Interview with Robert Barnes. One


Interview with Robert Barnes. One


Robert Barnes was working in a Reserved Occupation and so knew the only way he could join the RAF was to volunteer for aircrew. Before he volunteered he was also a member of the ARP and Home Guard. Robert trained as a flight engineer and was posted to 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe. Robert’s pilot was James Flint DFC GM DFM who became the Commanding Officer of 50 Squadron.



IBCC Digital Archive




Julie Williams


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00:49:29 audio recording




ABarnesR170803, PBarnesR1701

Temporal Coverage


DK: Right. So, I’ll just introduce myself. So, this is David Kavanagh interviewing Bob Barnes at his home on August the 3rd 2017. So, if I just put that down there.
RB: Right.
DK: I might occasionally look at it. It’s just to make sure it’s working.
RB: Yeah [laughs]
DK: So, what, what I wanted to ask you first of all was —
RB: Sorry. If I have, if you —
DK: No, that’s ok.
RB: If I don’t hear you properly it’s because I’m hearing a bit —
DK: Ok. Ok. What, what I wanted to ask first was what were you doing before the war?
RB: Well, I was in the last year at school and living in London. We were evacuated to Duke of Sutherland’s place near Guildford.
DK: Right.
RB: Thirty of us. They thought, they were expecting girls but but anyway we had the year and I came back to London. And I joined the ARP as a messenger and I did about a year on that. And then the Home Guard. Both the infantry and rocket sites.
DK: Right. Do you know how old you would have been then?
RB: Well, I left school at sixteen. And so, sixteen to seventeen I went to a Government Training Centre and was on engineering. And then I did a year or so with a machine tool firm who were renovating machine tools. And then 19 — [pause] I actually volunteered in 1943.
DK: Right. Ok.
RB: And I went to Cardington for an initial test.
DK: Was, was there any reason why you chose the RAF? Was there any particular reason?
RB: Well —
DK: Rather than the Army or Navy.
RB: No. The only reason, all my friends had gone in to service. Some had been lost. And I thought, well the Air Force, to be honest I was in a Reserved Occupation and you only had three places to go. As an artificer in the Navy. Which meant below decks.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Which I didn’t fancy. Or down in the mines which I didn’t fancy that either.
DK: No.
RB: So, just left the Air Force. But just really all my friends had gone in the services and I thought it was time I went. Signed on in, at Lord’s Cricket Ground and we had about six weeks in Regent’s Park area. Billeted in flats. We had our meals in the Zoo. And then I had six months, I think it was six months at Torquay.
DK: Right.
RB: And then on to St Athan for the engineering course. And then ’44, I went to Swinderby on the initial introduction to flying. And we were on Stirlings for that.
DK: Right. Had you met your crew at this point?
RB: No. I hadn’t got, I was just coming to that.
DK: Oh. Ok. Sorry.
RB: No. They allocated the engineers to the crew at Swinderby.
DK: Right. Ok.
RB: And —
DK: So, they’d already crewed up then.
RB: That’s right. Yes. And then we went over to — I forget the name now. Over for the transfer to Lancasters.
DK: Right. Was that the Lancaster Finishing School?
RB: More or less. Yes.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
RB: And I think, I forget how long I was there but then we went to, to Skellingthorpe.
DK: Right. Just taking you back a bit. What did you think of the Stirlings as an aeroplane?
RB: Well, I suppose it’s like every. With the Lancaster I was happy. I’d go anywhere in that. And I suppose to anyone who flew in Stirlings they’d have the same attitude. Although it was a bit more vulnerable than —
DK: Yeah.
RB: And my main memory of the Stirling was if we went to a height where it was cold we had pipes with heating coming through and sticking them down your jacket [laughs] But anyway that was the time when D-Day was going.
DK: Right.
RB: And then from Swinderby we went. I went to Skellingthorpe and stayed there ‘til the end of the war.
DK: And that was with 50 Squadron.
RB: That’s right. Yes.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And our skipper was a flight lieutenant in [pause] He was a flight commander at the time and then he became CO. And of course as a crew we didn’t fly all that many operations. We did eighteen together.
DK: Right.
RB: But if someone was ill on another crew then we did the extra trips.
DK: Can you remember the pilot’s name?
RB: Yes. He was Flight Lieutenant Flint when I, when I joined. And then he went to wing commander and he became CO of the squadron.
DK: So, he was the CO of 50 Squadron.
RB: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: Wing Commander Flint.
RB: Yes.
DK: Oh right. What was he —
RB: I think he was well known although I didn’t realise at the time. He had a George Cross for rescuing a navigator in a Blenheim, I think it was.
DK: That’s what I thought. Yeah. I recognised the name when you said.
RB: Yes.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
RB: And —
DK: What was he like then?
RB: Sorry?
DK: What was he like?
RB: Well, he wasn’t a person who you made friends with but he was fair. And strict as far as the flying went.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And as a crew we worked pretty well worked together. We were a bit of an odd crowd. One from, the navigator was from Liverpool.
DK: Yeah. Can you remember — can you remember the crew’s name? The navigator’s name.
RB: MacLeod.
DK: MacLeod. Yeah.
RB: Then the two gunners. Tombs and Johnson.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Tombs was a Cockney and I think Johnson came from the Midlands somewhere. And the bomb aimer. He was also from the Midlands.
DK: Right.
RB: He was another Johnson, I think. And myself.
DK: Right. And the wireless operator. Can you remember?
RB: The wireless operator. Yeah. [pause] I can’t remember at the moment. But it might come back as we go through.
DK: Ok. So, so you got on well as a crew then did you?
RB: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Yeah. Yes. The —
DK: Did you, even though he was the CO of the squadron did you socialise at all?
RB: Various. He didn’t socialise with us but on occasions when we were stood down we’d perhaps go in to Nottingham and have a night out.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And that would be the rest of the crew. Not, not the navigator. But the bomb aimer and the gunners.
DK: So, get — could you just talk a little bit about what your role was as the flight engineer? What your job was?
RB: Well, the training they gave us at St Athan was completely new to me because I knew nothing about engines and that was the main part of the course. But in the air we were responsible for the fuel side and according to the book, in the handbook that we got we were supposed to know everything about the, all the aircraft.
DK: Right.
RB: But I, I don’t think we learned all that [laughs]
DK: But you, you knew the important part about the engines and the fuel.
RB: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And watching the instruments. See. Keep an eye on them. Make sure they were going alright. We had one occasion when we were running up for, in the morning before going on a raid. And we’d started up the engines. And of course I was looking at the instruments and then I suddenly looked downstairs and the ground crew was jumping up and down. And we’d got steam up from a valve for the coolant that had got stuck.
DK: Right.
RB: So we had to shut that down. But apart from that they [pause] we didn’t really have much problem with the aircraft itself. The ground crew did a good job.
DK: Did you still go on that operation with the coolant problem?
RB: With the —
DK: The coolant.
RB: Oh No.
DK: No.
RB: No. They settled that in the —
DK: It wasn’t fixed for you to then take-off.
RB: No.
DK: No. No.
RB: No. We were ok. And then that more or less happened all the way through. The only time that [pause] I went on a briefing side for one operation and I went out to the runway where they, where they had the waving the aircraft off. And we had the 61 Squadron. One of their aircraft it went off and then it circled around and for some reason something had gone wrong and they landed down. Everything went up. The only, the rear gunner was left on the edge of the crater. So, overall my view of the operations was that it was a bit of a lottery whether you survived or not.
DK: So how many operations in total did you fly?
RB: Eighteen.
DK: Eighteen. Can you remember any of the targets?
RB: The — ?
DK: The targets.
RB: Well, that was a problem really in those days because bombing was not an accurate thing. They’d mark the site.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And if the flares got put out or the wind took them away so you had a creep affect. And whether you hit the actual target or not was a —
DK: No.
RB: You wouldn’t know.
DK: Were most of your operations in daylight or, or night time?
RB: I’ve got a logbook here.
DK: Ah. You’ve got the logbook.
RB: That’s all the training.
DK: Right. That’s all — so, you were with 1660 Conversion Unit then.
RB: Sorry?
DK: 1660 Heavy Conversion Unit.
RB: Yes.
DK: 1660.
RB: Yes. Oh sorry.
DK: So, that’s at Swinderby.
RB: Syerston.
DK: Syerston.
RB: Swinderby then Syerston.
DK: Right. Ok. So, Syerston and then Swinderby.
RB: Yes.
DK: Right. Ok. So, there’s your pilot there then. Flint.
RB: Yes.
DK: Flight lieutenant then.
RB: Yeah.
DK: So in green is the war operations then. So, red. Red’s at night isn’t it? And green —
RB: That’s night.
DK: Red’s night and green is daylight.
RB: That’s daylight.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Yes.
DK: So, that’s 19th July ‘44. That’s in France. Creil. C R E I L. That says PFF Pathfinder Force poor.
RB: [laughs] I’ll just get my other glasses.
DK: Ok.
RB: Getting blind as well as deaf.
DK: I can, I can read it to you. It’s ok. So, just going through this then we’ve got 19th of July 1944.
RB: Yes.
DK: War operations. And it’s a flying bomb dump near to Creil in France. And it says PFF poor. So, that’s Pathfinder Force poor.
RB: Yes. That’s, that was the, I forget what that was now. PFF. I think that was to do with if enemy aircraft were around.
DK: Right. Was that the Pathfinder Force?
RB: Sorry?
DK: Was that the Pathfinder Force?
RB: The — ?
DK: Pathfinder Force.
RB: I can’t remember now.
DK: You can’t remember. I think it probably is. So, then you’ve got —
RB: Let’s see where that was, shall we?
DK: So you’ve got PFF poor there but the next raid PFF good. I think that’s, that is the Pathfinder Force.
RB: Flying bomb.
DK: Yeah.
RB: That might be the Pathfinders. I’m sure. Yes. Yes.
DK: The Pathfinder. Yes. Yes.
RB: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.
DK: That’s saying PFF is poor.
RB: Yeah.
DK: PFF good on that one.
RB: Yeah.
DK: So the next raid is 20th July ’44 and it’s the railway marshalling yards in Belgium.
RB: Yes.
DK: PFF good. And then July the 24th.
RB: St Nazaire.
DK: St Nazaire. Oil storage dumps. July the 25th St Cyr Airfield. That’s C Y R.
RB: St Cyr. Versailles.
DK: Yeah. Versailles. Cyr. St Cyr Airfield. July 26th — that’s the railway junction and marshalling yards in France.
RB: Yes.
DK: And the 31st of July war operations.
RB: Reims.
DK: Reims. Reims. Yeah. Good results it says.
RB: Yes.
DK: And carrying on. So August the 16th —
RB: Yes. Stettin.
DK: Stettin. Built up area. So, August the 19th the Pallice. La Pallice.
RB: Oil storage.
DK: Oil storage. And then August the 31st — flying bomb dump again.
RB: I can’t remember where that place was.
DK: All on the French coast somewhere. For the, for the recording —
RB: Yes.
DK: I’m not going to try and pronounce this but I’ll spell it it’s B E R G E N E U S E. That’s somewhere in France.
RB: Yes.
DK: So, you landed back at Ford then. You didn’t get back to base.
RB: Yes. Well, on that operation we had the wing commander’s bomb aimer with us. And we were just coming away from that site and there was a single shot and as luck would have it the bomb aimer caught shrapnel in his head. And that’s why we landed at Ford.
DK: Was it, was he ok?
RB: Well, I didn’t keep up in touch with him. It’s like everything else. People were injured or went on a flight. Once they’d gone.
DK: That’s it.
RB: That was it.
DK: So, you got a replacement bomb aimer presumably.
RB: Well, that was on the way home fortunately.
DK: Right. Ok. Ok. So, then 24th of September 1944. Target — defensive enemy positions at Calais.
RB: Yes.
DK: And that time you were diverted back to Westcott.
RB: Yeah.
DK: So then, 6th of October. Target — Bremen.
RB: Bremen.
DK: Built up area. Yeah. And then the 1st of November. Target — Hamburg. Synthetic oil plants.
RB: Yes.
DK: Then 4th of December. Heilbronn. That’s H E I L.
RB: Heilbronn. Yeah.
DK: H E I L B R O N N. Heilbronn. So, that was the area bombing then. The target area. Then 30th of December —
RB: Yes.
DK: That’s, that’s Germany again isn’t it?
RB: That was when the troops were advancing on.
DK: I’ll spell this for the benefit of the recording. It’s H O U F F A L I Z E.
RB: I think on that because the troops, they weren’t sure where the troops were.
DK: Yeah.
RB: We, we went, we were briefed for the operation and then it was called off. We then had breakfast. Bacon and egg. Brought on again. Back to the mess for another meal.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And this happened three times [laughs]
DK: You had three breakfasts.
RB: Yeah. We were egg bound by that time.
DK: So, so the target was German troops in salient.
RB: Yes.
DK: So it was tactical bombing of the German troops.
RB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. And just here it says here on the 30th of December operation, it says severe icing conditions.
RB: Yes.
DK: So, did that cause any problems to your aircraft?
RB: Not really. We had the heating system which helped to get rid of it. But you can hear the bits flaking off.
DK: And then 4th of January 1945 war operations. Target — Royan. R O Y A N. South West France. German troop concentrations. And then again, 6th of January German troop concentrations in the salient. They were being hammered a bit weren’t they? So, 13th of January 1945 — Politz. P O L I T Z. Oil refineries. 14th of January — Marsberg. Oil refineries again.
RB: Yeah. They were two long flights.
DK: Politz is in Poland isn’t it? I think.
RB: Sorry?
DK: Politz. Isn’t it in Poland?
RB: I’m not sure exactly where but it was certainly —
DK: Well, in the east. Yeah.
RB: It was in the east.
DK: Yeah.
RB: In the eastern area.
DK: And then on the so that’s the 13th to Politz and then the 14th to Marsberg
RB: Yes. Merseburg.
DK: Merseburg. Sorry. Merseburg. Merseburg. And it mentions here concentrated flak. Diverted.
RB: On that one we were Window crew. So, you went around once dropping the Window and then came back to do the second trip.
DK: So, you dropped, so you dropped your bombs on the second time around?
RB: That’s right. Yes.
DK: So, you had to go over the target twice?
RB: Yes. And then with two long trips.
DK: Yeah. Well the one on the 13th of January. That’s eleven hours five minutes. And the one on the 14th of January that’s ten hours [pause] So, I think that’s all of your operations there, isn’t it?
RB: There was bringing ex-prisoners back.
DK: So, that was your last operation there then. So, then you went on to Operation Exodus.
RB: Yeah.
DK: Do you, do you remember picking up the Prisoners of War?
RB: On that one.
DK: Yeah. The 26th of April 1945.
RB: That one we were actually service crew.
DK: Right.
RB: So we didn’t bring anybody back on that one. But on this one we brought.
DK: So, there’s another trip.
RB: Yes.
DK: Brussels again.
RB: So, we stayed the night at —
DK: Yeah.
RB: Westcott.
DK: So, on the 26th of April ’45 it actually says you returned with twenty four ex-POWs. So, what sort of states were they in?
RB: Well, they were very quiet. We didn’t really have a lot to do with them. We just kept in touch with them. Seeing they were alright on the flight. But they were quiet on the main.
DK: Yeah. So another Exodus then on the 6th of May. So, at this point the war has ended then.
RB: Yes.
DK: You did a trip to Italy then after the war has ended.
RB: Yeah. That was to bring more [pause] more troops back.
DK: Troops back. Yeah. That was Operation Dodge, I think, wasn’t it? Bringing the army —
RB: Yeah.
DK: Back from Italy. And then that’s it. So, that was your last operation here. Well, not operation. Your last flight I should say. 28th August 1945. So, did —
RB: We had, that was one of the few occasions when we had any problem with the aircraft. The wireless operator had smoke coming from his area.
DK: Oh right.
RB: And we thought we were going to have two or three days in Pomigliano.
DK: Right.
RB: But they did the dirty on us and got it ready [laughs]
DK: Would you have liked to have stayed a bit longer then?
RB: Yeah. Well, we went to [pause] because we were near Sorrento.
DK: Right.
RB: And we hitchhiked to a junction. And then we got another hitch to Sorrento. We had a meal there. And I, we had, we didn’t see a lot of Sorrento but the main thing there’s no sand there. It’s as a result of the Vesuvius eruption.
DK: Oh right. Ok. Yeah. Yes. Yeah.
RB: And there was all dust really.
DK: Yeah. Yeah.
RB: But —
DK: So that was on, that was on the 27th of July 1945.
RB: Yeah.
DK: And you come back from Italy then with twenty.
RB: Twenty persons.
DK: Twenty passengers. People on board.
RB: Ex-soldiers.
DK: So, they were soldiers.
RB: Yes.
DK: Coming back from Italy. Yeah.
RB: And I was with another pilot.
DK: Oh right. Yeah. So, that’s Flight Lieutenant Lundy. So had Flint left by this point then? Because you did the Exodus —
RB: Yes.
DK: Once with Flint there.
RB: Yes.
DK: But the Dodge flights were with Lundy.
RB: I’m just looking to see the other pilots we were with. There was one. That was another one.
DK: So you’ve got Groves. Flying Officer Syd Groves, Flying Officer Wells and Flying Officer Boyle.
RB: Boyle.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Yeah.
DK: So it’s eighteen operations.
RB: I think the rest were — there was Flying Officer Wells.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Another. Another officer there.
DK: Arden. Yeah. So you flew with a number of different pilots.
RB: That’s right, yes.
DK: But did you have the same crew and just a different pilot or were they –
RB: Sorry?
DK: Did you have the same crew and a different pilot?
RB: That was at the beginning.
DK: Right.
RB: We did the twelve. Well, yeah the twelve operations with our own skipper.
DK: Right.
RB: And then the rest were these.
DK: Right. Ok.
RB: Odd ones.
DK: So, the first twelve were with Flint.
RB: Yes.
DK: And then the other six with various other pilots.
RB: That’s right. Yes.
DK: Were you, were you ever attacked by German fighters at all?
RB: Sorry?
DK: Were you ever attacked by German fighters?
RB: No. The only time when we took evasion action we weren’t sure. and we had the rear gunner — he gave a warning and we did a corkscrew. But apart from that — no.
DK: And can, can you recall the aircraft being hit by flak at all?
RB: Well, as I say there was that one when the bomb aimer got hit. And I myself because, because we had the blip. The [pause] on the windows we had the, where you could look out and see down.
DK: The blister.
RB: That’s right. Yes. And I was looking out at, we had some flak coming up and I felt a little something going, graze the head. But that was the nearest I had to anything to do with the flak.
DK: So you got hit by a little piece then.
RB: Just a little bit. Yeah. So I was dead lucky.
DK: Yeah.
RB: But after all it was all dead lucky really. I knew you had the — you were given a course in the briefing and you had to turn at certain points etcetera. And some pilots, they get ahead of time so they wanted to lose it and they’d be flying across the stream. No lights at all.
DK: No.
RB: So whether anybody got put down by a crash or —
DK: A collision.
RB: Collision. I don’t know. But it could have happened.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And then we had another. The aircraft had returned from the, from an operation and they still had their bombs on board. And the ground crew were putting this aircraft to bed and something happened. Up it went and the ground crew were killed. So you never knew from the time you took off ‘til the time you got back to bed.
DK: So, that happened at Skellingthorpe, did it?
RB: That’s right.
DK: The aircraft exploded.
RB: Yeah.
DK: And a number of the ground crew killed.
RB: That was the ground crew. Yeah.
DK: So how do, how do you look back in your time in the RAF now then?
RB: Well, it was certainly interesting. But I don’t think bombing as such is the beginning and end of a war. And there’s Johnny Johnson, the bomb aimer, he got the MBE or OBE.
DK: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
RB: And I thought myself because I’d had the clasp for Bomber Command and I thought that was a better idea because that was for operations.
DK: Yeah.
RB: But I always thought that the MBE and all those Birthday Honours were for services to civil life and of course I had reservations about —because things weren’t accurate. There were probably innocent people getting killed.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And, and there was an aspect that, well you got on with the job. You couldn’t do anything about that but at the same time I didn’t feel it was quite right. And having seen some of the bombing in London when we were living there and some of our friends got bombed. Nothing to do with the war. So from that aspect I’m not sure about bombing at all.
DK: No.
RB: But there we go. It was a job they wanted done.
DK: Yeah.
RB: You did it.
DK: So what was your career? Did you leave the RAF at that point then or —
RB: Yeah. I left. I only did four years. The two years of the war. That’s 1943 to ’45. And then I had a spell at Hereford. And then there was an admin course. And then I got posted to West Africa. And I was there for a year.
DK: Right.
RB: And when I came back the — that was demob time.
DK: And what, what was your career after that? What did you do?
RB: I’ve been a draughtsman for most of the time.
DK: Oh right.
RB: On the electrical side. I joined what was [Bridge Johnson Hewstone?] when I came back. No. I went to Napier’s first of all. And I was doing drawings for design etcetera. And it was then I went to Bridge Johnson Hewstone because Napier’s were getting rid of a few people.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And then I was with [pause] they, they moved to North London. And then they closed that down. They moved up to Blackpool.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And I was redundant then. I went to an electrical. Honeywell Electrics.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And then we were living in Hertfordshire at the time. And the [pause] then I got a job at Luton Airport with Hunting Aircraft.
DK: Oh right.
RB: And then they moved. So, and I finished up with the, an Italian firm Snamprogetti on, they were petrol installations.
DK: Right.
RB: And I was there and that was the finish of work in ‘87.
DK: So, just going back a little bit now if I may. I asked you about the Stirling.
RB: Yes.
DK: And what it was like to fly. What was the Lancaster like to fly?
RB: It was, I suppose one would say it almost flew itself. It wasn’t a comfortable position as far as the engineer was concerned but —
DK: Yes. As a flight engineer did you used to sit down or were you standing up?
RB: Yeah. We had a seat.
DK: Yeah.
RB: That you could fold up from the side.
DK: Right.
RB: You sat beside the —
DK: Pilot.
RB: The pilot yes. And you had the undercarriage and throttles which we helped with the take off.
DK: So, so when the pilot’s taking off then you’re helping with the throttles.
RB: Yes.
DK: And would you raise the undercarriage when you were up or would he do that?
RB: Yes. Yeah.
DK: You’d do that?
RB: As far as the throttles were concerned the pilot did the initial take-off thing, but you followed him up and when he got to the stage he was wanting full blast then you finished it through to the end.
DK: Right.
RB: And after that he, apart from synchronising the engines the pilot had control.
DK: Control. So on your right then you’ve got all the various dials.
RB: That’s right. Yes.
DK: And what are those dials telling you then? Are they —
RB: That was fuel contents. I forget what the rest did. That was the main thing that we were interested in.
DK: So your job is always to make sure you’ve got enough fuel to get back.
RB: Yes. Because you had to transfer fuel through from one tank to another at one stage.
DK: Right. And what about landing though, did you help the pilot land at all? Or —
RB: With the flaps. He’d call for the flaps and you’d operate that one. But apart from that the pilot was in control.
DK: Yeah. So, were your pilots very good then? Were they? Mostly?
RB: Well, some took a few chances I think [laughs] There was one, whether he actually did it or not they reckoned he did the loop the loop in the Lancaster but I take that with a bit of salt.
DK: You mentioned just before I put the recording on about somebody who was smoking.
RB: Yes. But that was the navigator but —
DK: Because you’re not allowed to smoke on the aircraft are you?
RB: Well, certainly not with our skipper.
DK: No.
RB: Well, it was so silly really. I mean, you had this main spar and the navigator sat just forward of it.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And there was a valve. So if you had a leakage goodness knows what would happen.
DK: Oh right. So the pilot smelled the smoke then did he?
RB: That’s right. Yes.
DK: Did he tell him off?
RB: Yes. And he was, he was another flight lieutenant.
DK: But I am correct in saying that regardless of rank the pilot is always in charge isn’t he?
RB: Well, yes. As far as we were concerned. Yes.
DK: Yeah. So you might have other crew that outranks him but the pilot’s still in charge.
RB: Could be. Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
RB: But I don’t think it happened very often.
DK: So you were quite pleased with Flint then. You thought he was a good —
RB: Sorry?
DK: You thought that Flint — Flint was a good pilot.
RB: Oh yes.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Yeah.
DK: I know who you mean. He’s the holder of the George Cross isn’t he?
RB: Sorry?
DK: He’s got the George Cross.
RB: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Yeah. I only realised that [pause] I was looking at an Antiques Roadshow I think it was and they were at Lincoln Cathedral. And he was there with the, with these medals that he’d got.
DK: Oh right. So did you stay in touch with the crew after the war?
RB: No. The only, I did at one time. They, they were doing a Memorial at Skellingthorpe.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And I offered help but they didn’t take it up. And when they had the actual ceremony I went up there but I didn’t get involved in —
DK: Right.
RB: In anything, and I met the squadron navigator who had been on 61 Squadron as well as 50. And I saw the skipper. He was marching up with the crowd to a meal or something and I waved to him [laughs]
DK: That was —
RB: That was the only time that I actually saw him to speak to.
DK: So you did — that’s Flint you waved to.
RB: That was Flint. Yeah.
DK: Did he wave back?
RB: Yeah.
DK: Oh.
RB: Well, he shouted out, ‘Are you coming up for — ’
DK: Yeah.
RB: But I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make it or not.
DK: No.
RB: But the only other time I saw him, when they did the Memorial in Green Park in London.
DK: Right.
RB: I went up to that.
DK: Right.
RB: And it was quite a hot day and —
DK: Yeah. I was there.
RB: Were you?
DK: Yeah.
RB: And because I was a bit daft really. I didn’t have any hat or anything. And I I wasn’t feeling all that well and in the end so I didn’t get a chance to speak to him but —
DK: That was a shame.
RB: But he was in a invalid chair. A bit hunched up then. And I think it was either that year or the following year that he died. So I didn’t get in to speak to anybody after that.
DK: No. What did you think of the Memorial at Green Park?
RB: Well, it’s quite impressive.
DK: Are you pleased Bomber Command are being recognised now after all these years?
RB: Well, yes. It’s fair enough. I mean fifty five thousand people gone. And —
DK: But obviously there’s the two big Memorials now. There’s the Green Park one.
RB: Sorry?
DK: There’s two Memorials now. There’s Green Park and the new one in Lincoln.
RB: And the one in Lincoln. Yes. Yes. The one, the one I saw in Lincoln my friends were going up to Leeds and I said , ‘Would you give me a lift to somewhere near Lincoln and leave me there and you go on up.’ And they said, ‘No. We’re not going to do that. And they went up to the actual site.
DK: Oh right.
RB: Of course it wasn’t open to the public.
DK: Right. You saw it close up though did you?
RB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Well, it stands right out.
DK: Yeah.
RB: There’s a hotel nearby which —
DK: So, you haven’t actually been yet then to see it close up.
RB: No.
DK: Oh. I’ll have to try and arrange something then.
RB: Because they are running the tours for them.
DK: Running the tours.
RB: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
RB: I might do that at some stage.
DK: Yeah. I’ll have a word with them when I get back. Because obviously we’ve got the main opening in April so hopefully you can come along to that.
RB: Yes.
DK: Yeah. Oh, ok then. I think that’s that’s everything. That’s been very interesting.
RB: No exciting moments.
DK: Trust me it’s all very exciting. I always like the logbooks. How do feel looking back at this thinking that was you?
RB: Sorry?
DK: How do you feel looking back in this logbook thinking that was, that was you? You did that.
RB: I’m sorry?
DK: How do you look feel looking in the logbook knowing that you did that?
RB: Well, I’m glad I did it. If only we sort of remember all the people who I’ve known and lost. And after all you’d have surviving these is a matter, as I say of luck. You can be on the last flight. Gone. Or you can come into the squadron, you do your training, go on the first flight.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Never got to know them.
DK: Yeah. Can I just —
RB: But I may have got some photos of the crew.
DK: Oh right. Ok.
RB: Some misguided person sent me that book [laughs]
DK: For the recording it’s, “How To Fly a Second World War Heavy Bomber.”
RB: [laughs] It covers the Stirling, Halifax and —
DK: Yeah. As if you didn’t know.
RB: Now, there’s the training flights.
DK: Right. Ok. You’ve got a photo here. It’s, so it’s A flight, 4 Squadron.
RB: That was at Torquay.
DK: Number 21 ITW.
RB: Yeah.
DK: Torquay.
DK: Oh, there you are. RG Barnes.
RB: Yeah.
DK: So, you’re one two three four five six seven. One two three four five six seven. Is that you there?
RB: That’s it. Yeah.
DK: Yeah. Oh right. Ok.
RB: That’s the crew.
DK: That is. Yeah.
RB: That’s skipper.
DK: So that’s, that’s your Lancaster there.
RB: That’s right. Near
DK: That’s T.
RB: Well, we flew in different aircraft all the time. There’s no one aircraft allocated.
DK: Because 50 Squadron’s codes were VN, weren’t they?
RB: Sorry?
DK: 50 Squadron’s code were VN.
RB: That’s right.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Yes.
DK: Oh wow.
RB: That’s another one.
DK: [unclear] That one. LN29. Oh, they’re great these photos are. So, can you, can you name the crew here?
RB: That’s the bomb aimer.
DK: Bomb aimer.
RB: Johnson.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Navigator — Macleod. That’s me.
DK: Right.
RB: Skipper.
DK: So, that’s, that’s Flint.
RB: Flint. Yes.
DK: Yeah.
RB: Tombs. That’s Johnson. And I still can’t remember the bomb aimer’s name.
DK: Or was that the wireless operator?
RB: Wireless operator.
DK: Ok.
RB: Yeah.
DK: Right. I know the [pause] Yeah. That’s, that’s T as well isn’t it? The reason I mention this is you know the Royal Air Force’s Lancaster that’s still flying?
RB: Yes.
DK: Well, they’ve painted it in new codes as 50 Squadron’s VN T. So, I think they’ve put it in the markings of your old aircraft.
RB: Oh.
DK: VN T. I’ll ask them.
RB: The only time I’ve had a [pause] we had a neighbour where I was living in, before coming here and he was an engineering NCO at Abingdon. And they were renovating a Lancaster there.
DK: Yeah. It would be the same one.
RB: So, and he said, ‘Would you like to come over and have a look?’ So —
DK: Did you go on board?
RB: [laughs] Yes.
DK: Right. What did you think seeing it again after all these years?
RB: Sorry?
DK: What did you think seeing it again after all these years?
RB: That brought back memories.
DK: Ok. I’ll turn this off now. I think we’ve said enough but thanks very much for your time on that.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Robert Barnes. One,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 20, 2020,

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