ARTHUR BARRET – Flight Lieutenant, RCAF 420 Squadron 6th Group.
Logbook in hand and with invaluable assistance from Abigail Pye I had the pleasure of meeting Arthur on 8 April 2017 at a pub called Crow’s Nest Officers’ Club. This establishment, steeped in military history, was founded just two months before the St. Nazaire Raid (See Corran Purdon).
St John’s was the western station of the North Atlantic Run for merchant convoys and their corvette protectors sailing to the UK. Many of these convoys would have suffered even greater losses were it not for the British success at St. Nazaire. Barrett, a truly gracious and modest man, was the first veteran to sign that I witnessed in person.
He preferred not to speak directly of his service, but in his own words:
“Whats to enjoy flying in war time? There were a few fool hardy, devil may care pilots, even fewer brave ones, but most of us were scared shitless each time we flew on ops. I found the Halifax more maneuverable (than the Lancaster) – maybe I just trusted it more! Anyway its a long time ago now and the old memory is not what it use to be. One thing I do remember and I’ll never forget, are the six other crew members backing me up. I always claim I wasn’t smart enough to be a Navigator – they got you there and got you home.”
At 95 he was still driving, enjoying an active social life and planning to attend the 2017 summer reunion of three RCAF Squadrons 419, 420 and 428 in the UK which he did in June 2017. A year on (I caught up with him for his 96th birthday) he is still active and enjoying a healthy social life.