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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. R E Barnett


Richard Edgar Barnett was born on 8th October 1911 in Christchurch, then in Hampshire. His father was a dental surgeon.

He attended Cheltenham College and then went to RAF College Cranwell as a Flight Cadet in January 1930. He graduated in December 1931 (below) and then joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on the 19th.



Barnett joined 6 Squadron in Egypt on 1st November 1932. He went to the RAF Depot at Aboukir in July 1935. In the Coronation Honours List, Barnett was made MBE (gazetted 11th May 1937), for operations in Palestine from April to October 1936. After returning to the UK, he went to the A&AEE at Martlesham Heath on 16th August 1938.

In 1939 Barnett married Josephine Elizabeth Aveline (1914-1990).

When the CO of the re-formed 234 Squadron was badly injured in a car accident on 2nd November 1939, Barnett took command on the 6th. At that time the squadron was operating a variety of aircraft but would have solely Spitfires in the Battle of Britain.

He did not fly very often and after an interview with the AOC of 10 Group on 12th August 1940 he relinquished his command next day.

Barnett joined 111 Squadron at Dyce as a supernumerary Squadron Leader. He resigned his commission on 11th August 1941 and left the RAF. His resignation was recorded in the London Gazette dated 29th August 1941.

Barnett joined the Army and served briefly in the RASC, undertaking officer training in a unit based at Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 10th October 1943. He joined the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own), reaching the rank of Captain. He was demobbed in 1946.

He became a representative with the publisher George Newnes between 1947 and 1949. He was briefly a locust control officer in the Persian Gulf region.

By now estranged from his family and suffering severe financial difficulties, Barnett went to Kenya, apparently to avoid debts, and held a police position. He returned to the UK and became a driving instructor in London in 1956.

Barnett died on 25th July 1971 at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London.

Barnett’s address in 1937 was recorded as Western Villa, Western Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The address given in the 1939 register was Bridge Cottage, Idmiston, Wiltshire. Since 1987 Bridge Cottage has been Grade II listed.

Barnett is commemorated on a plaque in the chapel at Cheltenham College, dedicated in 2011 and listing 14 Old Cheltonians who flew in the Battle of Britain.

Using her maiden name, Mrs Barnett was an artist, particularly in pastel. She had studied at Worthing College of Art under Charles Morris (1898-1985), painter in oil and watercolour especially of Sussex scenes). She became a fellow of the Society of Botanical Artists.

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