Nicky Barr

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Senior Airman
Oct 25, 2005
Saw this on the IL2 forum and thought I would put it here as well.

"Wing commander Nicky Barr, who has died aged 90, was one of Australia's most successful wartime fighter pilots, credited with destroying at least 12 enemy aircraft.

Shot down three times, on the third occasion he was badly wounded and was taken prisoner by the Italians. He then escaped three times, and remained behind enemy lines for more than a year conducting clandestine operations with the partisans and special forces.

On January 11 1942 Barr was flying a Kittyhawk fighter with No 3 (RAAF) Squadron escorting bombers over El Alamein. When enemy fighters appeared on the scene Barr attacked, shooting one down.

He then observed one of his fellow pilots being forced down by two enemy and he immediately engaged them, dispatching one. Minutes later Barr saw his colleague waving to him from the ground, and, as he was preparing to land in the desert to rescue him, two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters attacked.

Although the undercarriage of his aircraft was not fully retracted, Barr engaged his attackers, only to find that his guns had jammed. He quickly rectified the fault and shot down one of the Bf 109s before two more appeared. When they attacked he was wounded and forced to crash land.

While on the ground Barr was again wounded by enemy fire, but still managed to make his way through enemy lines. He reached Allied territory after walking through the desert for three days, bringing with him valuable intelligence on the dispositions of enemy tanks and defences. He was awarded an immediate DFC for "displaying the greatest courage and tenacity".

Andrew William Barr, always known as Nicky, was born on December 10 1915 at Wellington, New Zealand, but he grew up in Australia. He was educated at Swinburne Technical College, in Victoria, where he excelled as a sportsman. But it was at rugby that he made his greatest mark, playing as hooker for Victoria and Australia.

Barr was selected for the Australian team to tour England. But shortly after their arrival war was declared, and he immediately returned to Australia to train as a pilot. Commissioned as a pilot officer in November 1940, he joined No 23 Squadron, flying Wirraway aircraft patrolling the coasts of Queensland.

After demanding to see some action, he was sent to join No 3 (RAAF), a squadron that developed a reputation as one of the most aggressive and outstanding fighter squadrons of the Desert Air Force.

Initially flying the Tomahawk, Barr achieved his first success on December 12 1941, and this was quickly followed by four more before his encounter with German fighters over El Alamein. His philosophy in combat was simple: "The Tomahawk and Kittyhawk were not considered by us to be top fighter aircraft.

I decided early on that any deficiency either type had could be offset by unbridled aggression. I had done some boxing, and had beaten better opponents by simply going for them, and I decided to use this tactic in the air. It paid off."

After recovering from his wounds, Barr returned to combat and immediately destroyed an Italian fighter near Tobruk. He was made a flight commander, but on May 27 1942 the engine of his Kittyhawk overheated and he had to land in the desert. He took off the covers to repair the engine, having already prepared a rough strip for take off.

Then he heard enemy tanks approaching and, despite the malfunctioning engine, he took off without replacing the engine covers and reached base after being missing for four hours. The next day he was promoted to squadron leader. It was just six months since he had joined as a junior pilot officer.

On May 30 Barr went to the aid of his wingman, who was being attacked by fighters. Flying at only 50 ft, his aircraft was hit by ground fire and he was forced to crash land. On this occasion he returned after spending two days in the desert.

In June he accounted for another Bf 109, his twelfth confirmed victory, in addition to having damaged at least five others. During the fierce fighting around Tobruk on June 16, Barr flew six sorties during the day in support of the retreating ground forces engaged against Rommel's Panzers.

Ten days later he was escorting bombers when he suffered engine trouble, and was then attacked by two Bf 109s. Badly wounded, he baled out of his burning fighter.

After 84 sorties, in which he was No 3 (RAAF) Squadron's top-scoring pilot of the war, Barr became a prisoner of the Italians, and nothing was heard of him for three months - he had been put in hospital in Tobruk before being moved to Italy. Once his survival had been confirmed, it was announced that he had been awarded a Bar to his DFC.

Barr spent five months recovering in a hospital at Bergamo, in northern Italy. As soon as he felt fit enough he escaped, getting as far as the Swiss border, where he was apprehended by a customs official; Barr knocked him unconscious, but was soon captured.

After a court martial, in which a Swiss border guard spoke in his defence, he was given 90 days' solitary confinement in the notorious Garvi jail, near Genoa.

Following the Italian capitulation in September 1943 the Germans started to transport all Allied PoWs to Germany. Barr jumped from a moving train and travelled south to join the Italian partisans. He helped other escaped prisoners to make their way towards the Allied forces, but after two months he was recaptured by the Germans and badly beaten up.

He escaped for a third time, and, with the help of Italian farmers, eventually joined an Allied special operations group collecting intelligence and conducting sabotage operations.

Finally, in March 1944, Barr escorted 10 other prisoners through the German lines and met up with the advancing armies. For his gallantry in organising escape routes and on clandestine operations against the Italian Fascists and Germans, he was awarded the MC.

Barr arrived in England in April 1944, and two days after D-Day he landed on Omaha Beach in charge of an air support control unit. Despite being grounded, he managed to fly Typhoons on a number of rocket-firing operations against German forces in Normandy. In late 1944 he returned to Australia as chief instructor, fighter operations, and then flew fighters in Papua New Guinea and Celebes in support of Australian ground forces.

After leaving the RAAF in 1946 Barr was involved in the development of the Murray Valley Basin in Victoria; he later joined the oil seed industry, becoming chief executive of Meggitt Ltd. He was the Australian representative on, and chairman of, the International Oil Seed Group. In 1983 he was appointed OBE for his services to the industry.

Barr earned a reputation amongst allies and enemy alike for his acts of bravery, his selflessness, dogged determination and his infectious sense of humour. He was an ardent supporter of the RAF Escaping Society, and regularly returned to Italy to meet the Italian farmers and peasants who had aided him.

Nicky Barr died on June 12. He married his wife Dot in 1941; they had two sons."
Sydney Morning Herald, June 2006
Yep truely a remarkable man. If you can, get a copy of the book written about him, it's a great read.


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