Ayres said, ‘What the hell are you doing now?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m wasting my time because I’m not going to be instructing.’ So, he said, ‘Right.’ So, I went in to see Bennett. Air Marshall Bennett. He was an Australian. Very much down to earth. He said, ‘You’re wanting to come back?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ So, of course he commissioned me because it was him that saw me cutting the Perspex out of a turret and joining up the guns so they would fire if the hydraulics froze. I could still fire the guns.
RP: So, what rank were you when you got your commission then? What rank?
AB: Flight sergeant.
RP: You were a flight sergeant. Ok.
AB: That was the rate I was on and I was quite happy. Then I was flying away. We dropped food over into Belgium. Holland rather as you saw in the logbook. Then I got sent to London to go to British Bombing Survey Unit at a place Bad Nenndorf.
RP: To come back to the Operation Manna. Were you flying, flying Lancasters then?
AB: Lancasters. Yeah.
RP: So, but that was, this was just dropping food.
AB: Yeah.
RP: So how many sorties did you do on Manna then?
AB: I think [pause] look in my book. I think I —
RP: Yeah.
AB: That little blue book.
RP: Yeah. Yeah. I can do that but —
AB: I did, I think it was eighty. It was either seventy eight or eighty trips.
RP: Crikey.
AB: You were supposed to have done twenty five or I think thirty five. Then there were two tours. You’d no need to fly again.
RP: No.
AB: But I think I’d done eighty. I was trying to do a hundred. For some reason I was a bloody nutcase. I was trying to count, I suppose.
RP: So, how many sorties do you think you flew during the war then? If you —
AB: I think I did eighty.
RP: That’s a lot isn’t it? And you were never, and you were never injured or shot down.
AB: Oh yes. We got, we came back in a bit of a heap a couple of times and up on the Norfolk coast there’s called, a place called Woodbridge.
RP: Oh yes. Yeah. I’ve heard of it.
AB: You may have heard of it.
RP: I’ve heard of Woodbridge.
AB: But it’s a bloody great big concrete slab.
RP: I think. I think, yeah. Yeah —
AB: And if you landed there the bulldozers used to just sweep you off the runway into a big heap.
RP: If you crash landed.
AB: Yes.
RP: Right.
AB: Because you usually, you come back there. I met some very nice people. One of the best characters d ever met was a fellow called Rivett–Carnac. His brother was Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire but he was a wonderful leader but he was as crazy as they come. Then they had Group Captain Collings. Well, we couldn’t create a mutiny but, so actually it was Bennett told us to write a little note saying we wanted to transfer and he came in. I remember he came in. He took his coat off. He said, ‘We’re all equal now.’ He said, ‘What’s the trouble?’ I said, ‘Well, the CO’s a bloody twit.’
RP: This is Bennett you’re talking to.
AB: Yes.
RP: Yeah. Right.
AB: You could talk to him.
RP: Right.
AB: I’m not kidding you.
RP: Yeah. Yeah.
AB: Before we finished our conversation the character Collings was off the station.
RP: And what, what happened to him then? Do you know?
AB: I don’t know. I’ve got a photograph of him somewhere walking along with the queen.
RP: Oh right.
AB: Was. But he was. No. What I found, I found there were some people who like to get themselves the cosy little jobs, shut the window and say, ‘Blow you chap. I’m all right.’
RP: Right. So, they had a comfortable war.
AB: Yes.
RP: Yeah.
AB: Well, the funny thing was I was more of a nervous wreck, you may think I’m a nutcase now, when I wasn’t flying then when I was flying.
RP: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, you mentioned Len Overton. Did you tend to stay with the same crew on your various posts?
AB: Well, part of the time I stayed.
RP: Yeah.
AB: With Len Overton.
RP: Yeah.
AB: The funny thing is for some reason. I don’t know how because I’m not up with the signals to know all this sort of thing. Computers.
RP: Yeah.
AB: But someone sent me a photograph and I’ve got it there because I was his best man but somehow I got this photograph and it’s over on the side there and, but Len Overton, he didn’t want to come back. I think, I think his nerves were a bit shattered. But I always thought it’s a challenge and besides the ruddy Germans knocked my old mums house down.
RP: Oh right.
AB: With two bombs.
RP: Yeah. Which was why, which was what persuaded you to —
AB: Yeah. And I saw what happened to London.
RP: Yeah.
AB: I remember that Saturday seeing all these aircraft when the big fire was in London.
RP: Yeah.
AB: And maybe it’s just me.
RP: Right. Of the, of the aircraft that you were in. The Lancasters. The Wellingtons.
AB: Yeah.
RP: What was your favourite then? Which one did you —
AB: Lancasters.
RP: You liked the Lancaster.
AB: Yes.
RP: Yeah.
AB: You could really throw a Lanc around. You could. It could take a hell of a lot of punishment. I remember we was over Hamburg. If you remember [unclear] history we did, I did I think it was five nights and seven days of bombing Hamburg and one of the funny things is we dropped the marker bombs which was Pathfinders, we dropped the marker bombs, and one of them got hit by one of the German rockets underneath and blew it back through the bomb doors. And a fellow called Tommy Cable got the immediate award of the DFM because he hacked this marker out of the aircraft because it was back inside the aircraft.
RP: Yeah.
AB: It was a little bit uncomfortable.
RP: Crikey.
AB: But he had, Tommy Cable came from Grimsby. But no, I I found it alright. I wasn’t really interested because for some funny reason I was a technical officer. I wasn’t a general duty for flying. I was, do you know the general duties? They do the flying.
RP: Yes.
AB: Technical officers. I was a technical armament officer. How I got in there I don’t know but I was. I went to the Number 1 Air Armaments School at Manby. I did specialist armament.
RP: What year was this then? How far in?
AB: Oh, this would be the beginning of ’44.
RP: Oh right. So, you’d, you’d done a lot of flying before then.
AB: And I went back to, I went back to Manby and I qualified as an armament officer and I was supposed to have gone to Warnborough and Christmas Island. Thanks very much to a horse that broke my arm because I used to ride young horses.
RP: Right.
AB: So I used to go, if you look around here like that over there. The wife had a, ended up about seventy horses. Well, you know that don’t you, Brian?
BL: Ahum.
RP: Crikey.
AB: Fabius was one of the famous horses she had.
RP: I see there’s a few up there.
AB: Oh yes. Now, my little wife she died of actually diabetes. She smashed her skull. She had a mark on her face where a horse stepped on her face. Are you married?
RP: Well, I was. My wife died in January.
AB: Oh. Women are not always easy to live with are they? But what, you know but she was a wonderful little thing.
RP: Yeah.
AB: Brian may have met her. But the big trouble she had bad diabetes.
RP: Oh right.
AB: She was on sixteen injections a day
RP: Oh, my goodness
AB: And they can play hell with them.
RP: Yeah.
AB: It can. It’s not them. It’s their complaint that you had to live with and quite often you fall out being bloody war declared. You would sit down and think where the hell did that start? Some stupid little thing.
RP: So, what year, were you married? During the war or after the war?
AB: After the war.
RP: So, you were single. You were single during the war then so you —
AB: Yes.
RP: You were fancy free during the war.
AB: I didn’t have time for anything else.
RP: Well, that was my next question but obviously you’ve answered it.
AB: Yeah. No. I met little Thelma. Actually, I’ll tell you how I met her. I brought a horse down from Leicester. It was a thoroughbred I brought down, and how I got that horse, it was a Mr Skinner, and I used to buy these horse because when I used to take off I used to fly around and see who had got horses.
RP: Right.
AB: The next job, where’s the nearest pub? So, that night I’d be in the pub, keep chatting. People used to be very suspicious but when they found you’d put old clothes on and were working with the horses, not just for something to sit on I found that I got along fine.
RP: Yeah.
AB: Different parts whether I was Leicester, Lincoln, there, and this here horse, and I was having a meal with them and I was speaking about this horse. Course he had a very good, must have been about three thousand acres. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘You can’t catch that bloody thing.’ I said, ‘Yes you can.’ He said, ‘Well, if you can catch it,’ he said, ‘How much will I give you?’ I said, ‘Ten pound.’ He said, ‘Right.’ He said, ‘I’ve won ten pounds.’ I went out with a bit of string and I learned from an old gypsy how to catch horses. Now, it may sound strange. This old gypsy. I thought, ‘How does he do that?’ What he always used to carry was a little bit of the afterbirth. I know it sounds crude but it was just like a little piece of dried up —
RP: Yeah.
AB: Crinkly paper. Now, if you have that on your hand horses are very inquisitive animal. If you walk and turn your back on a horse he’s saying well, what’s he up to? Walk away. A horse will follow you.
RP: Right.
AB: So, I’ve had a rather odd life.
RP: You have.
AB: Do you think I’m an odd person?
RP: Well, can we go back to your technical officer days then? So, having been a technical officer.
AB: Yeah.
RP: In 1944 but you still went back to flying from that. Yeah.
AB: Yes. Yes.
RP: So you had a dual role basically then.
AB: Right. Because I was a technical officer. I wasn’t a general duties.
RP: Right.
AB: And I went to Newton up near Nottingham.
RP: Yeah. I know where Newton.
AB: To 12 Group Headquarters that was. Donaldson was there. Do you remember Donaldson? He flew at six hundred feet.
RP: Yeah. You said. Yeah.
AB: But he is the biggest stupid show off. His brother was a very nice fellow and I went there, and I went there and as group armament officer for 12 Group. And then I fell out with Donaldson because he, there was another character court martialled, a fellow, a very nice fellow for low flying and Donaldson was beating the airfield up and because I told him about it he made it so I phoned up Air Commodore Wynter Morgan. He was at the Ordnance Board in London. I told him what had happened. He said, ‘Right, pack your bags. You’re down here.’ And I went in and then I joined up with Air Marshall Combe. Now, Combe, Air Marshall Combe he lived at the Woodpeckers at Brockenhurst. He was the Combe out of Watney Combe Brewers. His wife was a Mitchell and Butler Brewery, so money married money and I got on fine. I travelled all over the place with him and we lived, in fact I lived with them. And I, I got on alright, and he got on alright and he put up with me.
RP: So, where were you stationed when the war ended then? Where, where did it all come through —
AB: I was in Germany.
RP: When the war ended.
AB: Yeah. But he was [unclear]
RP: Because you were still. But the war had, had the war ended or was it about to end?
AB: No. It had more or less ended.
RP: Yeah.
AB: It ended when I was out there.
RP: Oh right.
AB: I got suddenly sent out there. I was at [pause] wait a minute. I was at Upwood in Huntingdon.
RP: Because you were still flying up to the —
AB: I was flying but then I more or less stopped flying and I suddenly got sent out to British Bombing Survey.
RP: Did they explain why they’d stopped you flying then? Why did they pick you for that then? Did they explain?
AB: They kept putting me on these other jobs.
RP: Yeah.
AB: So, I found it alright. I used to travel around all over the place. I was my own little boss and I got flying pay and technical pay so I didn’t complain.
RP: Even though you weren’t flying.
AB: Yeah.
RP: Yeah. Because of your qualifications. Yeah. Yeah.
AB: Yes. You see, if I stayed, if I stayed as a flight lieutenant. If I became a squadron leader I’d lose my flying pay.
RP: Oh right. I see.
AB: And my technical pay.
RP: Were you ever offered promotion then?
AB: Yes.
RP: You were.
AB: So, as a flight lieutenant I had all the perks and none of the —
RP: None of the aggro.
AB: Ugly bits.
RP: Ok. Very good. So, what, if you had to pick one then of your of your sorties that you did are there any memorable sorties that were a close run things that you can remember?
AB: Yes, there is one. You look in the book. It’s at Hamburg. I think we’d done about the third night we’d been over Hamburg. The bomb doors opened, bombs away, and we had what they called markers. TI markers. Target Indicator markers, and as they went down we got hit by one of the Prince of Wales feathers they called them. These here big rocket things, and it blew the bomb back in to the nose of the aircraft and it hadn’t exploded which is a bit off putting and we were spinning down because a couple of the engines had been knocked out. We were spinning down. We couldn’t jump out because of the centrifugal force.
RP: This was in a Lancaster. Yeah.
AB: Yes.
RP: Yeah.
AB: Then the aircraft pulled itself out. And after the war I met a character that remembered seeing this aircraft come down because the flare was still burning in the bomb bay.
RP: Goodness me.
AB: It was a bit uncomfortable but he pulled out and we got back to this country.
RP: So, you flew back from Germany in that condition then.
AB: Yes, and we landed at a place called Woodbridge which you know.
RP: Yeah. Yeah. Right.
AB: We put the aircraft down there.
RP: So —
AB: Thought thank God for that one.
RP: So, one, one final question for you then Barney. Would you do it all again?
AB: Not for this country. No. I’m sorry.
RP: No.
AB: Not for this country. They buggered around. I spent five and a half years in hospital. Halton, Wroughton, Headley Court, Ely, Stoke Mandeville.
RP: Crikey.
AB: Thanks to Mr Robbins. He’s dead now.
RP: Why was that?
AB: You may have heard of him in Truro. He took two sections out of my spine. I’ve got the reports in the, in the other room there somewhere.
RP: Was this from an injury? A wartime injury.
AB: Yes.
RP: Oh right.
AB: And some of the bloody twits you met, because let’s face it sometimes you feel you get around, sometimes you can’t, and it’s not for, just for me. How about some of these other poor devils? Sorry.
RP: No. No. You’re entitled to say that and it’s been fascinating. I’d really —
AB: Yes. It is.
RP: I’d like to say thank you for —
AB: But no. This country. Let’s face it. Churchill. Don’t forget Churchill ordered a raid on Nuremburg because, and we lost ninety four, ninety six aircraft, not counting those that were damaged coming back because he dictated beyond. Bennett was against it. Harris, Air Marshall Harris or Air Chief Marshall Harris was against it. He ordered it. It was either ninety four or ninety six. You can look up your records that we lost and that’s not counting those aircraft that came back, ‘cause Churchill was a big blabbermouth. Now, if you follow through Churchill never let the RAF Bomber Command go on any victory parade.
RP: Yes. I know that. Yeah.
AB: You know that don’t you? What I’m saying.
RP: Oh yes. I know.
AB: And we were complete outcasts to him. He was a soapbox orator Churchill. I suppose he did do a good job because he more or less took over from, after Eden wasn’t it? And —
RP: Chamberlain.
AB: Chamberlain, Neville.
RP: Chamberlain. Yeah.
AB: No, Eden —
RP: Eden was he was his foreign secretary.
AB: That’s right. The foreign one.
RP: Yeah. Yeah.
AB: Chamberlain was, “Peace in our time,” at Croydon airfield.
RP: That’s the one.
AB: Yeah.
RP: Ok. Well, I’d just like to say thank you. It’s been fascinating, and I do appreciate your time so thank you very much. That’s lovely.
AB: It’s all over is it?
RP: That’s, thank you. Yes. Thank you very much.
AB: Oh, I’m sorry if I’ve —

Collection

Citation

Rod Pickles, “Interview with Alfred Barnett,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 27, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/33664.

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