Errol Barrow – Statesman, Prime Minister of Barbados, RAF Navigator World War II

Errol Walton Barrow – Statesman, first and fourth Prime Minister of Barbados spent six years in the Royal Air Force (RAF) from 1940 to 1947. This is the story of Errol Barrow and his time as a Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR).

Very little is written about Barrow’s formative years, aged 21 to 27. During World War II he was a Navigator in a tightly knit crew with RAF 88 Squadron 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF), seeing active service supporting the Allied ground forces, bombing German communication infrastructure positions and airfields.

At the end of the World War II Barrow spent a further two years with the British Air Forces of Occupation (BAFO) Communications Squadron, in Bückeburg, British sector of occupied Germany where he served as personal navigator to the Commander-in-Chief and Military Governor of the British Occupation Zone in Germany, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Sholto Douglas.

RAF Squadron Leader Alfred Barnes of 88 Squadron remembered him as:

“A bloody good Navigator – first class. Get you there, get you back.  Never got in a flap.  Lot’s of chaps did – at first anyway.  You must understand it wasn’t always too cosy  up there.…and Jerry throwing up all kinds of flak.  Some chaps didn’t ever settle down to it.  Never saw Barrow get in a flap.  Good man to have along.”

Quote taken from “The Life and Times of Errol Barrow” by Peter Morgan published by Caribbean Communications Inc,  November 1994.

Flying Officer Errol Barrow RAF
Flying Officer Errol Walton Barrow RAFVR – 1947 BAFO Communications Squadron, Bückeburg, British sector of occupied Germany. (Photo courtesy of: Bryan Norton)

Barrow entered the RAF on 31st December 1940 as an Aircraftman No 2 Class (AC2).  He left as a Flying Officer (F/O) on 9th October 1947 to read Economics and Industrial Law at the London School of Economics and Law at the Inns of Court before being repatriated to Barbados in November 1950 after ten years away from home.

Like many of his generation, Errol Barrow did not talk much about his war-time contribution as a RAFVR and left no autobiography or memoirs covering the period 1940 to 1947.  During the War he would have seen first-hand the horrors of medium altitude bombing.   Post-war as navigator to Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside, GCB, MC, DFC he would have seen some of the atrocities carried out by the Nazi regime that subsequently came to light and were being cleared-up by the Allied occupation forces.

Errol Barrow’s war time story has been pieced together using:

  • his redacted Record of Service papers that were released by the Ministry of Defence Headquarters Air Command RAF Cranwell
  • 88 Squadron Operations Record Books which are held by the National Archive at Kew:
    – RAF form 540 – which summarises daily operations by month
    – RAF form 541 – which list by day the aircraft and crews that took part in daily operations.
  • RCAF training records
  • the RAF logbook entries belonging to his pilots F/O Andrew L Cole RAF  and S/L Geoff Norton RAF
  • supplemented with stories from those that flew with him.

Barrow’s story highlights the important contribution made during World War II of the 6,000 Caribbean men and women who volunteered to serve in the Royal Air Force as pilots, navigators, flight engineers and air gunners.  Around 5,500 were engaged by the RAF as ground staff and 450 as aircrew; while 80 women joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).  100 of the Caribbean volunteers became officers (Barrow being one of that number) and 103 were decorated for gallantry or exceptional service.

When looking at West Indian World War II volunteers a key question is what was their driving force. For some it might have been a deep love for the motherland as depicted by the Armistice / Remembrance Sunday hymn “I vow to thee my country” based on a poem by diplomat Sir Cecil Spring-Rice which described how a Christian owes his loyalties to both his homeland and the heavenly kingdom.  For the majority, like Barrow it was more likely that they joined up to lend support to the motherland – as the alternative, should Hitler have defeated the motherland – they like others across Europe would have been returned to slavery.   Fellow volunteers like Errol Barrow were fighting for freedom for the West Indies and for all the little countries of the world that would otherwise be controlled by bullies.

The newcomers from the Caribbean that were joining an air force that had only abandoned the services’ “colour bar” against non-European enlistment in October 1939, in a time of need, now took racism seriously.  An Air Ministry (RAF) Confidential Order of June 1944 was unequivocal:

“All ranks should clearly understand that there is no colour bar in the Royal Air Force… any instant of discrimination on grounds of colour by white officers or airmen or any attitude of hostility towards personnel of non-European descent should be immediately and severely checked.”

The rules against racial discrimination introduced by the RAF in the 1940s would not be seen in the civilian workplace until the 1970s.

The loss rate for those 6,000 Caribbean pioneers was 30%.  For those that were part of RAF Bomber Command they had a worse chance of survival than an infantry officer in World War I with a loss rate of 55% to 60%!   The Second Contingent which in 1940 recruited airmen from Barbados for the RAF had a loss rate of 50%.


If you or a family member served in the RAF with Errol Barrow and you would like that story to be recorded please click on the Contact Burts link to email BajanThings and we will append  your story below.


Errol Barrow – early life 1920-1940

Errol Barrow was a son of the Rev. Reginald Grant Barrow (1889–1980) and Ruth Albertha O’Neal (maiden; 1884–1939). His sister, Dame Nita Barrow, also became a social activist, humanitarian leader and later Governor General of Barbados. He was one of five other siblings.

Ruth Barrow - Errol Barrow's mother
Errol Barrow’s mother Ruth Barrow, with children (from left) Graham, Sybil, Ena, Errol and Nita.
(Photo courtesy of : The Barbados Public Library)

Aged 11 Errol Barrow won a scholarship to attend the Combemere School.  At age 14 he won a scholarship to Harrison College and in 1939 aged 19 Errol Barrow was named a Barbados Island Scholar in Classics (proxime accessit).   Instead of taking up his island scholarship at Codrington College, Barrow opted to work as a teacher at the Boys Foundation School and later as a clerk in the Petty Debt Court before volunteering for the war effort.

Errol Barrow – joins RAF 1940

Errol Barrow’s sister Dame Nita Barrow recounted how she learnt her brother was joining the RAF in her eulogy to him at his state funeral in 1987.

I as his big sister packed his clothes ready for his move to the College. Then as he was about to leave a couple of days later, he calmly announced that he would not be going to College.  “I’m going to England. I’ve joined the Royal Air Force”… And so he went off on his voyage to do what he saw was his duty, no discussion with anyone else before, he had made up his mind.

Source: “The Life and Times of Errol Barrow” by Peter Morgan published by Caribbean Communications Inc, November 1994.

Errol Barrow left Barbados in November 1940 as part of the Barbados Second Contingent which was recruited in support of the RAF.

Barbados Second Contingent -November 1940
Barbados Second Contingent at the Baggage Warehouse prior to joining the MS Maaskerk.
Back row: C.P. King, J.S. Partridge, A.A. Walrond, J.L.L. Yearwood, M.R. Cuke, E.W. Barrow
Front row: G.D. Cumberbatch, A.P.C. Dunlop, H.E.S. Worme, G.A. Barrow (Errol Barrow’s cousin Gordon Barrow), A.O. Weekes, B.F.H. Miller.Half the Second Contingent lost their lives due to the war effort: Sgt. Charles Parnell King, Sgt. Arthur Adolphus Walrond, Pilot Mark Radford Cuke, Sgt. Grey Doyle Cumberbatch, Flying Officer Andrew P.C. Dunlop, Pilot Officer Bruce F.H. Miller.
Taken from:Caribbean aircrew in the RAF during WW2

Barbados Second Contingent -November 1940 - Barbados Stamp
A colourised version of the Barbados Second Contingent which was recruited for the RAF. This 10¢ stamp was issues in 2008 by the Barbados Postal Service commemorating Bajans who served in the Royal Air Force in World War II.
Euston RAF Recruiting Station -1940
Euston RAF Recruiting Station -1940

Barrow joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in London on 31st December 1940 as an Aircraftmen 2 (AC2), which was standard for new intakes not going to RAF Cranwell. Cranwell people entered as Officer Cadets.

Errol Barrow – initial training RAF UK

After his initial training spent at RAF Benson which trained light bomber crews, Barrow trained as a Wireless Operator and was stationed at RAF Marham. In January 1942 he was promoted from AC2 to AC1 and soon afterwards he was put forward to undertake aircrew training.

LAC Errol Barrow RAF collecting
LAC Errol Barrow RAF collecting his mail from home. On his sleeve Barrow is wearing his LAC badge. Photograph taken between 28th August 1942 when Barrow was promoted to LAC and 13th February 1943 when he was en-route to Canada.
Screen shot taken from BGIS video:Barbados National Heroes Explored – The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow

Errol Barrow – RAF aircrew training Canada

Barrow’s initial training took place in Britain followed by profession training in Canada that took about eighteen months.

LAC Errol Barrow ab initio training No.2 Elementary Flying April 1943 No.2 EFT School Canada
LAC Errol Barrow – wrapped up against the cold. Here he is wearing a Sidcot electrically heated flying suit and a leather flying helmet and goggles. His neck is protected from the cold by the large fur collar of his Sidcot flying suit. This photograph was taken in April 1943 while Barrow was undergoing ab initio training at No.2 Elementary Flying Training School in Canada. As part of the streaming process Barrow would have got to fly a de Havilland DH82C Tiger Moth. Barrow failed to make the grade as a pilot and was streamed as a Observer/Navigator. The background of the photograph is overexposed due the reflection off the snow. (Photo courtesy of : The Barbados Public Library.)

Barrow was awarded his Air Navigator wings (also known as a “brevet”) and promoted to a Sergeant on 25th November 1943.

Errol Barrow Presentation of Wings to Air Navigators 25 Nov 1943
Presentation of Wings to Air Navigators by Wing Commander RJ Gray of No. 9 Air Observer School, St. Johns, Quebec – 25th November 1943. Note Barrow is stated as coming from Port of Spain, Trinidad BWI and not Bridgetown, Barbados BWI!  Source: Errol Barrow’s son David Barrow.
SGT Errol Barrow RAF
SGT Errol Barrow RAFVR proudly wearing his RAF Observer brevet having gaining his Air Navigator’s wings from No. 9 Air Observer School, St. Johns, Quebec, Canada on 25th November 1943.
(Photo courtesy: Barbados Government Information Service)

Photographs of Barrow post November 1942 show him wearing the RAF Observer brevet rather than a RAF Navigator brevet.  RAF Observer brevet’s were highly cherished and fiercely guarded.  The Observer’s brevet which was originally introduced in September 1915 was replaced by the Navigator’s brevet in September 1942 – but took some time to be introduced.  The rule was that obsolete Observer brevets could still be worn by serving aircrew, provided it was the brevet which they were initially awarded.  The Observer brevet was also was a sign of seniority over those that wore the Navigator brevet.

Following completion of his Navigator training Barrow spent a further four month training with a crew that consisted of:  RAF pilot Andrew Leslie Cole and RAAF Wireless/Air gunners Leo Leslie J Schultz and Robert Allen Stewart training for operational missions in a Lockheed Hudson at No. 31 Operational Training Unit RAF Debert, Nova Socia, Canada.

The crew graduated on 7th April 1944.  RAF Pilot Andrew Leslie Cole, RAF Navigator and Bomber Errol Walton Barrow and RAAF Wireless/Air gunners Leo Leslie J Schultz and Robert Allen Stewart then returned to the UK.

Errol Barrow and crew crew graduation No. 31 OTU RAF Debert, Nova Socia Canada - 7 April 1944
Crew No. 31/48/416 – Graduates of Course no. 48 No. 31 Operational Training Unit RAF Debert, Nova Socia – 7 April 1944
Errol Barrow and crew crew graduation No. 31 OTU RAF Debert, Nova Socia Canada - 7 April 1944
Crew No. 31/48/416 – Graduates of Course no. 48 No. 31 Operational Training Unit RAF Debert, Nova Socia, Canada – 7 April 1944. P/O Andrew Leslie Cole RAF (Pilot) 153770, SGT Errol Walton Barrow RAF (Navigator & Bomber) 1383402, SGT Leo Leslie J Schultz RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner) AUS.424694 and SGT Robert Allen “Shorty” Stewart RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner) AUS.424070 standing in front of a Lockheed Hudson. (Photograph has been colourised)

Errol Barrow and crew join RAF 88 Squadron 2nd TAF

RAF No. 88 Squadron was initially part of No. 2 Group, Bomber Command. When Barrow and crew joined 88 Squadron it was part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF). 2nd TAF’s role was as an Integrated Air Force, with fighters, medium and light bombers and transport aircraft providing dedicated air support for the invading Allied Armies.

Prior to joining 88 Squadron RAF Pilot Andrew Leslie Cole, RAF Navigator and Bomber Errol Walton Barrow and RAAF Wireless/Air gunners Leo Leslie J Schultz and Robert Allen Stewart spent just over a month doing a conversion flying course at No. 13 Operational Training Unit at RAF Bicester.  The newbie crew then joined  88 Squadron on 20th September 1944 and were assigned to “B” Flight.  They would fly together for the remainder of the war.

88 Squadron flew Douglas Boston III, IV and Vs (aka DB-7 and A-20 by the Americans) which were twin engined light bombers.  The main role of these Boston’s was to carry out medium altitude daylight bombing raids over France, Belgium and Holland as part of the RAF’s policy of “leaning over the channel” and post D-Day supporting ground forces targeting German communication facilities and airfields.

Between 20th September 1944 and 26th March 1945; prior to 88 Squadron being disbanded at the end of the war in Europe; Barrow would complete 48 operational bombing missions over the European Theatre flying Douglas Bostons.

88 Squadron RAF Douglas Bostons
(Photo courtesy of: legendsintheirowntime.com)

Errol Barrow – RAF Navigator (Observer)

By all accounts Barrow was a gifted navigator.  In 1944 there was no Global Positioning System!  Good navigators were hard to come by.  Flight navigation required a sound knowledge of maths, trigonometry, aircraft dynamics, spherical trigonometry for celestial navigation, meteorology and the ability to keep it all together while under fire.

World War II RAF Bubble Sextant
Typical World War II RAF Bubble Sextant as used by Navigators.

The main tools were paper maps,  a compass, a chronometer, an airspeed indicator, a navigation slide rule, a sextant, pencil and paper for calculations.  Using visual cues and dead reckoning ones current position and time to bomb drop would be constantly validated and calculations tweaked to take into account meteorological effects and diversions.   This was backed by intuition and diligent training.  Toward the end of the war new navigation technology, such as radio beacons and radar navigation were introduced to helped navigators pinpoint targets and bring their planes home.

David Barrow tells us that his father retained his RAF sextant until his death.

Barrow as Navigator sat in the front of the Douglas Boston within a perspex dome, in front of the pilot.  Entry was via an access hatch underneath the perspex front.

As Navigator, Barrow had three roles:

  1. to get the pilot and crew to their destination
  2. then once over the target to discharge the bomb load and
  3. then get the crew back home.

In his navigation compartment at the front front of the Boston aircraft Barrow would have had:

  • vacuum flask – with hot soup for the journey
  • map books
  • an observers instrument panel that included the following instruments:
    – Chronometer
    – Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI) eg 2500’/min (an essential instrument when instrument flying)
    – Airspeed indicator
    – Altitude meter
  • a repeating compass slaved from the pilot’s master compass
  • a RAF issued Navigator’s Bubble Sextant
  • a Norden Bomb sight – this included a feed from the autopilot so fine adjustments to the aircraft could be made without disturbing the pilot
  • bomb release electrical switches for arming and setting timing
  • a hand held “pickle” that was squeezed to release the bomb load.
Errol Barrow view from Navigator compartment of Douglas Boston
View Navigator Errol Barrow would have had from his Douglas Boston.
Note the Navigator Instrument panel on the left consisting of: Chronometer, Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI), Airspeed, and Altitude. (Photo courtesy of: legendsintheirowntime.com)

Weather and cloud conditions over the targets played an important role in the medium altitude bombing runs completed by the Bostons.  Some days there was no flying and some days Barrow and crew would take part in morning and afternoon sorties.  Most of the sorties were carried out at 8,000 to 14,500 ft and the aircraft would be in the air for 2 to 3 hours.

Barrow would also have had to overcome the cold of the 1944 winter and the cold of flying at medium altitude.  Assuming the ground temperature was 5°C the temperature in the front Navigation compartment of the Boston would have been between -15°C and -25°C.  Barrow would probably have worn an electrically heated Sidcot flying suit with heated gloves and booties.  He might also have donned  a RAF Irvin sheep skin jacket and Irvin sheep skin trousers worn over his RAF flying suit.

RAF Boston III from 88 Squadron RAF over Dieppe 1942
RAF Boston III from No. 88 Squadron RAF over Dieppe, 1942
(Photo courtesy of: Library and Archives Canada/PA-183771)
Douglas Boston III's from 88 Squadron RAF
Douglas Boston III’s from 88 Squadron. You can see the Navigator up front
(Photo courtesy of: IWM)

The Boston III, G for Glenda, at the top of the photograph that is “breaking way”, was flown by Flying Officer Geoff Norton DFC. Norton and Barrow would fly together when they were posted to BAFO Communications Squadron in Germany.

Below are two videos of Douglas Bostons.  The Boston III and IVs of 88 Squadron had a crew of four, not three as mentioned in the video.   The four person crew were:

  • Pilot.
  • Navigator and bomb aimer.
  • Dorsal (upper) gunner and wireless operator.
  • Ventral (belly) gunner and wireless operator.

Errol Barrow and crew – RAF 88 Squadron 2nd TAF, selective sorties 1944 -1945

When Barrow and his crew joined 88 Squadron on 20th September 1944, it was 3 months after D-Day (6th June 1944) and the Battle for Arnhem had recently commenced.  Some may recall the 1977 film A Bridge too Far which starred: Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Krüger, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell and Liv Ullmann.

88 squadron was based at RAF Hartford Bridge in Hampshire, targeting German communication installations and airfields across the channel.  Some may know the airfield by its later name: Blackbushe – it is still operational today as a local general aviation airport (IATA: BBS).

Below are the first two operational raids that Barrow and his crew flew with 88 Squadron as newbies in support of the Allied ground forces.  On the day Barrow and his crew arrived on 20th September 1944 there were no operations due to adverse weather.  On 21st September 1944 16 Bostons of 88 Squadron attacked Fort de La Creche, however, the newbie crew were not part of that flight.  Again on 22nd September 1944 there were no operations due to adverse weather.

23rd September 1944 – Barrow in Boston III BZ 229 / U (flight time 1hr 45mins)

12 Boston of 342 Sqd. and 12 Bostons of 88 Sqdn led by F/L Carot of 324 Sqdb, attacked a strong pt. S.W of Calais.  All the aircraft attacked at 1811 /1812 hrs from 9/11,000 ft. with 96 x 500 lbs M.C.T.D 0.025 bombs.  Bombs fell in the target area to the SE,  NE and E of the aiming pt. None of the aircraft were damaged.  A meagre amount of heavy inaccurate flak.  Weather 1/3/10th, cloud t 4/6,000 ft with vis 15/20 miles
RAF 88 Squadron Records -1944

24th September 1944 – No operations or other flying took place due to adverse weather conditions.

25th September 1944 – Barrow in Boston IV BZ 411 / R (flight time 3hr 20mins)

Mortar and gun position near ARNHEM.  The monthly record on form 540 of the Operations Record Book fills in the detail: 12 Bostons of 88 Sqdn.  and 12 Bostons of 342 Sqdn. led by S/L R. Brace DFC were despatched to attack the Mortar and Gun position, near Arnhem in support of the First Airborne Army.  All aircraft attacked at 1651 hrs from 10/12,000 ft with 96 x 500 lbs M.C. Nose Inst. bombs.  The bombs from 88 Sqdn. fell right across the target area, while those from 342 Sqdn, fell to the N and NE.  Meagre inaccurate heavy flak was encountered over the target area.  Three aircraft of 88 Sqdn landed at Manston on the return due to shortage of petrol.  Weather: 10/10th cloud at 12/13,00 ft with 6/10th Cu. at 6,000 ft. and vis was 10/15 miles.

RAF 88 Squadron Records -1944

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 88 Squadron
Pilot Andrew Cole’s log book entries.

A month after Barrow and his crew joined 88 Squadron, the Squadron re-located  to Vitry-en-Artois in North East France near the the Belgium border where a liberated German airfield was taken over.  88 Squadron was in a wing with a Francophone Boston unit and a B-25 Mitchell squadron, all involved in cutting German communication with the front line armies.

Nearly one year on from getting his Navigator wings and being promoted to Sergeant, on 3rd November 1944 Barrow was commissioned as a Pilot Officer (P/O) after 3 years 309 days service.

88 Squadron moved from Hertford Bridge (lka Blackbushe) in Hampshire to Vitry-en-Artois in France

Here are a selection of bombing raids Barrow and his crew flew from their new base at Vitry-en-Artois in support of the ground forces involved in the Battle of the Bulge.

The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counter offensive, took place from 16th December 1944 to 25th January 1945, and was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II.  It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, North East France, and Luxembourg. The offensive was intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers’ favour.

In the period from Christmas to New Year the weather was not suitable for flying with low lying mist and fog leading to many operations being cancelled.  On the 27 December 1944 a talk was given to all officers by Major Moreland on the subject of procedure in the event of enemy parachute landings.

The Luftwaffe counter attacked on 1st January 1945 (operation Bodenplatte).  88 Squadron was very busy on New Year’s day 1945.

1st January 1945 (morning) – Barrow in Boston IV BZ 432 / V (flight time 2hr 30mins)

24 Bostons, 12 of of 88 Squadron and 12 of 342 Squadron, 342 Squadron leading  were detailed to attack the communications centre at DARBURC.  Bomb load 4×500 lb M.C.T.D. 0.25 bombs.  After circling Fighter Rendezvous for 30 minutes and no fighters tuning up, 10 aircraft attacked 2 unidentified villages in the target area at 10.15 from 12,500 feet on a heading of 020°  080° with 40 x 500 lb M.C.T.D 0.25 bombs…Flak: Meagre inaccurate heavy flak on the run up to the target.  Weather over target 5-6/10th cloud at about 5,500 feet.  Visibility 5 -10 miles.

RAF 88 Squadron Records -1945

1st January 1945 (afternoon) – Barrow in Boston III BZ 432 / V (flight time 2hr 22mins)

24 Bostons, 12 of of 88 Squadron and 12 of 342 Squadron, 88 Squadron leading were detail to attack the Road, Rail Bridge at ZAITBOMME.  Bomb load 4 x 500 lb M.C.T.D. .025 Bombs.  11 aircraft attacked at 15.20 from 12,000 – 13,000 feet on a heading of 030-090° with 43 x 500 lb M.C.T.D.  .025 Bombs.

Aircraft V (which was Barrow’s Boston) had one bomb hang up.

Photographs show that the first box’s bombs fell about a mile to the South West of the bridge, while those of the second box burst across the railway scoring hits on the track leading to the railway bridge which runs parallel to the target about 1¾ miles due North of the target.  Flak: Moderate fairly accurate heavy flak in the target area.  Weather: No cloud over target.  Visibility 20 miles.

RAF 88 Squadron Records -1945

2nd January 1945 – No operations or other flying took place due to adverse weather conditions.

3rd January 1945 – Barrow in Boston III BZ 432 / V (flight time 2hr 20mins)

24 Bostons – 12 of 88 Squadron and 12 of 342 Squadron led by 12 Mitchells of 226 Squadron using Radar bombing aids were detailed to attack the communications centre at ROUPPAILRE.  Bomb load 4 x 500 lb M.C.T.D. .025 Bombs.  7 aircraft attacked at 16.06 hours from 12,000 feet on a heading of 060-120° with 28 x 500 lb M.C.T. D 0.25 Bombs with unobserved results.

Aircraft S, Z, Q and V (Barrow’s aircraft) did not bomb target as they were unable to formate on the Mitchells at rendezvous.

Flak: Meagre accurate heavy flak at target.  Weather: 10/10ths cloud with tops to 8,000 feet.

RAF 88 Squadron Records -1945

4th January 1945 – No operations or other flying took place due to adverse weather conditions.

5th January 1945 (morning) – Barrow in Boston IV BZ 432 / V (flight time 1hr 38mins)

12 Bostons of 88 Squadron were detailed to attach an enemy communications centre at SART LEZ VITH. They were led by 6 Mitchells of 226 Squadron using Radar Bombing Aids.  Bomb load 4 x 500lb M.C. Tail Instantaneous Bombs.  6 aircraft attacked at 10.11 hours from 11,000ft heading 100° with 24x 500lb M.C.T.I. Bombs…

Aircraft Q and V (Barrow’s aircraft) returned early owing to loosing the remainder of the formation.

Weather: 10/10ths cloud from Reines onwards with tops up to 9,000ft.  No cloud above and visibility excellent.

RAF 88 Squadron Records -1945

5th January 1945 (afternoon) – Barrow in Boston IV BZ 432 / V (flight time 2hr 38mins)

24 Bostons – 12 Mitchells of 226 Squadron, the Bostons being 12 of 88 Squadron and 12 of 342 Squadron, were detailed to attack the town of ST. VITH.  Bomb load 4 x 500lb M.G.T.L and T.D. Bombs.  11 aircraft attacked at 15.10 hours from 13,500 feet on a heading of 360° with 44 x 500lb M.C. mixed T.I. and T.D. 025 Bombs…Flak: Moderate accurate heavy flak in target area.  Weather: No cloud over the target, but large bank of cloud to the East.

RAF 88 Squadron Records -1945

6th January 1945 – Barrow in Boston III BZ 377 / P (flight time 1hr 9mins)

6 Bostons of 88 Squadron were detailed to attack the ‘E’ boat pens at DUNKIRK, at 5 minute intervals.  A further 4 aircraft were detailed to fly with them to take photograph for those aircraft that could not carry cameras.  All aircraft were over the target between 14.00 and 14.30 but did not attack owing to 10/10th cloud at 8,000ft.

RAF 88 Squadron Records -1945

7th to 20th January 1945 – No operations or other flying too place due to weather conditions

23rd January 1945 – Barrow in Boston IV BZ 458 / R (flight time 1hr 43mins)

12 Mitchells of 226 squadron and 6 Bostons of 88 Squadrons using Radar aids if unable to obtain a visual sighting were detailed to attack the village of NEDER KRUCHTEN.  X9490.  Bomb load 500lb Mixed Nose Inst. and T.D. 11 secs delay.  5 aircraft of 88 Squadron attacked at 11.13 hours from 14,500 feet on a heading of 120° with 20 x 500lb M.C Mixed Nose Inst. and T.D. 11 sec delay bombs…. Flak: In target area, moderate  heavy flak accurate for height only.  Weather:  No cloud over the target.  Visibility excellent.

RAF 88 Squadron Records -1945

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 88 Squadron
Pilot Andrew Cole’s log book entries.

Disbandment of RAF 88 Squadron in March 1945

Barrow’s last recorded operation flown over hostile territory was on 26th March 1945 in a Boston IV BZ432 V for Victor to attack a gun position / troop concentrations.

2TAF Memo to 88 Squadron
Memo from HQ prior to the disbandment of 88 Squadron.
Errol Barrow last sortie with 88 Squadron
Pilot F/O Cole and Crew’s last operation flight with 88 Squadron.
Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 88 Squadron
F/O Andrew Cole’s RAF log book showing the crew’s last operational flights with 88 Squadron. Combat missions (sorties) against an enemy are underlined in red.

Prior to VE-Day (Victory in Europe: 8th May 1945) 88 Squadron was disbanded on 6th April 1945 upon the Allied armies rapid advance.  This is detailed in Operations Record Book form 540 for April 1945.  The entries details how the crews of 88 Squadron were disbanded.

  • F/O Cole was posted effective 6th April to 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) Communications Squadron RAF. *
  • P/O Barrow was posted effective 6th April to 85 Group Communications Squadron RAF, in Bückeburg, British sector of occupied Germany.  No. 85 Group Communications Squadron later became British Air Forces of Occupation (B.A.F.O.) Communications Squadron and was predominately a Douglas Dakota transport squadron. *
  • F/SGT Schultz was posted to No. 9 PDC pending disposal.
  • F/SGT Stewart was posted to No. 9 PDC pending disposal.

* F/O Cole and P/O Barrow were transferred to the same unit – 85 Group Communications Squadron and the BAFO Communications Squadron were one and the same.  2nd Tactical Air Force underwent a series of organisational changes after VE Day.

RAF 88 Squadron Records -1945
Operations Record Book – RAF Form 540 1st – 6th April 1945. Disbandment of 88 Squadron due to the Army’s rapid advance. Victory in Europe was a month later on 8th May 1945.
RAF 88 Squadron Records -1945
Operations Record Book – RAF Form 540 1st – 6th April 1945. Disbandment of 88 Squadron personnel.

On the disbandment of 88 Squadron both the Wireless Operator And Gunners (WOAG), Schultz RAAF and Stewart RAAF were rewarded with commissions and made up to Pilot Officers effective 5 April 1945 and returned to General Duties prior to being demobbed in Australia at the end of 1945.  On demob both Schultz and Stewart were made Flying Officers.

Errol Barrow – RAF Navigator, BAFO Communications Squadron Germany

1945 Allied zones of occupation in post-war Germany
Allied zones of occupation in post-war Germany, highlighting the Soviet zone (red), the inner German border (black line), and the zone from which American troops withdrew in July 1945 (purple). The provincial boundaries correspond largely to those of the pre-war states, before the creation of the present Länder (federal states).

Barrow’s skill as a Navigator was recognised and he completed his time in the RAF as personal navigator to Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Sholto Douglas, who at the end of the war was Commander in Chief, British Air Forces of Occupation/Air Division, Control Commission for Germany.  On 1st May 1946 Marshall Douglas became Commander in Chief British Forces of Occupation / UK Member of Control Commission and Military Governor, British Zone of Occupation, Germany, taking over from Field Marshall Montgomery.  He inherited a range of VIP aircraft that included a: Taylorcraft Auster IV, Miles Messenger I, Avro Anson and Douglas Dakota IV.

The Douglas Dakota IV – serial number KN645 was used as the personal aircraft of the British Military Governor of Germany and was kitted out with a kitchen, armchairs, settees, cocktail cabinet and toilet.  It typically had a crew of four to six: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, wireless operator, flight engineer and steward. Barrow’s navigator station would have been below the astrodome and behind the pilot’s cabin bulkhead.

KN645 at that time had some special markings: under the RAF red, white and blue tail fin flash, was a red box with five white stars to signify this was the personal aircraft for the British Military Governor of Germany.

RAF Dakota IV. KN645 a VIP kitted out aircraft
RAF Dakota IV. KN645 a VIP kitted out aircraft used as the personal aircraft of the British Military Governors of Germany.
Note the the Navigator’s astrodome in the cabin roof of the Dakota, above and just behind the cockpit to allow the use of a sextant for astro-navigation. (Photo courtesy of: IWM)
RAF Dakota IV. KN645 a VIP kitted out aircraft
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Sholto Douglas seen here disembarking from KN645.
Out of sight, under the RAF red, white and blue tail fin flash, was a red box with five white stars to signify this was the personal aircraft for the British Military Governor of Germany. (Photo courtesy of: IWM)

Barrow and the aircraft crew would have got to see first-hand some of the horrors of World War II that were being dealt with by their commanding officer, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Douglas, as he attended the weekly Allied Control Commission meetings in Berlin, political and economic meetings in London and criss-crossed what had been occupied Europe administering the British controlled section as the British, French, Americans and Russians carved-up and cleared-up the remains of the Nazi empire that included Hitler’s headquarters and bunkers, concentration camps, exterminations camps, Gestapo torture chambers and the Nuremberg trials where prominent members of the political, military, judicial and economic leadership of Nazi Germany, who had planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in the Holocaust and other war crimes.

Errol Barrow requested 2 extensions of service totalling 18 months, this was possibly to qualify for post secondary retraining that was on offer.  The extensions are in the fine print on his Officer Record of Service.

Barbados stamp from 2008 featuring Errol Barrow Navigator RAF
Barbados stamp from 2008 featuring Bajan World War II heroes. 88 Squadron flew Douglas Bostons which were twin-engined light bombers. It is believed that the Barbados Postal Service featured the The Avro Lancaster, a four-engined heavy bomber, in the background of the stamp based on mis-information.  Peter Morgan’s book “The life and times of Errol Barrow” published in 1994 states, incorrectly, Barrow flew Lancasters.  In a copy of the book that was presented to Andy Cole by Paul Foster, Cole notes in the margin “What follows is absolute rubbish, Errol NEVER flew in Lancasters but as my nav, in Bostons”.
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Sholto Douglas
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Sholto Douglas

Barrow and his commanding officer commanding officer: Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Sholto Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas of Kirtleside, GCB, MC, DFC developed a close bond.  Both were socialist.  Douglas was raised to the peerage as Baron Douglas of Kirtleside, of Dornock in the County of Dumfries on 17th February 1948, sitting as a member of the Labour Party. Barrow would in 1955 go on to found the Barbados Democratic Labour (DLP) Party and become its leader.  Barrow was also god father to Douglas’ only child Hon. Katherine Anne Douglas born in 1957.

Sir William Sholto Douglas in later life would be the chairman of BEA a post he held until 1964.   When Douglas and his third wife Hazel Walker were in Barbados, Barrow and his wife, Carolyn, would always dine with his RAF commanding officer.  Douglas died in hospital on 29th October 1969.

In 1947, after being demobbed, Errol Barrow read Economics and Industrial Law at The London School of Economics receiving a Bachelor’s degree in 1949 and Law at the Inns of Court and was called to the (UK) Bar in 1950.

During Barrow’s time in London he also served as Chairman of the Council of Colonial Students where his contemporaries included: Forbes Burnham (Prime Minister of Guyana from 1964 to 1980 and second President from 1980 to 1985), Michael Manley (Prime Minister of Jamaica from 1972 to 1980 and from 1989 to 1992), Pierre Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979 and 1980 to 1984), and Lee Kwan Yew (Prime Minister of Singapore governing for three decades).  All would in later life be seen by the British authorities as young radicals looking to dismantle the Empire!

Barrow was repatriated to Barbados in November 1950 after ten years in the UK together with his wife Carolyn and one year old daughter Lesley.  He was elected to the Barbados Parliament in 1951.  The rest is history and well documented.

In June 1987, one year into his second term as Prime Minster of Barbados, Errol Barrow died of a heart attack  aged 67 at his beach house: Kampala.  Barrow was cremated and his ashes were scattered from a small aircraft over the Caribbean Sea.

Errol Barrow may have been seen by the British authorities as a socialist and a radical who kicked and screamed against colonial rule and a thorn in the side of the US State Department, however, he had a great affection for the time he spent in the Royal Air Force.  His memorial tomb stone reads: “In Memory of, Flying Officer Errol Walton Barrow, Navigator Royal Air Force World War Two, and, Prime Minister of Barbados, Died in Office 1 June 1987, aged 67 years”.  That’s a man who was proud of having served in the RAF.

Errol Barrow memorial tomb stone Barbados Military Cemetery
Memorial tomb stone to Errol Barrow in the the Garrison Military Cemetery, also referred to as the Barbados Military Cemetery (situated at Gravesend on Carlisle Bay, not far from The Garrison Savannah, St. Michael).  Errol Barrow was cremated and his ashes were scattered from a small aircraft over the Caribbean Sea.

If you take a close look at many of the stock photographs of Errol Barrow, often, he’s proudly wearing a RAF Eagle motif tie.

The leadership training Barrow received in the RAF, the need to operate within a close knit light bomber crew and operate at peak concentration while under fire, together with his natural intellectual skill nurtured in Barbados at Harrison College and honed in London after World War II, provided the grounding for the man Bajans affectionately know as “Skipper” or “Dipper”: The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, PC, QC (21st January 1920 – 1st June 1987); A Barbados Island Scholar and Bajan World War II hero who led Barbados to Independence on 30th November 1966 and served as its first and fourth Prime Minister.


If you or a family member served in the RAF with Errol Barrow and you would like that story to be recorded please click on the Contact Burts link to email BajanThings and we will append your story below.


Cat napping

One of the things Barrow would have learnt and perfected in the RAF while on operational duty would have been the art of cat napping; something he was know for in later life:

“He would appear to fall asleep at meetings and the person who was trying to detail a proposal would hesitate thinking he was not getting his point across – until he would suddenly be interrupted by – “Why? Explain that to me.”…

Taken from: “The Life and Times of Errol Barrow” by Peter Morgan published by Caribbean Communications Inc, November 1994.


Why Dipper?

As most will know Barrow was known within the island as  “Dipper”.

David Barrow told us:

The nickname “Dipper’ was given from boyhood when as in the manner of boys they would adopt the names of famous players in games. Dipper refers to the cricketer: Alfred Ernest Dipper, who played for Gloucestershire and once for England.

Charles Leacock a moderator for the Facebook group: “Old Time Photos Barbados” says:

…after Errol Barrow’s death his childhood friend Freddie King told Tony Vanderpool he got the nickname “Dipper” during a game of cricket in the Cozier’s yard at Crumpton St. using a mammie apple seed as a ball and an old ‘jucking board’ as a wicket… his batting style was dipping… like dipping something out of a bucket… someone said “you is ah dippa”… the name stuck from that day “Dippa”.

source: Facebook Old Time Photos Barbados. This same story is also recounted in “The Life and Times of Errol Barrow” by Peter Morgan published by Caribbean Communications Inc, November 1994.

Peter Morgan goes on to say:

When Errol Barrow returned home at the beginning of the fifties a newspaper man called Tony Vanderpool wrote a story about Errol Barrow and referred to him as “The Dipper”.  It was from that time I saw “Dipper” being used.  All his letters he wrote me  from England were signed “Dippa” or “Dips”.

source: “The Life and Times of Errol Barrow” by Peter Morgan published by Caribbean Communications Inc, November 1994.


A chance meeting with Errol Barrow’s pilot in RAF 88 Squadron: Andrew Cole

When Melissa Whitney Nelson visited St Nicolas Church, Great Bookham, Surrey in 2010 she had a chance meeting with a lovely old gentleman with very white hair who turned out to be Andrew Cole, Errol Barrow’s pilot in 88 Squadron, during World War II.

Sadly Andrew Cole died on 9th December 2017.  His funeral was held at St Nicolas Church, Great Bookham, Surrey.

I was visiting the Yehudi Menuhin School, in Stoke d’Abernon, Surrey, England with my son in 2010, and I stayed at the Travelodge Hotel in the centre of Leatherhead.

To pass the time I walked to Fetcham and Bookham.  At St Nicolas Church, Great Bookham I had a chance encounter with a friendly elder of the church who told me about the unique pillows on the pews there.  Each family had their own design.  A book describing the pillows meaning was there too, I believe.

Anyway, we somehow got to talking about World War II.  I told him my father was a medical officer and was in the Battle of the Bulge.  That’s when he mentioned he flew with the RAF during that time.

At some point the Barbados connection came up because my father married a Barbadian (Joan Goddard) and it was then he told me how Errol Barrow was his navigator!  He said he was the only one who would take a black navigator. They remained close, and he visited Mr. Barrow in Barbados many times. He then said he knew members of my Goddard family too.


Errol Barrow – My Navigator: My friend

Our thanks to the family of the late Andrew (Andy) Leslie Cole who shared this with us.

Errol Barrow – My Navigator: My Friend

Having obtained my pilot’s wings at Carberry, Manitoba, the previous October, and then completed a course on co-operation with the Royal Navy, I found myself, at the end of January, 1944, at No 31 Operational Training Unit, Royal Air Force, at Debert airfield, Nova Scotia, training with RAF Coastal Command. There I was to fly Lockheed Hudsons – military version of the Lockheed 14 airliner, one of the mainstays of most US and Canadian airlines. This was a much more powerful and complex aircraft than I had flown up till then, and had a reputation for being quite bad-tempered on take-off and landing, but after 7 hours 55 minutes of dual instruction, I was given a 15-minute “check ride” and passed out to fly the aircraft. “solo”.

The Hudson carried a crew of four – navigator, two wireless-operators/air gunners, and a pilot and we were told we had to “form a crew”. To start this process we pilots – some 35 of us – went into a room where we found a similar number of navigators. They were all white, as one would expect in the Royal Air Force at that time, except one handsome black sergeant. I immediately went up to him and asked if he would fly with me. He agreed to and so began my friendship- with Errol Barrow, which would last until his untimely death 43 years later.

This idea of approaching somebody one had never seen before and placing one’s life quite literally in their hands happened many thousands of times, of course, during those years of the Second World War, but I am still amazed, when I look back, to think what chances we were all taking. Not only did we have no idea how well one chap could navigate or another fly an aircraft, we didn’t have any idea how they would behave when under the pressure we knew we would soon be faced with. I should mention here that I did not tell Errol that when he flew with me for the first time, on 22nd February 1943 and I did three take-offs and landings with him, in Hudson Mark III, No 617, I had, as the excerpt from my log book shows, never before flown the Hudson solo!

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 31 OTU

Errol proved to be a first class navigator and I can never remember a cross word passing between us, in spite of some tense times we went through together. Incidentally, Errol was very proud of the fact that he wore the old winged 0 on his left breast. This was the original “job title” – Observer – and meant that he had qualified and been presented with his wing before the name was changed to Navigator and the 0 replaced with an N.

Errol Barrow and crew crew graduation No. 31 OTU RAF Debert, Nova Socia Canada - 7 April 1944
P/O Andrew Leslie Cole RAF (Pilot) 153770, SGT Errol Walton Barrow RAF (Navigator & Bomber) 1383402, SGT Leo Leslie J Schultz RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner) AUS.424694 & SGT Robert Allen “Shorty” Stewart RAAF (Wireless/Air gunners) AUS.424070 standing in front of a Lockheed Hudson.

Errol and I then had to team up with two Wireless Operator/Air Gunners (WOP/AG’s). With typical RAF efficiency, the powers-that-be had managed to provide two fewer WOP/AG’s than the number of pilots and navigators on the course, and Errol and I had to “borrow” from crews who were not flying at the times we were. In fact, it was not until one of the other pilots was taken off the course that Errol and I completed what was to be our permanent crew when we were joined by Sgt Allen (“‘Shorty”) Stewart and Sgt Les Schultz, both of the Royal Australian Air Force.

The weather in Nova Scotia at that time of year was atrocious, with constant blizzards which left everywhere deep in frozen snow until late March. It was the only time in my life where I actually picked frozen tear drops out of the corners of my eyes, as I walked back across the airfield in a howling snowstorm, after flying one night. Debert was located in most inhospitable terrain, and woe betide the aviator who became lost there. This was borne out by the fact that when we flew we had to carry on board snow shoes  and food rations for every crew member plus a shot gun and ammunition against the bears roaming the area. Mercifully, this never proved necessary to anyone while we were at Debert.

Many of our flights were out over the Atlantic, a number of them at night. On one occasion I made the grave mistake of questioning Errol’s navigation (something we pilots were warned never to do!).  We were on our way back to base from Sable Island, 180 miles or so off the coast, on a pitch black night, and Errol had just come up the stairs from his compartment, in the nose of the aircraft, to give me a slip of paper with his calculated ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) back at the Canadian mainland. This showed that we should cross the coast of Nova Scotia something like one hour later. A few minutes later I called Errol on the intercom to say “Errol, there’s something wrong with your navigation. We’re flying over a village.”He called back “We can’t be” and I said “Well look below you”, and there was a mass of little white lights. Errol stuck to his guns and I continued flying the course he had given me. More or less on his ETA we crossed the coast near Halifax, Nova Scotia and I had to eat humble pie, still mystified over the phantom village.

Many years later, I found out the answer. I related the incident to a Canadian who told me that it was common practice for large fishing “mother Ships” to sail out to the fishing grounds and then put out a number of small boats which would spread themselves around and then fix a bright light in the stern of the boat. This would attract fish which could then easily be caught. So much for my “village”!

When we started the course at Debert we were told that on every previous course an aircraft had failed to return from a flight – most often on the Sable Island trip – and that no trace of the missing aircraft had ever been found. Our course was to prove no exception.

All the Hudsons at Debert, except one, were painted in the camouflage colours from their previous service as bombers. The one exception – “T for Tommy” was painted in the Coastal Command livery of white overall.

On the night of 25th March 1944 my crew and I were to fly Hudson Mark V, No. 460 to Sable Island and return. As we checked in at the Operations Room, the crew ahead of us booked out in T for Tommy. As they were a few minutes ahead of us we saw them taxing out in their white aircraft while I was still doing my pre-flight checks.  Then T for Tommy took off and disappeared into the darkness.

Our trip went according to plan, but when, after 3 hours’ flying, on our return journey we were fifteen miles or so from Debert, we could see the aerodrome beacon flashing. This only happened when radio contact had been lost with an aircraft; T for Tommy was missing.

Next day all available aircraft went out searching for the lost aircraft and my log book records that my crew and I spent 3hrs 35mins carrying out a square search over the waters between the Canadian coast and Sable Island. The search continued for over a week, during which time my crew and I spent another 4hrs 10mins on 2nd April searching, but no trace of T for Tommy or her crew was ever found.

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 31 OTU

On 14th May another Hudson went missing and Errol and I and our two WOP/AG’s did three searches, on 14th, 15th and 16th May – the last being the longest flight we ever did together – 6hrs 55mins – a long tiring day indeed, just staring at miles and miles of ocean. This time, though, something was found. One of the other search aircraft spotted a dinghy with a man in it. He gave no sign of life though, and when a lifeboat went out to locate the dinghy, under the guidance of the search aircraft, they found the poor chap dead.

The dinghy in the Hudson was stowed in the door and would inflate and detach automatically from the aircraft if it were to be submerged. One could only guess that the aircraft had landed on, or flown into the sea and that the one man to get out had managed to get into the dinghy but had died from exposure in that freezing temperature.

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 31 OTU

Our course was the last at Debert on Hudsons; the next was to be on Mosquitoes, with which Debert was being re-equipped during our last few weeks there. My crew and I stayed on for a few weeks and ferried the Hudsons away to other airfields. Then came the time for our embarkation leave.

We had been told most exciting tales by chaps returning from spending a week in New York – how they checked in at the Airmen’s Centre, on Fifth Avenue, and were offered a whole range of free accommodation and hospitality from the good citizens of New York, wanting to outdo each other in “showing the boys a good time”. Fantastic homes on Long Island, cars to drive wherever they fancied, boats to sail. … and so on.

When Errol and I checked in at the Airmen’s Centre, though, it was a different story. The lady behind the counter went through her filing cards, as the fellows back at Debert had said she would, but then… “I’m terribly sorry, I’m afraid all I can offer you is the Pilots and Navigators of World War One hostel on 3rd Avenue.” So we took that.  We shared a very small room and the old “El” (the Elevated Railway in Manhattan – long-since removed) thundered right overhead throughout most of the night. Moreover, the temperature was well over 100°F so sleep was out of the question and Errol and I took to walking in Central Park until the temperature dropped a few degrees, and then we went back to the hostel for a few hours broken sleep.

Errol was then either just, or not quite, engaged to Carolyn who was living in Orange, New Jersey, where her father was a minister, so Errol left the following morning to go to see her – the first time in a year or more, I guess. I, myself, went back to the Airmen’s Centre to see what was on offer in the way of entertainment, and found it was unlimited; there was nothing the New Yorkers would not do for us “boys”…  except one thing.

The same lady as the evening before was behind the counter. She apologised profusely for having had to put us in the hostel but showed me her mass of filing cards. Wonderful homes all over the place just waiting to take us under their wings… except, no blacks!!! She could, she said, move me into anyone of these mansions but, regrettably, without Errol. I thanked her for the offer and told her I was much happier with Errol at the hostel.

I never mentioned it to Errol but I think he must have guessed. This same attitude displayed itself one night when Errol and I were taking our walk in Central Park (which, at that time, was not the dangerous place to walk in, that it is today). We were stopped by two American Military Policemen who demanded to see Errol’s identification papers – not mine, note. He was wearing his Royal Air Force uniform, with his Observer’s brevet and his sergeants stripes AND his Barbados shoulder tag. It was quite obvious that these two goons didn’t know the difference between Barbados and Bolivia, but they were simply intent on giving Errol a hard time because of his colour. I could do nothing but just stand and wait until they were through, with their ignorant behaviour. Mercifully this sort of thing didn’t happen again, to my knowledge, and we returned to Debert with a rather different view of New York from what our friends there had promised us.

Now fully trained to fly with Coastal Command, and possibly even on flying boats, we sailed from Halifax in the Dutch ship Nieuw Amsterdam. Back on English soil we found ourselves stationed in a hotel in Harrogate, Yorkshire, awaiting a posting.

We soon found that the Royal Air Force now had more trained aircrew than it actually needed, and many were being put on ground duties, never to fly with the RAF again. Because Errol, Shorty, Les and I had trained as a crew, though, we were spared this ignominy and were posted to a training airfield, Finmere, near Oxford. That was our last contact with Coastal Command for we found we were going to “convert” on to Douglas Bostons, The Boston was another American-built aircraft, well ahead of its time. It had a tricycle undercarriage (which almost all aircraft have today, but then was quite exceptional) and had a top speed of 360 mph – very fast for those days, back in 1944.

Errol’s navigation position was again in the nose, but this time we were unable to contact each other physically and all communications between us were by intercom. The same went for the two other members of the crew who, now, were simply gunners since we carried no Morse communication equipment because very high frequency (VHF) voice radio had been developed by then.

After 45 minutes of dual instruction on the Boston I went off and flew 2 hours 20 minutes solo, and then it was time for us to fly together again as a crew. We did forty hours together practising the sorts of things we would have to do “in action” – cross-country flights, formation flying, bombing practice, gunnery practice, evasive action – with Errol navigating all the while – and then, now thoroughly familiar with this magnificent twin-engined bomber, on 25th September, with three other crews, we were posted to a squadron.

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 13 OTU Finmere

Number 88 Squadron, part of No. 137 Wing. 2nd Tactical Air Force – motto “En Garde” – was based at Hartford Bridge [now called Blackbushe Airport], just west of Camberley on the main A 30 road in Surrey, some 20 miles south-west of London. When we arrived there we were told that we were entitled to five days “pre battle-action” leave, but as the squadron was short of crews, only two of the four of us could go, the other two crews going into action until the first two crews returned, and they themselves then going on leave. We were all dead keen to get into action so the four pilots tossed a coin to see who should go first. Another chap and I won the toss and we both opted to stay and see some action, while the other crews went off on leave, we mocking them because we were going to be “in there” first.

Our first “op” (operation) or sortie was against a fortified position at Escalles, in northern France and the second, quite a long one, was against a gun- position at Arnhem. We met little opposition and all our aircraft returned unscathed. When the other two crews returned we boasted to them that we had already “won our spurs” and been in action. Then we left to go on leave. As the weather was becoming quite cold Shorty lent a Sheepskin jerkin he had brought from Australia, to a gunner from one of the returning crews. When we returned from our brief leave it was to find that the other two crews had encountered quite heavy anti-aircraft fire (“flak”) on their very first op, and the gunner who was wearing Shorty’s jerkin had had a piece nicked out of the shoulder of it by a piece of shrapnel which had also scratched his skin. Shorty gave the jerkin to him as a keepsake. So much for our boasting about having seen action.

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 88 Squadron

There were three squadrons on No 137 wing – our own, No 88, on Bostons, the French Lorraine Squadron, No 342, also on Bostons and later on B 25’s (Mitchells) and No 226 Squadron, also on Mitchells. All our operations were carried out in daylight, at between 12,000 and 18,000 feet. We flew in tight formation, in flights (“boxes”) of six aircraft- two V’s, one behind and Slightly below the first – to give greater fire power against enemy fighter attack. Each of the three squadrons normally put up two flights of six aircraft – thirty-six aircraft in total – except when we were called to put on a maximum effort; then each squadron sent off three flights of six aircraft. This was the case when we attempted to relieve the pressure on our ill-fated paratroopers trying to take the bridge at Arnhem, and again when the German panzers attempted to break back through the American lines as they moved down through the Ardennes towards Germany.

Early in October 1944 No. 137 wing moved across to the airfield at Vitry-en-Artois, between Arras and Douai in Northern France. This had been abandoned by the Germans only weeks before and we soon discovered that the greatest inconvenience they could cause, in the panic as they pulled out, was to blow up the sewers! This meant that with no serviceable toilets, we had to be billeted in a French château  about ten miles from the airfield, and transported back and forth in a very uncomfortable three-ton truck.

We continued to fly together – Errol, Shorty, Les and I, for 51 operations in total.  All our targets were tactical ones – gun-positions, bridges over the rivers Rhine and Maas, railway junctions, troop concentrations and lock gates. Some of the targets, particularly in the Ruhr valley, were heavily defended and we sometimes lost aircraft, and often returned with a number of shrapnel holes in our own Boston. These were always lovingly repaired by our wonderful, dedicated ground crew who looked after the aircraft as though it were their own property.

We encountered some particularly heavy anti- aircraft fire when we attacked the bridges over the River Maas, at Venlo and Roermond in Holland. These were the last two escape routes for the German tanks, as they withdrew back into their homeland, and they were heavily defended. On one operation on the Venlo bridge we watched a Mitchell from 226 Squadron go down in flames. When we landed I found that the aircraft was piloted by a chap who received his wings in Canada at the same time as I. None of the crew had survived.

The two (or three) flights of each squadron would follow each other at close intervals on the bombing run on to the target, and on what was to be the last sortie ever on the Roermond bridge, on 29th October 1944, our box was the last to bomb. By the time we reached the target all the spans of the bridge, except one, had been destroyed by previous aircraft. The navigator in the lead aircraft brought us on to the target, and gave the order “bombs gone, bomb doors closed”. This was the signal to the other five aircraft to release their bombs, close the bomb doors and for the formation to head for home, but Errol called “wait Andy” and gave me directions for a few more seconds before he, too, called, on the inter-com, “bombs gone, close bomb doors”. Then, as I turned off the target to catch up with the rest of the “box” and head back to Vitry, Les, in the bottom gun position, called to say that our bombs had demolished the last remaining span of the bridge. Some bomb-aiming, Errol!

On another occasion, we went to bomb the railway marshalling yards at Coesfeld, in the Ruhr valley. Again Errol called me to keep the bomb doors open after the rest of the flight had bombed, and he later told me that, as the marshalling yards had been hit by all the other aircraft he had aimed our bombs at the roundhouse – the building in which the locomotives were housed, with a turntable to swing them so they could run off in the opposite direction.

On 25th November we carried out a bombing raid on the rail marshalling yards at Munchen Gladbach. This was a very important target to the Germans and they defended it with a box-barrage. The normal method of directing anti-aircraft fire was to predict the course, height and speed of the bombing aircraft, set the shells to explode after a certain number of seconds, and fire the gun. This all took several seconds (about eleven, in the case of the height and speed at which we used to fly). This meant that if we took the correct evasive action we could ensure that by the time the shells exploded we were “somewhere else”. With a box barrage, though, no attempt is made to aim at the aircraft. Instead, each anti-aircraft gun would fire continuously at one point in space resulting in a concentration of exploding shells. There was no way of avoiding this flak barrage and all one could do was to stick it out and fly through it. As we came in on our bombing-run, in our Boston, V Victor, we were not spared this intense barrage, and the aircraft was severely shaken up by the exploding shells. We did not, though, apparently suffer any major hits.

When we got back to our parking bay at Vitry, the ground crew pointed out two holes, one high on one side of the nose of our aircraft, and one lower down on the other side. It was then that Errol discovered that there was a small piece nicked out of the bomb-sight, directly in line with the two holes in the fuselage. It was clear that a piece of shrapnel had penetrated the aircraft, nicked the bomb sight and gone out through the other hole. It was then that we an realised that we had had the close flak bursts at the precise moment we were on the bombing run on to the target. Errol would at that moment have been bending right over the bomb-sight, with his head almost touching it. How he wasn’t hit in the head by that piece of flying shrapnel we never knew. Politics in Barbados could have taken a very different turn!

Errol Barrow, Andy Cole, Robert “Shorty” Stewart
Errol Barrow RAF (Navigator), Andy Cole RAF (pilot) and Robert “Shorty” Stewart RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner) taken in Brussels, Belgium in February 1945 on a 48 hour pass taken by Leo Schultz RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner)

By 1945 our Bostons were beginning to show their age. They were still fine aircraft but they could carry only a small bomb load compared with the newer aircraft coming into service. Moreover, the ground crews were having to work harder keeping them serviceable. By March it was obvious that the end of the war in Europe was in sight and the decision was taken not to replace the Bostons. Instead, the squadron would be disbanded at the end of the month.

So it was that on 26th March 1945 Errol, Les, Shorty and I carried out our last “Op” – against a gun position at Emmerich, in Germany. We had flown 51 Ops together and, by the Grace of God, had come through them all unscathed. Shortly before this, Errol, who had been promoted to Flight Sergeant the previous October, received his Commission and became a Pilot Officer. This meant that he and I could now join each other in the Officers’ mess.

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 88 Squadron
Andrew Cole’s RAF log book showing the crew’s last operational flights with 88 Squadron.

On 31st March 1945, in the Château de Monchy, just outside Arras, in the Pas de Calais, there was the most enormous party to celebrate the end of 88 Squadron. Ex members of the squadron came in from far and wide – some even from England. There was inevitably much talk about crews who had not returned from an op, and all in all it was a very emotional occasion.

RAF 88 Squadron disbandment party 31st March 1945 Château de Monchy

In the next few days we were all posted to other units, with the exception of Shorty and Les who, being Australian, were immediately repatriated to their homeland.

Errol and I were to go on to passenger flying. Errol was posted to No. 83 Wing Communications Squadron while I was to join the 2nd Tactical Air Force Communications Squadron. They were both located in newly occupied liberated Northern Germany but at widely separated airfields, and both were flying military personnel, mainly senior officers, many of them Very Important Persons (VIPls) to dozens of airfields, all over Germany, France, Holland and Belgium. Then, just before the German surrender was signed, on 8th May 1945, a new airfield was quickly built at Bückeburg, between Minden and Hanover, and I was transferred there to the renamed “British Armed Forces of Occupation” (BAFO) Communications Wing.

As far as I know, this was the only Communications Wing the Royal Air Force ever had. We had many aircraft, of all types, but our workhorse was the reliable Avro Anson, which carried eight passengers and a crew of two. We flew every day, quite often twice or more, partly on scheduled fights – to Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Paris, Frankfurt and London – and many more to destinations of which we were usually notified only the evening before. It proved to be a most interesting time for anyone who loved flying, as we all did.

Then, one day in March 1946, who should arrive at the officers’ mess at Bückeburg but Errol, of whom I’d heard nothing since saying goodbye to him when we left Vitry. What a happy reunion. My logbook shows that on 27th March 1946 Errol and I flew together from Bückeburg to Hamburg and back, and later that day to Gatow, the RAF airfield in Berlin, returning the following day.

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator BAFO Communications Wing

From then on Errol and I flew many hours together – more, in fact, than we had when on 88 Squadron. During this time, I took Errol to meet my mother and father at my home in north London. I believe he was the first black person they had ever spoken to and they liked him immediately.

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator BAFO Communications Wing

On one of these trips we were flying quite low (there were none of the onerous regulations that there are today – taking the fun out of flying) and we suddenly both looked at each other as we recognised the locomotive roundhouse at Coesfeld, that Errol had aimed our bombs at on that Op. a year or so before. It still showed the evidence of a direct hit. Accurate bomb-aiming again, Errol!

It was during his time with the BAFO Communications Wing that Errol made his first “court” appearance. There was very little to do in the evenings at Bückeburg airfield and most of the chaps went in the three-ton truck. which served as a bus, into the local town (Bückeburg) to spend the evening at the RAF officers’ club there. Considerable quantities of alcohol were consumed as we played games like liar dice, at the bar. On one occasion there was deep snow on the ground as we climbed aboard the truck for the journey back to the airfield. As the truck was moving away, one of the fellows suddenly jumped off and disappeared in the darkness. We called after him but to no avail and we continued without him.

Next morning the chap was found by the military police asleep in a local shop, with the door forced. It was never discovered what had prompted this strange behaviour, but the chap was placed under arrest and charged with “breaking and entering”. He was court-martialled and Errol offered to represent him in court. This, of course, was long before Errol became a qualified barrister. He put forward the argument that, as nobody had seen the man break into the shop, it was possible that somebody had found him lying in the street and had put him in the shop as protection against the winter cold. The accused man was found not guilty and the case was dismissed. The court was presided over by the Judge Advocate General, who had flown over from England, and he complimented Errol on his conduct of the defence. Who could have guessed then where Errol’s legal career would take him.

On 6th April 1946, we had one very momentous trip. We had to fly to Berlin, pick up some specialised radio equipment and fly it to Warsaw, Poland, for the newly re- established British Embassy there. That was an experience which neither of us would forget. When we arrived over Warsaw we found that every building except one, for miles around, had been completely flattened.

Berlin RAF clearance form - Errol Barrow Navigator Andrew Cole pilot

We were later told that the Germans, before pulling out of the city as the Russians approached, had placed explosives in the tunnels of the underground railway and detonated them. Then the Russians had pounded Warsaw with artillery fire before they drove out the Germans and replaced them as the occupying power. We were driven in from the airport in a car from the embassy, which we discovered was in that single building that was still standing – the Hotel Europa, I think it was called. The only functioning restaurant was in the basement of that same building, and after delivering our cargo personally and lunching with a member of the embassy staff, we returned to the airport, and so back to Berlin.

In the Spring of 1947 Errol and I were posted to the personal flight of the Commander- in-Chief of the British Zone of Germany, Sir Sholto Douglas. Sir Sholto, a much- decorated World War I pilot (Military Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross and French Croix de Guerre) had taken over from Field Marshal Montgomery shortly after the war ended, and lived if a beautiful German country house, known by us as the “schloss”, in the village of Ostenwalde, some 20 miles east of Osnabrück .  A small landing strip, 200 yards long had been constructed just adjacent to the schloss and there we kept three Taylorcraft Austers, which we used as our “runabouts”. Four miles away, just outside the town of Melle, a runway, some 1000 yards long, had been laid down and there we kept a very well modified and equipped Dakota (DC 3) and an Anson. The Dakota had its own crew and was used exclusively to fly Sir Sholto and some of the VIP’s who visited him, mainly from the Foreign Office in London.

[Editors Note:  F/L Geoff Norton went from 88 Squadron to Field Marshal Montgomery’s Flight (later renamed the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight) where he stayed until December 1947 when he was posted to Central Flying School (CFS)  RAF Little Rissington, in Gloucestershire.  Based on analysis of F/L Geoff Norton’s log book it would appear that F/L Errol Barrow joined the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight in August 1946.  F/L Errol Barrow flew as F/L Geoff Norton’s navigator from August 1946 to March 1947.  After that time F/O Gregory become his navigator.  F/L Andy Cole joined the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight in March 1947.  F/L Errol Barrow become his navigator until his departure at the end of May 1947.]

I flew the Anson, usually with Errol as my navigator, carrying Sir Sholto’s retinue and other visitors from London and elsewhere, very often to Berlin. We used to hop the four miles from the small airstrip to the main runway in one of the Austers – a trip lasting about three minutes!

On 29th May 1947 I flew Errol for the last time, in Auster No. 592, to our base, at Bückeburg, on his way to England to be demobilised. We had flown together, through thick and thin, for three years and three months.

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator BAFO Communications Wing

After leaving the Royal Air Force Errol returned to London to study Law and Economics at the London School of Economics, a College of the University of London. Errol was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, in October 1949 and Joyce and I were very proud to be present at that distinguished ceremony. The following year Errol received his Bachelor of Science (Economics) degree and returned to Barbados.

We next saw him fifteen years later in 1965 when he visited the Farnborough Air Show to purchase instrument-landing equipment for Seawell Airport, Barbados [now renamed Grantley Adams International Airport].

We saw him again a year later when, with members of the West Indies cricket team, he visited Toronto where I was then working with the Shell International organisation.

Errol had told me years before that some of his friends used to call him “Dipper” . I believe after a famous cricketer with that nickname – and I was hoping one or other of the team on that occasion would call him by that name, but no-one did.  I understand the nickname  was given to him by a childhood friend who saw Errol making a cricket stroke and told him that he was using a bat like a ladle, as if he were dipping something out of a bucket.

Andy Cole and Errol Barrow at Culloden Farm May 1972
Andy Cole and Errol Barrow at Culloden Farm May 1972.

Three years later, in 1968, I was transferred by my employer to Caracas where my job took me all over the Caribbean. Joyce and I stayed with Errol and Carolyn at Culloden Farm on several occasions, and Errol took great pleasure in showing us his island. The first time I stayed with Errol and Carolyn, though, was before Barbados had an official residence for the Prime Minister and they were still living in Errol’s family home at Black Rock. I remember clearly how amusing I found it that Errol – Prime Minister – and I had to shower together because the tank on the roof, heated by the sun, would not supply enough hot water for us to shower individually. Afterwards, Errol cooked breakfast and I did the washing up!

In 1976, I think it was, Errol had acquired an aircraft, an Aero Commander, for Barbados, and he took me up for a short flight. It was fascinating to be flown by him who had been my navigator thirty-odd years before – especially since Errol had told me he had failed to make the grade as a pilot during training in Canada… because, they said, he couldn’t land an aircraft!!

In 1980 I was carrying out a study for Shell in Barbados and Joyce had joined me there. I had planned to fly the two of us in a Cessna 182 aircraft from the Barbados flying club to Antigua and St Maarten, where we had friends. We had dinner with Errol and Carolyn the evening before and Lesley, who was also there, asked if she could join us on the trip. Of course I agreed. (I’ve always had a lurking suspicion that Errol and Carolyn named Lesley after me, my second name being Leslie.)  It was a wonderful flight, concluding with a spectacular return under a glorious sunset.

Sadly that was the last time I was to see Errol – a fine navigator, a great man and a dear friend.

Written by Errol Barrow’s pilot in 88 Squadron RAF: Andrew Leslie Cole.

Errol Barrow, My Friend: My Navigator – was published as a tribute to coincided with the unveiling ceremony of the bronze statue of Errol Barrow on Errol Barrow Day – Sunday 21st January 2007. It was serialised in Nation on: Wednesday 24th January 2007, Friday 26th January 2007, Saturday 27th January 2007 and Sunday 28th January 2007.

In Barbados Errol Barrow Day is a public holiday celebrated annually on 21st January. This public holiday was first officially observed in 1989 and celebrates Errol Barrow’s birth on 21 January 1920.

Andy Cole and his daughter Deborah Jefferies were guests at the unveiling of Errol Barrow’s statue, sculpted by St. Lucian: Ricky George. It is an impressive 9ft tall bronze statue, standing at the southern end of Independence Square in Bridgetown, Barbados.


Some anecdotes shared by Bryan Norton the son of Squadron Leader Geoff Norton DFC

Bryan Norton has shared with us some anecdotes of his father’s days in 88 Squadron and BAFO with Errol Barrow.  He says it is amazing what these fellows got up to and never spoke about. If you didn’t know the right question to ask them, you never got the answers and a lot of this will be lost because so few are interested now.

F/L Geoff Norton DFC like F/O Errol Barrow and F/L Andy Cole served in 88 Squadron and BAFO.  In fact Norton served two tours with 88 Squadron – his first tour was 52 operational sorties.  Norton and Cole were both also pilots in the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight with Barrow who was one of the Navigators.

After leaving 88 Squadron, Norton joined  what was Field Marshal Montgomery’s Flight (later renamed the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight) where he stayed until December 1947 when he was posted to Central Flying School (CFS)  at RAF Little Rissington, in Gloucestershire.   Cole joined the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight in March 1947.

Analysis of both Norton and Cole’s logbooks suggest Errol Barrow joined the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight in August 1946, 4 months after Marshal of the Royal Air Force William Sholto Douglas had taken over from Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery as Military Governor of Germany.

F/O Errol Barrow flew as F/L Geoff Norton’s navigator from August 1946 to March 1947.  After that time F/O Gregory become his navigator.  F/L Andy Cole joined the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight in March 1947.  F/O Errol Barrow become his navigator until his departure at the end of May 1947.

Geoff Norton stayed on in the RAF and went on to fly Gloster Meteors and de Havilland Vampires in Germany. In 1961 on leaving the RAF, Squadron Leader Norton DFC went to Kenya to become Deputy Commandant of the Kenya Police Airwing.

Bryan Norton says “my father and Errol were good friends in their RAF days and he was personally invited by Errol to his installation as Prime Minister, however, my father felt that he did not want to intrude on his Big Day now that he was such an important person”.  My father and Errol’s friendship was probably rooted in their flying experience in 88 Squadron and BAFO and some similarities in their backgrounds.  My father had been brought up in the Methodist church and his father (my grandfather) was a Methodist Lay Preacher. I assume that they may have had some deep discussions about their backgrounds because of this.

Geoff Norton’s son Bryan noted “that when Errol and my father were discussing what they would do after leaving the RAF, Errol told my father that he was going to be the first Prime Minister of Barbados. My father was very impressed with his sincerity when he made this statement and felt that if anyone could manage this it would be Errol, and so history proved”.

Fighting with the Devonshire Regiment

Speaking to my father in the latter years of his life my father said “when I was in the Army” thinking his memory was playing tricks I said “but you were in the Airforce” he replied “yes but I also fought with the Devonshires”.

On asking more questions my father said that he had been dropped off north of Rouen and joined up with the Devonshires to act as liaison to see how 88 Squadron could help them better in their advance. He was put under the care of a Captain who handed him an automatic weapon and told him to shoot at a hedge (which was no problem to my father who after the war shot at Bisley for the RAF) which he gave a good blasting, the Captain was impressed enough to say “thats good enough lets go”.

My father said he wore Army kit but had to wear his RAF uniform underneath in case he was captured. I think he advanced with them for about a week or so. The Devonshires had in return sent one of their Captains to 88 Squadron so that he could see how they worked and what they could offer and flew on several missions.

When they crossed on their way back to their relevant units the Army Captain said to my father that he was glad to be going back because at least in the Army when someone is shooting at you there are things to hide behind and that he had felt totally exposed when being fired upon in an aircraft!!

I still find this amazing that my Dad had to fight in an army smok with his airforce uniform underneath so that if he was captured he would not be shot as a spy!

This secondment to the Devonshires might have between the 9th December 1944 and the 15th January 1945 where there is a gap in his logbook following completion of his first tour of 52 operational sorties with 88 Squadron.  These dates also tally with Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counter Offensive from 16th December 1944 to 25th January 1945 and the German offensive, Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate) that started on 1st January 1945.

It is very likely F/L Norton acted as a Forward Air Controller (FAC).  These were RAF officers embedded with the troops with communication sets to talk directly with the aircraft. This was a technique developed in the desert war to avoid bombing friendly forces, and marking concealed targets, either with smoke or coloured panels.

I got my father to tell me he fought with the Devonshires having read a book by an American which was rather scathing about the British advance after D-Day, one of the author’s  complaints was that they stopped for tea at 4 o’clock every day. I asked my father about it and he said it was true BUT you needed to remember that the American Army had mostly been fighting less than a few months at this stage while the battle hardened British troops had been fighting 4 years and took it all in their stride!

Forced landing at RAF Rivenhall enroute from Schleiz near the Czech border: 24th November 1946

I can also see from my fathers logbook that on 24th November 1946 on a flight from Schleiz to RAF Hendon my father, Errol Barrow and their VIP passenger had a forced landing RAF Rivenhall, which is approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) south-southeast of Braintree, Essex. A flight time of 6 hrs 35 minutes is logged of which 2hrs 5 minutes was logged as instrument flying. They continued the journey to Hendon the next day, so presumably the issue was fuel/weather.

Their VIP passenger that day was AVM deCrespignay.  He was Regional Commissioner for Schleswig-Holstein for the Control Commission for Germany. Having retired from the RAF he was one of four civilians appointed to oversee the de-Nazification of Germany and Austria.

F/L Geoff Norton DFC logbook Navigator Errol Barrow

Anson 232 Down, Brandenburg – Dinner with the Russians: 18th February 1947

“I only managed to get my father to write the attached anecdote as I told him that I was learning how to write a web page and would he please write a couple of aviation anecdotes for me to practice with, otherwise he never really spoke about the war”.

Montgomery’s war was drawing to a close and we were reluctantly saying goodbye to our superb 88 Squadron Mk.IV Douglas Bostons with their two and a half thousand horsepower engines and an acceleration and climb that would leave other aircraft standing!!

So, where to from here?? I found myself posted to Montgomery’s headquarters at Luneburg Heath, together with the Errol Barrow, where we had a number of ‘puddle jumpers’, a couple of Ansons and a Dakota, for the use of the Field Marshal and his Staff plus visiting VIPs and Heads of State.

Not very exciting I thought, but how wrong can one be? It was one of the most interesting and pleasant postings of my service career, amongst a thoroughly charming crowd of people – Monty certainly chose the best.

Later the headquarters moved to a delightful spot called Melle, not far from Osnabrucke and Monty was replaced by Sir William Sholto Douglas [ on  1st May 1946 ].

One winter’s day, in a steady snowstorm, I took off for Gatow with Errol as my navigator and a gaggle of ‘famous names’ who were meeting up with Sholto in Berlin, plus a WAAF officer who was Sholto Douglas’ PA.

Upon reaching Brandenburg with the snow really tumbling down, the port engine failed. After the normal checks I feathered the prop and settled for a single engined trundle to Berlin. A few minutes later the starboard engine gave up the ghost and we were really in the mire.

Errol turned to me and quietly said (it was very quiet at the time) “what do we do now?”, I replied “repeat after me…..”

Fortunately, through the murk, there appeared to be a fairly large space ahead and I prepared to make a crash landing there, hoping that if it was a snow covered lake the ice would be thick enough to carry our weight, or if dry ground, it would be reasonably smooth. The result was a landing in 2 feet of snow, one of the smoothest I have ever made.

We were shortly the guests of the Russians. Errol Barrow was their main interest, seems very few of them had ever seen a black person and when he stuck a pencil in his hair they were fascinated. They also took great interest in the WAAF officer – much to her horror and discomfort – but I don’t think she was ever in danger. I think she was the daughter of a Bishop, not that it made much difference.

Conversation was difficult, only one Russian officer could speak limited German, whilst I was the only member of our group with a schoolboy vocabulary, but we made ourselves understood.

After getting off a signal to Gatow we were invited to a gala dinner specially prepared for us. This began with cabbage soup, followed by a lonely fried egg and a piece of black bread. Next course was a slab of bully beef and one potato followed by rice pudding and jam, Lord knows what their normal meal must have been like!! All this food was served on the same plate, which was getting a bit messy towards the end, but with stand up toasts in Vodka between each course, we were past caring and even the

F/L Geoff Norton DFC & F/O Errol Barrow
F/L Geoff Norton DFC and F/O Errol Barrow in front of one of the VIP Avro Anson aircraft assigned to the British Military Governor of Germany.
Note that F/L Norton’s top button of his RAF tunic is un-done. This was an honour allowed to fighter pilots. 88 Squadron’s Boston aircraft were designated fighter bombers. After the reorganisation of the Airforce in June 1943 88 Squadron moved from Bomber Command to being part of 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF). (Photo courtesy of: Bryan Norton)

WAAF officer was finding the Russians quite attractive.

I vaguely remember being rescued by the Royal Navy, although where on earth they came from remains a mystery and taken to the Great Man’s residence in Berlin where we were given a hero’s welcome.

Footnote:  this story is also told in Peter Morgans, 1994 book “The Life and Times of Errol Barrow”.

The fate of Anson 232 that forced landed at Brandenburg within the Russian sector of Berlin is unknown. Bryan says “Looking at my fathers logbook he flew Avro Anson 232 quite a lot before the forced landing but it does not appear again in his log book up to the time he left and went to Central Flying School – RAF Little Rissington. So either it was not recovered or it was sent later to another squadron.”

F/L Geoff Norton DFC logbook Navigator Errol Barrow
Flying Officer Geoff Norton DFC log book showing the entry for Anson 232 that crash landed at Brandenburg in the Russian sector of Berlin. Listed as crew were: F/O Geoff Norton (pilot), F/O Gregory (navigator), F/O Errol Barrow (navigator), LT Sutton, CPT Felstead, F/O Etheridge, SGN Kirby.

Brave young men getting ready for action and coping with fear

I had read in a book about how the heavy bomber crews would rush to the latrines after a sortie briefing. I though this sounded a little over dramatic and asked my father about it.  He said it was quite true even in 88 Squadron.

He explained that in 88 Squadron after a briefing you wouldn’t find anybody in the mess, they were all at the latrines. Some were sitting. Some were vomiting. Some were standing discussing the next raid.  Each coping with their fear in a different way.


Whisking a German World War II Scientist out of Germany

It is understood that before Errol Barrow died on 1st June 1987 that he mentioned in a radio interview about being part of the aircrew that transported German war-time scientists out of Germany.  This radio interview was probably on CBC, however, we’ve not yet been able to track it down yet.

In Andy Cole’s book: “The Beautiful Blonde in the Bank” he writes:

On 6th April 1946 I had to fly to Berlin/Gatow late one evening to pick up four passengers and fly them back to Bückeburg. A night flight out of Gatow was a rarity in itself for us, but when I saw the passengers I knew this was no ordinary flight. They were clearly German, looking quite distressed. Two couples, one in their late thirties I would guess, and the other undoubtedly the elderly parents of one or other of them. Nothing was said between us, and when we reached Bückeburg the four of them were Immediately transferred to a waiting Dakota which would take them to England.

Andy Cole in his Tribute to Errol Barrow “My Navigator: My friend” also talks about part of that trip. He says:

On 6th April 1946, we had one very momentous trip. We had to fly to Berlin, pick up some specialised radio equipment and fly it to Warsaw, Poland, for the newly re-established British Embassy there. That was an experience which neither of us would forget. When we arrived over Warsaw we found that every building except one, for miles around, had been completely flattened.

We were later told that the Germans, before pulling out of the city as the Russians approached, had placed explosives in the tunnels of the underground railway and detonated them. Then the Russians had pounded Warsaw with artillery fire before they drove out the Germans and replaced them as the occupying power. We were driven in from the airport in a car from the embassy, which we discovered was in that single building that was still standing – the Hotel Europa, I think it was called. The only functioning restaurant was in the basement of that same building, and after delivering our cargo personally and lunching with a member of the embassy staff, we returned to the airport, and so back to Berlin.

Cole’s Log book shows that on 5th April 1946 that Errol Barrow was his navigator and there are three entries for the 5th and 6th April 1946:

  • 5th April 1946 in Anson XII 805 they flew from B151 (Bückeburg) to B168 (Hamburg/Fuhlsbuttel) and then to Gatow (Berlin) – 2:00 hrs
  • 6th April 1946 in Anson XII 805 they flew from Gatow (Berlin) to Warsaw and return with 3 Passengers 5:00 hrs (1:30 on instruments)
  • 6th April 1946 in Anson XII 805 they flew from Gatow (Berlin) to B151 (Bückeburg) – 1:10 hrs night flying (1:10 on instruments)

So as Cole says 6th April 1946 was a “very momentous trip” in the air flying for 6 hours 10 minutes.


Flying with S/Ldr Neville Freeman – pilot of Sholto Douglas’ VIP Dakota IV – KN645

In the August 1946  Errol Barrow was posted to the personal flight of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Zone of Germany, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Sholto Douglas.

Sholto Douglas had taken over from Field Marshal Montgomery shortly after the war ended, and lived if a beautiful German country house, known by the aircrew as the “schloss”, in the village of Ostenwalde, some 20 miles east of Osnabrück.  A small landing strip, 200 yards long had been constructed just adjacent to the schloss and there were kept three Taylorcraft Austers, used as “runabouts” to transport Douglas and his personal flight crew to the main airstrip at Melle.

Four miles away, just outside the town of Melle, a runway, some 1000 yards long, had been laid down and there a VIP kitted out Dakota (DC 3) KN645 and and  two Ansons were kept. The Dakota had its own crew and was used exclusively to fly Sholto Douglas and some of the VIP’s who visited him, mainly from the Foreign Office in London.

C-in-C Schloss at Ostenwalde
Flying Officer Geoff Norton DFC (far left) and fellow officers in front of Field Marshal Montgomery then Marshal of the Royal Air Force William Sholto Douglas schloss at Oldendorf.
(Photo courtesy of: Bryan Norton)

KN645 is preserved and on display at the RAF Museum at Cosford. One of the pilots of Sholto Douglas’ VIP kitted out Dakota was S/L Neville Freeman who was also the officer commanding the C-in-C Military Governors Flight. The RAF Museum are in possession of Neville Freeman’s logbooks between August 1946 and July 1949 and say “Although he doesn’t list the names of the crew of KN645, on three occasions he records trips in an Anson, a Messenger and an Auster where the passenger is recorded as F/O Barrow.


Useful Reference Material and Notes


Light bomber: typically refers to twin engined bombers such as the Lockheed Hudson, Bristol Blenheim or Douglas Boston.   The twin engined Vickers Wellington was classed as a  long range medium bomber.

Douglas Boston: was a light bomber.  Boston III can be differentiated by their serial numbers – the Boston IV, V serials started at BZ400. Anything – 399 or lower was a Boston III (no rear gun turret).

Heavy bomber or Heavies: typically refers to four engined bombers such as the Avro Lancaster or Boeing Superfortress.


Errol Barrow’s RAF Record of Service

Below in table form is a summary of Errol Barrow’s redacted RAF Record of Service (ROS) which was provided by Ministry of Defence Headquarters Air Command RAF Cranwell.  To this we have also added some key events to provide historical reference points.

DateDescription - as recorded on RAF redacted service records: 1383402 & 191485 and other documents
November 1940The Barbados Second Contingent was recruited to support the RAF and departed Barbados in November 1940. The 12 men selected included: Charles Parnell King, J.S. Partridge, Arthur Adolphus Walrond, J.L.L. Yearwood, Mark Radford Cuke, Errol W. Barrow, Grey Doyle Cumberbatch, Andrew P.C. Dunlop, H.E.S. Worme, Gordon A. Barrow, A.O. Weekes & Bruce F.H. Miller.
31st December 1940Euston Central Recruitment Centre RAF Volunteer Reserve / No: 2 Recruitment Centre, RAF Cardington, Bedfordshire. Barrow enrolled as Aircraftman No 2 Class (AC2), RAF Official Number: 1383402
15th February 1941No. 12 Operational Training Unit, Bournemouth was formed in April 1940 as part of No. 1 Group RAF Bomber Command at RAF Benson to train light bomber aircrew.
9th April 1941No. 10 Signals Recruit Centre Blackpool.
25th July 1941No.2 Signals School at Yatesbury which trained airborne wireless operators
24th October 1941Station HQ RAF Marham in Norfolk. At that time Marham was home to three squadrons of Wellington bombers.
1st January 1942Promoted to Aircraftman No 1 Class (AC1)
18th May 1942Air Crew Despatch Centre. Barrow must have volunteered to serve as aircrew.

On passing their ITW course cadets moved to begin their professional flying training.

By early 1942 overseas training was the norm.
20th August 1942No 17 Initial Training Wing (ITW), Scarborough

This ITW was formed on 13 October 1941 at Belvedere House, Esplanade, Scarborough and disbanded on 4 October 1944.
28th August 1942Promoted to Leading Aircraftman (LAC)
8th September 194251 Group, 4 Elementary Flying Training School
20th October 1942Air Crew Despatch Centre - Heaton Park Manchester destined for Canada.

Here aircrew were assembled into drafts and assigned to convoys bound for Canada or South Africa.
13th February 1943In transit to Canada
7th March 1943 -
19th April 1943

(taken from Errol Barrow's logbook courtesy of David Barrow)
No. 2 Elementary Flying Training Schools (EFTS), Fort William, Ontario, Canada.

No.2 EFTS had the job of separating recruits into aircrew (pilots and non pilots) and ground crew. Everyone took the same course. If you showed aptitude for flying you were sent for pilot training otherwise you were streamed as aircrew.

Those that could shoot and hit a moving target became Air Gunners.

If you were airsick or unfit you were ground crew.

Graduates of the EFTS "learn-to-fly" program went on a SFTS for 16 weeks.
22 April 1943No. 2 Service Flying Training School (SFTS), Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.

Brandon, Manitoba is 120 miles west of Winnipeg, on the Canadian prairie with no natural obstacles, 321 days of sunshine so a perfect place for flying training.

Average winter daytime temperatures range is: -8°C to -18°C!

Andrew Cole, Barrow's pilot notes Barrow was streamed to aircrew as he wasn't good at landing an aeroplane! Barrow was already a qualified signaller and was sent to Observer school.
undated
June 1943
No. 9 Air Observers School (AOS), Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada. Air Observers were later called "Navigators". For recruits in this stream, the training path after ITS was 8 weeks at an Air Observer School, 1 month at a Bombing & Gunnery School, and finally 1 month at a Navigation School.
26th November 1943Presentation of Wings to Air Navigators by Wing Commander RJ Gray of No. 9 Air Observer School.
26th November 1943Promoted to Sergeant (SGT)
27th November 1943No. 1 General Reconnaissance School (GRS), Summerside, St. Eleanors, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The school trained pilots and observers in the techniques of patrolling oceans using the Avro Anson. The school became part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in 1942.

The topics included Dead Reckoning Navigation, Astro Navigation, Compasses and Instruments, Meteorology, Signals, Reconnaissance, Coding, Ship Recognition, Aerial Photography and Visual Signals.
23rd January 1944No. 31 Operational Training Unit (OTU) , Debert, Nova Scotia, Canada (Lockheed Hudson, Avro Anson). The OTU was the last stop for aircrew trainees and the place where crews were assigned. Barrow joins: P/O Andrew Leslie Cole RAF (pilot), SGT Leo Leslie J Schultz RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner) and SGT Robert Allen Stewart RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner).
7th April 1944Crew No. 31/48/416 - Graduates of Course no. 48 No. 31 Operational Training Unit RAF Debert N.S. - 7 April 1944

P/O Andrew Leslie Cole RAF (Pilot) 153770, SGT Errol Walton Barrow RAF Navigator & Bomber) 1383402, SGT Leo Leslie J Schultz RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner) AUS.424694 & SGT Robert Allen Stewart RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner) AUS.424070
6th June 1944D-Day, also known as the Allied invasion of Normandy, was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control, and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.
25th June 1944Departed Canada on completion of training in transit
3rd July 1944Disembarked UK. No. 7 Personnel Reception Centre. This consisted of a number of requisitioned hotels in the centre of Harrogate
14th August 1944No. 13 Operational Training Unit at RAF Bicester, to train Douglas Boston light day bomber aircrew.
14th September 1944No. 2 Group Support Unit.

This was a reserve of replacement aircraft and crews for Boston, Mitchell and Mosquito squadrons of 2nd Tactical Air Force
17–26 September 1944The Battle of Arnhem, was a major battle of the Second World War at the vanguard of the Allied Operation Market Garden. It was fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze, Driel, and the surrounding countryside.
20th September 1944

Barrow's RAF ROS states: 14th September 1944. This is very likely a typo for two reasons
i) When Barrow's crew joined 88 Squadron their first flight was on 23rd September 1944
ii) RAAF ROS Officer Extract from Forms PP24 & PP25 for Wireless Operator and Gunner (WOAG) F/O Robert Allen Stewart shows 2 G.S.U. as 14th September 1944 and 88 Sqn B as 20th September 1944.
88 Squadron, 2nd Tactical Air Force who flew Douglas Boston Light bombers. The squadron had relocated to RAF Hartford Bridge, Hampshire with its sister squadron No. 342 Squadron as part of 137 wing of No.2 Group of the 2nd Tactical Air Force in preparation for the invasion of Europe. From there the squadron attacked German communications and airfields.

F/L Andy Cole's log book shows first sortie was 23 September 1944 that lasted 1 hr 45 mins - Strongpoint - Escalles.
On 25 September 1944 they had a Fighter Affiliation training flight of 45 minutes in the morning followed by a sortie bombing a gun position in Arnhem which lasted 3 hrs 20 mins...
17th October 1944On 17th October 1944 88 squadron returned to France based at Vitry-en-Artois to join the tactical air forces that were supporting the Allied armies as they advanced across Europe.
1st November 1944Good Conduct Badge, 1st, A
3rd November 1944Commissioned as a Pilot Officer (PO) on probation (emergency) after 3 years 309 days service. RAF Official Number: 1383402 changed to 191485. Gazetted on 27 March 1945
16th December 1944 to 25th January 1945Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counter Offensive, was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Eastern Belgium, North East France, and Luxembourg, towards the end of the war in Europe. The offensive was intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers' favour.
1st January 1945Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate), launched on 1 January 1945, was an attempt by the Luftwaffe to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries during the Second World War. The operation achieved some surprise and tactical success, but was ultimately a failure. A great many Allied aircraft were destroyed on the ground but replaced within a week. Allied aircrew casualties were quite small, since the majority of Allied losses were grounded aircraft. The Germans, however, lost many pilots who could not be readily replaced. Bodenplatte was the last large-scale strategic offensive operation mounted by the Luftwaffe during the war.'

26th March 1945Barrow’s last recorded operation flown, in Boston BZ432 V for Victor. Errol Barrow has flown on 48 operational sorties while with 88 Squadron, Bomber Command. (His pilot F/L Andy Cole flew 51 - 3 with a stand-in navigator)
4th April 194588 Squadron disbanded at the end of the war in Eurpore.
6th April 1945When 88 Squadron disbanded Barrow's crew were broken up:

F/O Cole posted to 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) Communication Squadron RAF

P/O Barrow was posted to 85 Group Squadron RAF, in Bückeburg, British sector of occupied Germany which was a Douglas Dakota transport squadron.  No. 85 Group Communication Squadron later became British Air Forces of Occupation (BAFO) Communication Squadron.

F/SGT Schultz posted to No. 9 Personnel Despatch Centre (PDC) pending disposal.

F/SGT Stewart posted to No. 9 Personnel Despatch Centre (PDC) pending disposal.
4th May 1945Barrow's confirmation and promotion as a Flying Officer. Gazetted on 29 June 1945. Listing on record read: Aircrew category - Navigator. Confirmed in appt promoted to F/O(w)
8th May 1945Victory in Europe.
22nd May 1945 Field marshal Bernard Montgomery (5 star) appointed Military Governor of Germany
19th October 1945Errol Barrow arrived in the USA on a Dakota KP 279 of Royal Air Force Transport Command. We think he might have hitched a ride across the Atlantic to the Very Long Range OTU in Nassau and from there entered the USA to get married. As yet we cannot find any record of his return journey so we are assuming he returned to the UK via Dorval airport in Quebec, home of the RAF transatlantic ferry service.
10th November 1945Postponement of Release - 6 months C.R.
18th November 1945Marries Carolyn Marie Plaskett in Orange, New Jersey, USA where her father Rev. George Plaskett was the rector of The Church of the Epiphany.
17th December 1945Carolyn Barrow nee Plaskett arrives in Southampton from New York aboard the Queen Elizabeth. (Errol Barrow did not accompany her.)
12th March 1946No. 85 Group Communication Squadron becomes British Air Forces of Occupation (B.A.F.O) Communication Squadron.
18th March 1946British Airforce Occupation Communications Wing
1st May 1946 On the retirement of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery on 30th April 1946, Marshal of the Royal Air Force William Sholto Douglas (5 star) appointed Military Governor of Germany.
August 1946F/O Errol Barrow joined the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight and is one of the navigators assigned to Marshal of the Royal Air Force William Sholto Douglas, the Military Governor of Germany.

This is based on analysis of the flight log books of F/L Geoff Norton and F/L Andy Cole.

F/L Geoff Norton went from 88 Squadron to Field Marshal Montgomery's Flight (later renamed the C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight) where he stayed until December 1947 when he was posted to Central Flying School (CFS) RAF Little Rissington, in Gloucestershire. F/O Errol Barrow flew as F/L Geoff Norton's navigator from August 1946 to March 1947. After that time F/O Gregory become his navigator.

F/L Andy Cole joined C-in-C Military Governor’s Flight in March 1947. F/O Errol Barrow was mainly F/L Andy Cole’s navigator until Barrow’s last flight on 29th May 1947 when Cole flew him to demob.
15th November 1946Postponement of Release - 12 months C.R.
29th May 1947F/L Andy Cole flies Errol Barrow from the Military Governor's Schloss strip to Bückeburg enroute to demob in the UK.
10th June 1947East Misc / 270 AM
5th October 1947Personnel Despatch Centre.
9th October 1947At No 101 Personnel Dispatch Centre at Kirkham in Lancashire, Barrow would have been presented with a new uniform - navy blue pinstripe suit, grey raincoat, shoes, tie and trilby hat to carry him into 'Civvy Street'.

The last page of his Service and Release Book would have been signed and a VAS (Visual Analogue Scale) psychometric test would have suggested a future career - maybe Law, Economics and Politics?
1st November 1947On the retirement of Marshal of the Royal Air Force William Sholto Douglas on 31st October 1947, General Sir Brian Robertson (4 star) appointed Military Governor of Germany. He stepped down as Military Governor on 21st September 1949 and took on role of High Commissioner for Germany. A post he holds until 24 June 1950.
6th January 1948Gazette listing from service record: Flying Officer (Sulo) with seniority: 4.11.45 - 1.11.47
1947 -1949Errol Barrow reads Law at Law at the Inns of Court. He was called to the Bar in 1949.

From June 1950 until his departure Barrow worked in the Chambers of the Middle Temple with his Master-of-Chamber Mr. Leonard Ganjee as a Junior Counsel in the High Court of Justice and the London Sessions.
1947 - 1950Errol Barrow also reads Economics at the London School of Economics (LSE) completing his degree in 1950. During that time, Barrow also served as Chairman of the Council of Colonial Students where his contemporaries included: Forbes Burnham (PM of Guyana), Michael Manley (PM of Jamica), Pierre Trudeau (PM of Canada) and Lee Kwan Yew (PM of Singapore).
9th December 1949Barrow's first child is born at University College Hospital in London: Lesley Barrow.
6th September 1950No. 5 Personnel Dispatch Centre - Repatriated to Barbados.
25th November 1950Barrow disembarked in Barbados aboard S.S. Golfito, Elders and Fyfe line .
13th April 1951Errol Barrow resigns his commission in the R.A.F.V.R. and retains rank, gazetted on 1 May 1951
1st June 1987Errol Barrow died while in office of a heart attack at his beach house: Kampala.
DateDescription - as recorded on RAF redacted service records: 1383402 & 191485 and other documents
Errol Barrow's RAF war time record
Errol Barrow’s Non Commissioned RAF war time record
Errol Barrow's RAF war time record
Errol Barrow’s Commissioned RAF war time record
Errol Barrow's RAF war time record
Errol Barrow’s Commissioned RAF war time record – Marriage
RAAF Record of Service for Wireless Operator and Gunner Robert Allen Stewart
RAAF Record of Service (ROS) for Wireless Operator and Gunner (WOAG) Robert Allen Stewart RAAF AUS.424070. Anything below 31 OTU and before 9 PDC matches Errol Barrow’s RAF ROS.
It shows 2 G.S.U. as 14 September 1944 and 88 Sqn B as 20 September 1944

Errol Barrow’s Sorties

Andrew Cole RAF Pilot log book - Errol Barrow Navigator 88 Squadron combat sorties
F/O Andrew Cole’s RAF log book. Combat missions are underlined in red.

In military aviation, a sortie is a combat mission. In RAF pilot log books, combat missions are typically underlined in red.

Analysis of F/O Andrew Cole’s RAF log book shows he flew 51 combat missions with his crew totalling 109 hours and 25 mins combat flying.  That crew consisted of: P/O Errol Walton Barrow RAF (Navigator & Bomber), F/SGT Leo Leslie J Schultz RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner) and F/SGT Robert Allen “Shorty” Stewart RAAF (Wireless/Air gunner).

P/O Errol Barrow was not part of the crew for 3 sorties between 28th February 1945 and 10th March 1945.  Barrow flew 48 sorties giving him 103 hours and 25 mins combat flying.

P/O Errol Barrow SortiesDateAircraft Type-NumberSortieFlight time (h:mm)BaseNotes
123-Sep-1944Boston IIIa-229Operations - Strongpoint Escalles1:45RAF Hartford Bridge (lka RAF Blackbushe)
225-Sep-1944Boston IV-411Operations - Gun Position Arnhem3:20RAF Hartford Bridge (lka RAF Blackbushe)
302-Oct-1944Boston IV-454Operations - TRO. Concns. Nr. Nijmegen3:05RAF Hartford Bridge (lka RAF Blackbushe)
403-Oct-1944Boston IV-411Operations - TRO. Concns. Nr. Nijmegen3:30RAF Hartford Bridge (lka RAF Blackbushe)
528-Oct-1944Boston IV-447Operations - Rail BDGE Over Maas at Roemunde2:15Vitry-En-Artois, France
628-Oct-1944Boston IV-447Operations - Rail BDGE Over Maas at Venlo1:55Vitry-En-Artois, France
729-Oct-1944Boston IV-448Operations - Rail BDGE Over Maas at Roermond1:40Vitry-En-Artois, France
811-Nov-1944Boston IV-447Ops - Marshalling Yards Oldenzaal Light Inaccurate Flak Abortive3:00Vitry-En-Artois, France
919-Nov-1944Boston IV-448Ops - Marshalling Yards Viersen Mod. Accurate Flak Target Hit2:15Vitry-En-Artois, France
1021-Nov-1944Boston IV-447Ops - Road Bridge, Randerath Mod. Acc. Flak Operation Abortive2:00Vitry-En-Artois, France
1125-Nov-1944Boston IV-447Op - Marshalling Yards, Rheydt Intense Accurate Flak (Munchen-Gladbach)2:00Vitry-En-Artois, France
1229-Nov-1944Boston IV-432Ops -Strongpoint Dunkerque No Flak Bombs Hung Up1:15Vitry-En-Artois, France
1302-Dec-1944Boston IV-432Operations - Strongpoint At Dunkirk Abortive High Icing1:40Vitry-En-Artois, France
1403-Dec-1944Boston IV-432Operations - Stadtsträlen Light Inaccurate Flak2:00Vitry-En-Artois, France
1511-Dec-1944Boston IV-432Operations - Lock Gates, Zutphen 10/10 CB Abortive1:55Vitry-En-Artois, France
1615-Dec-1944Boston IV-432Operations - Rail / River Bridge, Deventer Moderate Accurate Flak2:20Vitry-En-Artois, France
1731-Dec-1944Boston IV-432Operations - Troop Concentrations, Vielsalm Bombed on GH No Flak1:40Vitry-En-Artois, France
1801-Jan-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Communications Centre, Dasburg Moderate Flak2:30Vitry-En-Artois, France
1901-Jan-1945Boston IV-432Operations - Road / River Bridge, Zaltbommel Moderate Acc. Flak2:10Vitry-En-Artois, France
2003-Jan-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Houffalize "GH" Abortive 10/10 Cloud1:45Vitry-En-Artois, France
2105-Jan-1945Boston IV-432Operations - Sart Lez. St. Vith "GH" Recalled 10/10 CB1:45Vitry-En-Artois, France
2205-Jan-1945Boston IV-432Operation - St. Vith "GH" Moderate Inaccurate Flak2:20Vitry-En-Artois, France
2314-Jan-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Dunkirk Took Over Lead for Bombing Lt. Inaccurate Flak1:25Vitry-En-Artois, France
2417-Jan-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Dunkirk Light Accurate Heavy Flak 2 Hits1:25Vitry-En-Artois, France
2523-Jan-1945Boston IV-458Operation - Troop Concentrations, Nedder Krutchen Mod. Accurate Flak1:40Vitry-En-Artois, France
2629-Jan-1945Boston IV-458Operation - Grevenbraich "GH" Abortive - Not Sufficient Cloud2:00Vitry-En-Artois, France
2702-Feb-1945Boston IV-458Operation - Oil Storage Tanks, Emmerich Light Flak 1 Hit2:05Vitry-En-Artois, France
2803-Feb-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Rail / River Bridge, Zwolle Moderate Inaccurate Flak2:25Vitry-En-Artois, France
2904-Feb-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Oil Dump, Emmerich 10/10ths AC 10-16,500Ft Abortive2:20Vitry-En-Artois, France
3024-Feb-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Road Junction, Rees Light Accurate Flak 1 Hit2:10Vitry-En-Artois, France
3125-Feb-1945Boston III-246Operation - Supply Dump, Dunkirk No Flak1:15Vitry-En-Artois, France
3227-Feb-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Gun Position, Marien, Baum No Flak (GH)2:00Vitry-En-Artois, France
28-Feb-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Communication Centre, Geldern "GH" No Flak2:00Vitry-En-Artois, FranceP/O Barrow replaced with F/SGT Booth
01-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - To Create Chokepoint, Xanten ("GH") No Flak2:00Vitry-En-Artois, FranceP/O Barrow replaced with F/O Odlum
02-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - To Create Chokepoint, Kevelaer ... "SCR. 584 "The Voice"VHF Controlled No Flak Target Hit2:00Vitry-En-Artois, FranceP/O Barrow replaced with F/O Odlum
3311-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Marshalling Yard, Ahaus ("GH") No Flak2:40Vitry-En-Artois, France
3412-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Marshalling Yard, Dorsten "GH" Heavy Accurate Flak2:30Vitry-En-Artois, France
3512-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Marshalling Yard, Dorsten "GH" Light Inacc. Flak2:30Vitry-En-Artois, France
3613-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Marshalling Yard, Lengerich Leader Lost Abortive Heavy Accurate Flak From Deventer2:10Vitry-En-Artois, France
3713-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Marshalling Yard, Borken Heavy Accurate Flak For 30 Mins Several Small Holes2:15Vitry-En-Artois, France
3814-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Marshalling Yard, Bocholt Heavy Accurate Flak2:00Vitry-En-Artois, France
3917-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Marshalling Yard, Ahaus Moderate Inacc, Flak2:25Vitry-En-Artois, France
4019-Mar-1945Boston IV-456Operation - Marshalling Yard, Coesfeld Light Inaccurate Flak2:25Vitry-En-Artois, France
4119-Mar-1945Boston IV-456Operation - Marshalling Yard, Dulmen No Flak2:20Vitry-En-Artois, France
4220-Mar-1945Boston IV-459Operation - Marshalling Yard, Dorsten Moderate Accurate Flak2:40Vitry-En-Artois, France
4321-Mar-1945Boston IV-458Operation - Marshalling Yard, Borken Light Inaccurate Flak2:25Vitry-En-Artois, France
4422-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Billetting Area, Raesfeld Moderate Accurate Flak2:20Vitry-En-Artois, France
4523-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Billetting Area, Arnholt No Flak2:00Vitry-En-Artois, France
4624-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Gun positions in support of Rhine Crossing No Flak1:50Vitry-En-Artois, France
4725-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Gun positions, Arnholt
Areas MRCP U/S Abortive
1:50Vitry-En-Artois, France
4826-Mar-1945Boston IV-432Operation - Gun positions, Nr. Emmerich (10/10 NS Heavy Icing Abortive)2:15Vitry-En-Artois, France
109:25

Below is F/O Andrew Coles’s log book entries during his time with 88 Squadron. In the table above only red underlined sorties are recorded (combat mission against the enemy). Omitted are: flights from Hertford Bridge to Vitry, air tests, practice formation flights, Gee training, practice bombings, low level cross country flights, air-ground firing and “G” training and night flying circuits.


Special thanks to:

  • Lynda Lewis for allowing the writer to post to her facebook group – Old Time Photos Barbados and to all those that responded to our request for for information.
  • Peter Devitt and Gordon Leith of the RAF Museum for their help and encouragement, their help deciphering hand written Records of Service acronyms and answering our questions.
  • Anthony Whittingham who helped validate Errol Barrow’s RAF Record of Service and provided a number of cross checks, technical help on Bostons and Squadron history.
  • Melissa Whitney Nelson who wrote to us to share a chance meeting she had with Errol Barrow’s pilot during World War II – Andrew L. Cole.
  • The late family of Andrew (Andy ) Cole, namely his grandson David Whitehead and his daughter Debbie Jefferies for sharing with us his: book, writings, log book and cuttings.  We have included Andrew Cole’s tribute to Errol Barrow published in 2007:  Errol Barrol – My Navigator: My Friend.
  • Rev. Alan Jenkins, Rector of St Nicolas Church, Great Bookham.
  • David Barrow, Errol Barrow’s son, who provided input and corrected some information we had misinterpreted.
  • Bryan Norton for sharing his father Squadron Leader Geoff Norton DFC story with us.
  • Tracey Allen, Features Editor, RAF News for helping us to track down Errol Barrow’s 88 Squadron crew.
  • RAAF Liaison team at the Department of Defence at the Australian High Commission in London for helping us to track down Errol Barrow’s 88 Squadron crew.

Books:


Errol Barrow in the RAF Video:


Online Resources:

3 thoughts on “Errol Barrow – Statesman, Prime Minister of Barbados, RAF Navigator World War II”

  1. My 4 year old and I tool a walk through the Military Cemetery, yesterday. Came upon this. Worth sharing.

    Errol Barrow’s memorial tomb stone in the Barbados Military Cemetery.
    Errol Barrow's tomb stone in the Barbados Military Cemetery

  2. Greeting from a ‘hobby historian’ in England.

    Wonderful story of a great man, some great experiences and a great friendship.

    Really enjoyed it.

  3. The Barbados postage stamp from 2008 featuring Flying Office Errol Barrow does indeed depict a “Lanc”.

    Here is our very own Lancaster KB726 at The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum:

    Lancaster KB726. Photo: Kool Shots
    Lancaster KB726. Photo: Kool Shots

    Lancaster KB726. Photo: Kool Shots
    Lancaster KB726. Photo: Kool Shots

    Lancaster KB726. Photo: Eric Dumigan
    Lancaster KB726. Photo: Eric Dumigan

    Lancaster KB726. Photo: Doug Fisher
    Lancaster KB726. Photo: Doug Fisher

    This Lanc is referred to as the “Mynarski Memorial Lancaster”. It is painted in the colours of his aircraft KB726 – VR-A, which flew with RCAF No. 419 “Moose” Squadron. Andrew Mynarski won the Victoria Cross, the Canadian Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry on 13 June 1944, when his Lancaster was shot down in flames by a German night fighter. As the bomber fell, he attempted to free the tail gunner trapped in the rear turret of the blazing and out of control aircraft. The tail gunner miraculously survived the crash and lived to tell the story, but sadly Andrew Mynarski died from his severe burns.

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