F/O ART "Buckshot" Barnes 40980 RAF
The Middle East
ART Barnes, 211 Squadron Mechanical Transport Officer of the 1940—1941 period, is briefly but fondly recalled as an Australian member of the Squadron in the Western Desert days by TH Wisdom:
“ ‘Buckshot’ Barnes—where he got his nickname I never discovered—was another Australian, a short, smiling fellow, whom the men of the Motor Transport section, of which he was nominally in charge, fairly worshipped. And ‘those whom the MT love...’. "
(Wings Over Olympus, p27)
The Squadron Operations Record Book records that Barnes was posted in as P/O from 31 Air Stores Park (Fuka) on 3 January 1940, apparently swapping with one F/O DG Boehm, another Australian member of the Squadron. At that date, the Squadron CO (S/Ldr JWB Judge) was himself an Australian.
It turns out that Barnes was awarded his colourful nickname after a too-exuberant 112 Squadron Mess Party at Helwan in late 1939. In his personal narrative March of the Gladiators, S/Ldr JF Fraser DFC of 112 Squadron recorded the event in these terms:
“Another evening F/O ‘Scotty’ Scott and F/O ‘Buckshot’ Barnes started celebrating in the mess until the ‘spirits’ loosened their repressed feelings. Scotty decided to throw all the old gramophone records up into the ceiling fan which proved to be expensive, as well as causing him to get posted, as some of the COs favourite Harry Lauder records were broken as well. Then F/O Barnes got out his shotgun and started stalking the Orderly Officer, P/O Evans, his favourite target, with the result that F/O Barnes was posted to a ground job in the desert and nicknamed ‘Buckshot’.”
Joe Fraser, a fighter pilot of exceptional ability, rose to command of ‘B’ Flight with 112 Squadron, flying Gladiators with them in the Desert and Greece from May 1939 to April 1941. After this long stint, he was deservedly decorated and screened, to pass on his experience in a range of training and staff jobs before returning to the UK in 1943 and further service with 80 Squadron and 274 Squadron. By January 1945 he had completed 177 sorties in 288 operational flying hours, achieving 10 confirmed victories, five probables, two enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground plus one V1 flying bomb.
Headed for greater things, Fraser was posted to the RAF Staff College and from there to a staff job. In late 1945 it was back to the Middle East with his wife Anita and their surviving children, for an Ankara posting. There, at the age of 31, he was killed in a car accident on 11 August 1946. His family remember him with great affection. With thanks to his daughter Patricia Molloy for kind permission to quote from her transcript of March of the Gladiators.
Barnes, having wangled himself back into an operational Squadron, spent a busy year with the 211s in the Desert and Greece. With all the transport movements that entailed, he still managed at least nine operations flown between July and December 1940, all of them with P/O Smith (ie Bevington-Smith) as his Observer, most with either Jock the Downie or later Tam Hughes as NCO WOp/AG in the rear turret.
But all was not well. On 20 January 1941, at Menidi, he became ill and was admitted to 2/6 General Hospital. F/Lt Kelly took on the MT Section in his absence. By 1 February 1941, Barnes was recovered enough to be released from hospital, but it was another week before he was back in charge of the vehicles, just in time to organise the first convoy north to Paramythia. Leaving Menidi on Valentine’s Day, Barnes took charge of the party: 21 airmen and seven vehicles, the personnel and equipment of the Squadron’s Signals and Photo Sections going forward to support the Air Party. Much photographed by Cooper and Fryatt, for example, they reached the Valley of Fairytales three days later.
By now promoted back to F/O for his efforts, all was still not well. On the 20th, he handed the MT Section over to P/O RV Herby Herbert (KIA 13 April 1941). Posted from the Squadron, F/O ART Barnes returned to Egypt on medical grounds on 21 February 1941. By concidence, that was the day that MO F/Lt HF Squire rejoined the Squadron.
A record of service
There was no obvious trace of Barnes in Australian records, either through NAA Record Search or the on-line WWII Nominal Roll, nor did he appear on the partial roll of RAAF Pt Cook graduates selected for SSC exchange with the RAF (unlike Boehm, Cameron, Edwards and Farrington)
These results, though negative, suggested that Barnes was one of those Australians who succeeded in direct entry to the RAF in the late 1930s. Initial search of the on-line London Gazette produced no useful result on such a common surname, however, the Air Force List recorded Barnes' RAF progress briefly and added some rich detail:
Armed with these wonderful forenames, a return to the on-line Gazette produced immediate results:
London Gazette 6 September 1938 p5678
The undermentioned are granted short service commissions as Acting Pilot Officers on probation on the dates stated
20 August 1938
Alonzo Roy Trevallon Barnes
London Gazette 4 October 1940 p5833
The undermentioned Pilot Officers are promoted to the rank of Flying Officer:
3 September 1940
Alonzo Roy Trevallon Barnes (40980)
“Buckshot” was in good company: the Canadian 41000 KCVD Dundas (Later S/Ldr DFC, KIA 10 February 1942) and the New Zealander 40885 LB “Buck” Buchanan (later F/Lt DFC, KIA 13 April 1941) got their step up to F/O in the same list. All three had entered the Air Force on a Short Service Commission as their service numbers attest, and went on to serve with 211 Squadron in the Middle East.
Despite a service no and the richness of his names, the only other apparent mentions of Barnes in the Gazette are a slightly puzzling record, apparently reflecting a long but determined struggle with illness.
London Gazette Second Supplement Tuesday, 4 July, 1944
Transfer to reserve
The undermtd. (and called up for air force service):
27 June 1942
ART BARNES (40980)
London Gazette Supplement, 23 April, 1946 p2013
RESERVE OF AIR FORCE OFFICERS
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH
Flt Lt ART BARNES (40980) (on account of medical unfitness for Air Force service), retaining his rank, 10 April 1946.
The Barnes family
In Australia, follow-up with a genealogical site revealed only that the family had been resident in Queensland, at Gympie and at Fortitude Valley in Brisbane. The present, more distant, relatives are not in current contact with any Barnes family members.
There, for the moment, the story of “Buckshot” must rest, his colourful nickname at least explained.
211 Squadron Operations Record Book 1940 TNA AIR 27/1302
S/Ldr J Fraser DFC ms March of the Gladiators
Molloy family personal correspondence
Air Ministry Air Force List August 1938, January 1939
HMSO London Gazette issues 1939—1944
T Wisdom Wings Over Olympus Allen & Unwin 1942
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