The Airmen's Stories - P/O E G Barwell
Eric Gordon Barwell was born on 6th August 1913 in Clare, Suffolk and educated at Wellingborough School. He worked in the family engineering business near Cambridge and in July 1938 joined the RAFVR, doing his elementary flying at 22 E&RFTS Cambridge.
Called up at the outbreak of war, Barwell was posted to 2 FTS Brize Norton on 8th October 1939. He completed his training, was commissioned on 12th December and joined 264 Squadron at Martlesham Heath on the 21st.
Barwell was sent to 11 Group Fighter Pool St. Athan on the 31st and after converting to Defiants he rejoined 264 on 5th February 1940. On 12th May 1940 he shared in the destruction of a Ju88 and took part in the successful actions of the squadron over Dunkirk, destroying a Me110 and two Ju87's on 29th May and a Me109 and a He111 on the 31st.
In the first engagement Barwell was hit by return fire and turned for home but was unable to maintain height and landed his Defiant L6972 on the sea between two destroyers, some five miles from Dover.
One of them, HMS Malcolm, picked them up.
The aircraft broke up and Barwell and his gunner, P/O JEM Williams, who had been knocked unconscious in the crash, were thrown into the sea. Barwell held up Williams until they were rescued.
Credited with the destruction of a Me109 on 24th August 1940, flying with Sgt. A Martin, Barwell was awarded the DFC (gazetted 11th February 1941). During the night of 10th/11th April 1941, again with Sgt. Martin, Barwell shot down a He111 and probably a second.
Promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant on 1st July 1941, he was posted to the newly-formed 125 Squadron at Colerne as a Flight Commander. He took command of the squadron in December 1941 and held it until February 1942, when it became a Wing Commander post.
The squadron began to receive Beaufighters from February 1942.
On 1st July his elder brother, W/Cdr. PR Barwell, was shot down and killed over the Channel having been mis-identified by other Spitfires.
During the night of 1st/2nd July Barwell damaged a Do217 near Cardiff.
On 6th September he was posted to HQ 10 Group as Ops Night.
Harwell returned to 125 Squadron, then at Fairwood Common, on 31st March 1943, again as a Flight Commander. The Squadron re-equipped with Mosquitos from February 1944. Harwell shot down two Ju88's during the nights of 23rd/24th April and 24th/25th June and on 10th August 1944 he shot down a V1 flying bomb over the sea.
On completing his tour Barwell was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 15th August 1944). He was posted to the Fighter Interception Unit on 18th August.
A month later he went to the Main HQ 2nd TAF as an Acting Wing Commander. He moved to 148 Wing on 4th April 1945 as Wing Commander Flying and took command of 264 Squadron at Rheine, Germany in late June. The squadron was disbanded there on 25th August and Barwell left the RAF on 2nd September 1945 as a Wing Commander.
After the war he returned to Barwell Engineering, the family firm near Cambridge, which specialised in tyre retreading.
The firm patented an extruder, invented by his younger brother, for use in the rubber and plastics industry. Barwell served as the accounts director until an American company bought out the firm as well as its patent.
Barwell died on 12th December 2007.
Barwell is shown in wartime (below left) and on a visit to the Shoreham Aircraft Museum near Sevenoaks, Kent in 2007 (below right, he is on the right with the 'blackout board' from the White Hart at Brasted, near Biggin Hill, behind him).