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The Airmen's Stories - W/Cdr. P R Barwell


Philip Reginald Barwell was born on 2nd July 1907 at Knowle, Warwickshire, the son of Reginald Barwell (1880-1959) and Alice Mary Ann Barwell (nee Paine 1874-1955).

After attending Perse and Wellingborough Schools he was granted a short service commission in the RAF in September 1925 and posted to 19 Squadron at Duxford for instruction towards his flying badge.

On 9th September 1929 Barwell went to a staff appointment at CFS, Upavon and on 5th August 1930 he was posted to the Home Aircraft Depot, Henlow for an engineering course. With this completed, he went to the Aircraft Depot, Hinaidi, Iraq.

He had married Mary Elizabeth Hay on 1st May 1930.



On 1st June 1933 Barwell moved to the engineer section at Hinaidi, on the staff of lraq Command. He returned to Britain in late 1934 and on 7th January 1935 was posted to CFS Upavon as an instructor.

Barwell took command of 46 Squadron at Digby on 4th January 1937 and led it until October 1939.

One of his last operational sorties with 46 was on 21st October, when he led a flight of six Hurricanes to intercept German seaplanes approaching a British convoy some thirty miles out. Barwell shot down a He115 and shared in the destruction of a second.

For this action he was awarded the DFC (gazetted 28th November 1939).

Above: his initials mis-reported.


In November 1939 Barwell was posted to command RAF Sutton Bridge as a Wing Commander.

He moved to HQ 12 Group, Watnall in May 1940 and whilst there he flew three operational sorties with 242 Squadron on 5th October from Coltishall in Hurricane R4115, thus qualifying for the Battle of Britain clasp.

Barwell took command of Biggin Hill in June 1941, as a Group Captain and sometimes flew as No. 2 to Sailor Malan on fighter sweeps.

On 4th July 1941 he shared a probable Me109 with Malan and a week later Barwell destroyed another.

One day in early 1942 Barwell's engine cut out on take-off and he crash-landed just beyond the runway and broke his back. Although he continued to fly he took no part in operations whilst in his plaster cast.

On 1st July 1942 Barwell, in company with S/Ldr. RW Oxspring, took off from Biggin Hill an hour before sunset on a standing patrol between Dungeness and Beachy Head. Control at Biggin Hill warned of unidentified aircraft in the area, which proved to be two Spitfires from Tangmere, flown by inexperienced pilots.

Barwell, apparently oblivious to the warning, was attacked by one and shot down into the sea. Although Oxspring saw him trying to open his hood, Barwell did not bale out. Despite intensive searches, no trace of him was found.

Barwell's body was later washed up on the French coast and he is buried in the Calais Canadian War Cemetery.

He was the elder brother of EG Barwell.



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