Sqn Ldr D W “Barney” Barnard; Burning Blue; and more

Below is the content of an email the Association had recently from the daughter of S/L Barney Barnard asking if anyone had any leads on some old flying comrades of her father.

Have a read through and visit the links to the Burning Blue site and see what you think. (Me, I love the sound effects of the Bristol Hercules starting up)

Caroline writes:-

I was looking around the web to see if there was such a thing as a 24 Sqn Assn (reasons below) and came across this quote from your 1998 newsletter:

“A recent article in the Weekend Telegraph featured a master German interrogator called Hanns Joachim Scharff based at an Air Force Transit Camp, known as Dulag Luft to the British. He had the reputation of being able to wring a confession of infidelity out of a nun. The feature went on to describe his most subtle interviewing techniques and also published an extract from his own log-book. An initial look at the page for February 24th 1944 showed an entry for a pilot from 24 Squadron, Lt Col Robbs. A closer check showed this not to be the RAF squadron but in fact a SAAF squadron operating Marauders. It does beg a question or two as to whether our 24 had any links with its SAAF counterpart then or now and are there any records to show if in fact any aicraft or crews were shot down from the Squadron during WWII? Any contributions on these topics will no doubt be of considerable interest.”

I don’t know if this is still a mystery (1998 was some time ago!) but can probably resolve it if so. Yes, Lt Col Robbs was O/C SAAF 24 Squadron during WWII, flying Marauders. He got shot down over Crete and there is an extraordinary photo of his Marauder going down (see attached) – the tail section is in fact upside-down and a couple of hundred feet above the rest of the aircraft. More here: http://www.b26.com/page/south_african_air_force_saaf.htm Robbs and his co-pilot were the only two to get out alive and were taken prisoner, so the interrogation referred to would have happened shortly after this.

However, like many Commonwealth aircrew (including my late father), Robbs joined the RAF after the war and was in fact O/C RAF 24 (“Commonwealth”) Squadron in the early 50’s as well! (Perhaps they should just have given him 48 Squadron once, which would have been much simpler! J).

Dad (eventually Sqn Ldr D W “Barney” Barnard, KCVS, QCVS) was in SAAF 12 Squadron (also flying Marauders) during the Italian Offensive in WWII, and joined the RAF towards the end of 1947. He flew the entire Berlin Airlift, starting with a stint in the Plumbers and ending with Hastings sorties (53 Squadron) on the Schleswig-Gatow run, and in fact made one of the last sorties of the Airlift on 6 October 1949 in Hastings TG 524. He did some more general transport flying in 53 Squadron, including ambulance transports in Korea, and was then posted to RAF 24 Squadron in January 1951, and spent the bulk of 1951 and 1952 with the Squadron, after which he went off for quite a long stint with TCEU.

I had read about Robbs’ SAAF adventures but hadn’t realised that he was actually Dad’s CO in (RAF) 24 Squadron until (ACM Sir) Jock Kennedy told me – he and Dad were great mates and met in 24 Squadron (I presume you know Jock was in 24 Squadron at the same period – he says he’s still in touch with quite a few of what he calls the “Topcliffe Warriors”.) Then I went digging in the log books and discovered that Jack Robbs had actually given Dad his first Exceptional rating on a Hastings.

Anyway: the reason I wanted to get in touch with you was actually completely different (!). One of Dad’s most historic flights is also a piece of 24 Squadron history which I hope you will find interesting – more here:


(The log – photo on webpage – is in Dad’s 2nd SAAF logbook, which he started not long before being demobbed, and continued using in the RAF). Dad’s log books, including this one, obviously belong in the RAF Museum, and a friend and I have all sorts of ideas about how we could raise money for charity in the process of getting them there, with first prize being a mini-“airlift” hopefully linked to the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. One of the things we’re doing is making contact with relevant/interested parties, of which the Squadron is obviously one.

I would also be very grateful if you have any information about the whereabouts of the other pilot on the flight, a Flt Lt Tom Stafford. When I got in touch with Jock, he said that the last he had heard was that Stafford was living near Newcastle and doing fine, but that he didn’t have any recent news. We’re trying to gather as much information about the flight as possible, which is a bit difficult from Cape Town, although I hope to be spending some time in the UK soon. There is nothing at all in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. My cousins have found me a researcher who is going to look up the Squadron Ops records at Kew, but as yet we don’t know how much information that contains. So making contact with someone who was actually on the flight would be marvellous.

Many thanks, hope this wasn’t too long-winded, and I look forward to hearing from you,

Caroline Barnard



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