Interview with Robert Barnes. Two


Interview with Robert Barnes. Two


Robert Barnes, as flight engineer had to deal with an emergency on one flight when during the process of changing the fuel tanks the aircraft went into a steep dive.



IBCC Digital Archive





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00:07:15 audio recording




ABarnesR170927, PBarnesR1701

Temporal Coverage


DK: Right. So this is David Kavanagh, the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Bob Barnes for the second time at his home on the 27th of September 2017. I’ll just put that down there. When we had a chat a couple of weeks ago —
RB: Yes.
DK: You mentioned a story that as flight engineer you touched some controls and the aircraft went down.
RB: No. I changed, changed the fuel.
DK: Right. Can you remember where you were flying to or from?
RB: Sorry?
DK: Can you remember where you were flying to or from?
RB: Yeah. It was a Paris. A French —
DK: One of the French targets.
RB: A French destination.
[pause – pages turning]
RB: It was a daylight trip.
DK: A daylight trip. Right. Would it have been around the time of D-Day?
RB: Sorry?
DK: Would it have been around the time of D-Day? Or soon afterwards?
RB: No. I’m not sure of that. Not that one [pause – pages turning] Not those [pause – pages turning] It could be that one.
DK: And where was that to? Was that to Reims?
RB: Yes.
DK: Reims.
RB: Versailles. It might be. It could be that one.
DK: So, this is the airfield there.
RB: Yes.
DK: St Cry.
RB: Versailles.
DK: Versailles. So that’s St Cry. C R Y. And that was on the 25th of July. And so you’re flight engineer. The pilot’s Flight Lieutenant Flint again.
RB: Yes.
DK: And you’re in aircraft VN J. So, it says in your logbook here you had one four thousand pound bomb, one, one thousand pound bomb and fourteen five hundred pound bombs. And a good result. St Cry. Cry airfield. C R Y. So, can you remember exactly what happened?
RB: Well, all I did was to change. You have to change over tanks.
DK: Right.
RB: And —
DK: Fuel tanks.
RB: Yes.
DK: Yeah.
RB: And I did that and before I knew it we were going down [laughs] And I I just took a chance and put, tried, got it back again because the engine was just windmilling for a few seconds.
DK: So, had the engines been starved of fuel? Is that what happened?
RB: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: So what did the pilot do as you were —
RB: Well, he [laughs]
DK: Did he panic a bit?
RB: I can’t describe what he thought.
DK: No.
RB: Or what he did but he got us back.
DK: Right.
RB: On level flight.
DK: Right. And what happened at the time? Did the squadron fly over the top of you then?
RB: Yeah. The squadron were, we were leading and then the squadron went over.
DK: Over the top of you.
RB: Above us. The skipper told one of the chaps to take over.
DK: Right. As, as, as the leader.
RB: Sorry?
DK: Told one of the other —
RB: The pilot. Yes.
DK: To be the leader.
RB: Yeah.
DK: Yeah. So as you were diving down what, what happened then?
RB: Well, we just, we just dropped down. Until the skipper got it back on level flight.
DK: Right.
RB: It was only a matter of — what? Seconds really.
DK: Yeah. Yeah. Were you, were you quite frightened at the time or —
RB: No. We were just leading. Going over the, on track.
DK: Yeah. And did Flight Lieutenant Flint ever mention it afterwards? Did he say anything?
RB: Well, he just asked me if the petrol pump was operating and as far as I remembered it, it was.
DK: Yeah.
RB: So I never found out why.
DK: Why the aircraft dropped.
RB: Why the fuel didn’t, didn’t pick up in the — didn’t transfer.
DK: Right. So, when you went to transfer the fuel it should have gone from one tank to another and the engine shouldn’t have stopped. Been starved of fuel.
RB: Well, it shouldn’t have done but it did [laughs]
DK: It did. So you never found out what the problem was then.
RB: No.
DK: No.
RB: No.
DK: No.
RB: And recently I had a friend of mine, he sent me a book of how to fly a World War Two bomber and this covered the Stirling, Halifax and Lancaster. They’re very similar to the engineer’s —
DK: Yeah.
RB: Manual. But I’m, I’ve come to the conclusion if you read all the things that you should do when you’ve got plenty of time in a situation like that —
DK: Yeah. You act on —
RB: Just went on instinct really.
DK: Instinct. Yeah. So this you think was on July the 25th
RB: Yes. I’m almost certain it was that one.
DK: Over Versailles. Yeah. And that’s St Cry Airfield. St C Y R. Cry Airfield. And your stores were, as I say the target indicators, one four thousand pounder, one one thousand pounder and fourteen five hundred pound bombs. So after you dropped down did you go around again to hit the target?
RB: No. This was enroute.
DK: Oh right. Ok. It wasn’t actually over the target.
RB: That’s right. Yeah.
DK: So you managed to regain height and then —
RB: Yeah.
DK: Then bomb the target.
RB: Yeah. Not a good situation to be in but we got away with it.
DK: Got away with it. Right. Ok, that’s great. I’ll end that there. That’s as I say I missed that last time. I just wanted to confirm the, confirm the story. Thanks. Thanks for that Bob.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Robert Barnes. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 24, 2021,

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