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My Grandad: A Wellington Rear Gunner

by Vincent Barnard

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Contributed by 
Vincent Barnard
People in story: 
Mr Harry Barnard
Location of story: 
London
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A2364338
Contributed on: 
29 February 2004

My grandad, Mr Harry Barnard died when I was about 6, after suffering his third heart attack. I never really knew him or had a chance to get to know him. All I really know is that my Grandad was a rear gunner in a Wellington Bomber during WW11, and the story of his experience is something I would like to share.

My father told me he did not not talk about his war memories, but he must have confided with my father at a quiet moment for him to pass onto me his story. Some of the facts may be a little vague but the main point of his story remains.

My Grandad's aircraft was shot down over Germany during a raid. His crew was mainly made up of Maori New Zealanders. When the plane was attacked a fire broke out and the crew had to bail out. My Grandad could recall how he saw some of his fellow crew falling to the ground burning as they fell with no parachute. My Grandad survived and was taken Prisoner of War in Germany. Back home the news came back to my Dads Mum that 'Bill's' aircraft had been shot down with no survivors. The shock of this news was so great she died within months and my Dad was looked after by his Aunt.

My Grandad eventually returned to England to be with his son and remarried to Joyce the lady who I called Nan. My father has since been contacted by a historian in Germany who has investigated the remains of the aircraft and its crew.

The accounts of these events should be told and never forgotten with the hope they will never happen again.

Vincent Barnard
Feb. 2004

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Message 1 - Re: My grandad

Posted on: 25 March 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Vincent,

Such a moving story, your grandmother dying believing her husband had been killed.

There is Sgt R. Barnard listed in the full list of RAF Bomber Command PoWs in "Footprints in the Sands of Time" by Oliver Clutton-Brock (Grub Street, 2003).

If he is your grandfather, he was in 218 Squadron and was shot down over Hannover on 14 August 1941 in Wellington bomber serial No. X9753. Subsequently he was in Stalag 3E/L1, his PoW number being 152. 218 Bomber Squadron was stationed in Marham, Norfolk, at the time.

There is also a Sgt H.G. Barnard listed, but he was in a Stirling bomber of 149 Squadron when he was shot down over Mannheim on 5 September 1943.

Kind regards,

Peter

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