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The Airmen's Stories - F/O N J M Barry


Nathaniel John Merriman Barry was born on 18th June 1918, the son of Richard Alan Barry and Gladys Isabel Barry (nee Vander Byl), of Fransch Hoek, Cape Province, South Africa.

He attended St. Andrews School followed by the Diocesan College, Capetown. There he gained Greek and Maths with Honours.

In 1937 he came to Pembroke College, Cambridge, to study Mechanical and Technical Science, and joined the University Air Squadron. He then joined the RAFVR, and after training in 1940 became Aide-de-Camp to Air Vice Marshal Crespigny MC DFC.

However he pursued a fighter squadron posting and in June 1940 he was posted to 3 Squadron at Turnhouse in Scotland to gain operational experience on the Hurricane. On 26th September 1940 he joined 501 Squadron at RAF Kenley.


Above: at Cambridge Gliding Club.




He was soon in action and early in the morning of 30th September his Hurricane L1657 was hit in the engine and he force-landed at Pembury, Tunbridge Wells. The Hurricane was repairable.

The following day he wrote to his sister Erica, who was living in Yorkshire with her husband Robert Thompson, the headmaster of Aysgarth School.

My dear Erica,

Many thanks for a letter just forwarded from Turnhouse, containing Adrian’s second letter describing London’s Air Raids. Hope you had my last letter telling you of this change in my address, as letters are somewhat liable to go astray. All goes well here.  We do a lot of flying! I got shot down yesterday with a bullet in my engine – this is nothing to fuss over, so don’t be surprised. I have explained the matter as tactfully as possible to Mother and Dad, as it is the sort of thing which may happen at any time, and if I were to get so much as a cut finger in the course of it, they would, as well as you, be officially informed by telegram.

I have seen far less of the Air Raids than Adrian has, and can only give you my own, dull, side of the story; which is that the sirens go on and off all day, so that is hard to tell whether it is “all clear” or “alarm”. Every night is just one long raid – I find I can sleep very satisfactorily in my own bed which no bomb has arsed out yet.  Were one to behave like a good citizen, and take cover, it would be impossible to keep awake during the day – besides shelters frighten me.

My love to your family, especially to Jennifer at school. Hugh will be disappointed to hear that I have no “confirmed victories” or even “probables” yet – only one “damaged”, also that  I  haven’t  used  my  parachute yet!

Much love,


Note: Grammar and spelling in the above letter is as per the original except for the underlined segment.


On 7th October Barry's Hurricane V6800, was damaged in combat over Wrotham, Kent and he baled out. Although his parachute was seen to deploy he was dead when found at Wilmington, south of Dartford. His Hurricane crashed in Lane End in Darenth.

He is buried in Finghall churchyard in Yorkshire.


His elder brother Adrian (M.B., B.Ch., double first Pathology (Cantab.), Gold Medallist University College Hospital) was serving as a Lt. Surgeon on the destroyer HMS Punjabi when it was in collision with the battleship HMS King George V in fog off Iceland on 1st May 1942. He and 48 others were lost.

He was 30 years old and is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.







On 26th May 2007 the Shoreham Aircraft Museum unveiled a stone marker close to the spot where Barry fell (see photos below).



For the complete story click here


There is a related print (below) 'Tumult in the Clouds' by the noted aviation artist Geoff Nutkins.




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