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Fred in the early 1980s. He rose through the ranks as high as Air Vice Marshal.
Fred Barnes became Commanding Officer of No.3 Squadron (taking up the position in February of 1956) to see-in the Squadron's new jet fighter, the Sabre. Having flown F86 and F100 Sabres with the USAF at the time, he was ideally suited to heading up the first RAAF operational squadron to be equipped with the new aircraft.
Fred retired in November 1981, holding the rank of Air Vice Marshal after 38 years of service and having flown 36 different types of aircraft, a feat unlikely to be matched these days.
In this article, I will try to compress a very eventful life into a comparatively few words; not an easy task.
Fred was born in Melbourne in 1924, endured the Great Depression and started his first job as a Telegram Messenger Boy and subsequently a Postman, also joining the Air Training Corps and eventually gaining entry to the RAAF in May 1943. After training at Narrandera and Uranquinty on Tiger Moths and Wirraways, he gained his wings as a Sergeant Pilot in September of 1944.
Taking their first look at a Wirraway, Uranquinty, Dec-1943. [L-R: Bruce Stuart, Brian Howarth & Fred Barnes] and a portrait of Fred soon after receiving his 'Wings'.
Fred then spent some time flying Wirraways to train Air Gunners, before being posted to 77 Squadron, at Moratai, in the Indonesian archipelago, to fly Kittyhawks.
After a move to Labuan Island, he started operations against the Japanese, including one to cover the re-occupation of Kuching at the end of hostilities, where the words ‘Get Your Fingers Out’ were displayed on the roof of a POW camp. (The CO of the camp was an RAAF officer apparently; nice fit!) The war ended and the pilots converted to Mustangs; filling in time by using hand grenades and TNT for fishing - competing with sharks to pick up the dead and stunned fish - before going to Japan as part of the Occupation Forces.
No.77 Squadron moved to Bofu in Japan in March of 1946 via Clark Field in the Philippines and Naha Airfield in Okinawa; escorted by Beaufighters and Mosquitoes, without incident. The other two squadrons, 76 and 82, had left earlier, but unfortunately, a flight of three 82SQN Mustangs being led at low level over the sea by a Mosquito (in bad weather) encountered a coastal cliff, resulting in the four aircraft crashing into it, with fatal results.
Time was spent training on the new aircraft, and becoming proficient on ground attack duties both with guns and rockets. The technique of rocket delivery was taught by a couple of Kiwi pilots from 14 Squadron RNZAF, who had experience in firing rockets from their Corsair aircraft. Off duty, Fred toured the countryside and found the locals friendly and polite, much to his surprise. Training and massed fly-overs with the Allied Forces were the daily duties during this period.
Fred was promoted in November 1945 from Warrant Officer, gaining his Commission with the rank of Pilot Officer. Early 1948 saw the squadron moved to Iwakuni, due to overcrowding at Bofu, and this led to Fred taking part in a Ceremonial Guard in Tokyo to ‘show the flag’. As these things work, Fred then met his future wife, Pamela. She was living with her mother and stepfather, who was working with the American Red Cross in Tokyo. Fred and Pamela were married in January 1949 and set up house in Married Quarters at Iwakuni, before being posted back to 21 (CAF) Squadron at RAAF Laverton, departing Japan on the last day of 1949 aboard the SS Taiping. Pamela shared a cabin with other women, while Fred shared with two other blokes, one RAAF, one Army. [Not the ideal trip back to Australia, I would think.] After settling back in Australia, Pamela presented Fred with a bouncing boy, Freddie, in May of 1950 and plans were made to build a house. These plans of course were interrupted by a posting - this time to East Sale to undergo a Flying Instructors Course, commencing in July. On arrival at East Sale, Fred was told he had now been posted to 77 Squadron in Japan, and was to report to RAAF Base Richmond for kitting and departure.
The Korean War had already started and Fred’s first operational flight was on 11 July 1950 (following a refresher flight the day before out of his old base at Iwakuni). His first 'op' was a 3 hour 45 minute sortie, one hour of which was used to cross the strait between Japan and Korea. Operations were staged through Taegu, to allow more sorties to be staged, with the peak being in Aug-Sep '50 as the North Koreans pushed the South Koreans into the south-east corner of their country. On the 9th of September, the Squadron Commander, the very popular Lou Spence was killed. [Lou had fought with 3 Squadron in North Africa in WW2.] A further six pilots would be lost up to the end of 77SQN's Mustang era, on 19 January 1950.
Weapon loads varied between combinations of 60 lb. rockets, 500 lb. bombs, .5 inch machine gun rounds and napalm canisters. Fred had flown eight sorties in two days on 19-20 September 1949, having his Mustang holed by ground fire through the wing and main oil-tank during a strike on the airfield at Onogin. By October '49 the situation on the ground had turned in the UN's favour and the battle had moved north. 77 Squadron moved from Iwakuni to Pohang in southern Korea and settled into cold weather and long mission times.
As the North Koreans were pushed back, the sorties again became longer; four hours duration not uncommon. The Squadron moved to Hamhung in North Korea, from where they operated at night and with snow-covered runways (both new to the RAAF squadrons). The enemy made a major breakthrough on 28th November '49 and it was maximum effort to stop their advance. It was learned later they were Chinese troops. The Squadron was forced to evacuate Hamhung back to their new base at Pusan in South Korea.
Operations for Fred continued until March of 1951, having clocked up 100 missions over Korea. It was a 'first' for his squadron and he marked that point by coordinating his 100th sortie with another 77 Squadron pilot, so that they both completed their 100th missions together.
Ross Coburn and Fred after completion of their 100th operational sorties, Pusan Korea – February 1951.
On one sortie, Fred noticed smoke coming out of one end of a railway tunnel, so he sent a couple of napalm canisters into the entrance on the other end. A satisfying large explosion resulted in the tunnel, with debris being blown out both ends.
Mustang pilots of No. 77 (Fighter) Squadron RAAF study a target map at their base, prior to taking off to attack North Korean forces.
The rapidly changing tactical situation makes a careful map study an essential part of briefing.
From left to right: Flight Lieutenant (FltLt) Fred Barnes, of Melbourne, Vic; FltLt Joe Lyons of Eaglehawk, Vic;
Squadron Leader Dick Cresswell of Glen Iris, Vic, wearing USAF issue flying suit; FltLt Leo Brown of Sydney, NSW; Pilot 3 Robert Hunt of Canberra, ACT.
Before returning to Australia in April, he converted to Meteors, which were just starting to be delivered as the Mustang replacement. Fred was impressed by the tremendous effort put in by the ground crew during his time in Korea; aircraft ready to go, despite the freezing weather conditions and frequent payload changes - and always with good humour.
Fred received the DFC and the USAF Military Medal for his contribution in Korea.
ARDU at Laverton was the next stop, in June 1951, to undergo the ‘Australian Test Pilot’s Course’ - the first and last course, as all pilots were subsequently sent to the UK for the Empire Test Pilot’s School. During June, he flew the Mustang, Wirraway, Vampire and Dakota. Time for flying a Mosquito was fitted in, but he wasn’t able get to the First Pilot stage.
An arranged visit to a pilot in Laverton Base Hospital, who was plastered into a body cast - with another cast on one leg and another on one arm - gave Fred some idea of his next posting. Fred Knudsen, the injured pilot, had pranged a Pika aircraft at Woomera. (The Pika was the manned version of the pilotless Jindivik.)
There were many different trials going on at Woomera and the workhorse was the Lincoln bomber, so Fred started another conversion at Laverton, before he found himself at Woomera, converting to the Pika. Thereafter he flew the Pika as well as the Lincoln, which was carrying out experiments with new weapons delivery systems.
Pika No.2 and Original Jindavik on take-off trolley, Woomera, 1952.
As time progressed, the Pika was flown from the ground with Fred sitting in the cockpit as a back-up. The Pika morphed into the Jindivik, which was operated remotely (initially from the back seat of a Meteor). The Lincoln, which took about 1.5 hours to get to 38,000 feet for the bombing tests, was followed about an hour later by a Mustang, which filmed the drops. (Afterwards the Lincolns were fitted with Python turboprop engines on the outboard stations, vastly improving their performance, so the Mustang had to be sent off first!)
Not many weeks later, the first of two B-29 Super Fortresses [RAF Name: "Washington"] arrived, then the Canberra bomber. Another two conversions for Fred. He also flew the Auster and gained Second Pilot hours on the Dakota, Bristol Freighter and the Percival Prince. British Atomic Bomb tests were carried out at Maralinga at about this time, resulting in a Lincoln having to be decontaminated at Amberley. [Over the course of performing the live Atomic Bomb drops, many Lincolns were slightly contaminated and four seriously so. Three of these are thought to have been broken up and buried at Amberley tip.]
Fred's second boy, Robert, was born at Woomera Hospital in April 1952.
In November 1953, Fred was posted back to ARDU at Laverton, before his next posting to the US as an exchange pilot with the USAF. He boarded the RMS Oronsay in Sydney with Pamela and now two children. After arriving in Vancouver, it was a train trip down to the small town of Victorville in Southern California, where home was to be at George Air Force Base. The position of Squadron Operations Officer was to be taken up, only after an extensive course to gain a USAF Instrument Rating. (The RAAF did not do much of this type of flying at the time, so it was a very demanding period for Fred.)
Fred was flying F-86, T-33, Beaver and soon the F-100 and the F-86F, which had retractable engine intake screens to minimise FOD ["Foreign Object Damage"] to the jet engines. So in the after-take-off checklist…..’Screens In’. Then ‘Screens Out’ before landing.
Pamela had a little girl, Kathie, in July of 1955. Life was demanding, but good, and all too soon the two-year posting was up. Next was a posting back to Williamtown, to command the soon-to-be re-formed 3 Squadron, which was to be equipped with the new Australian F-86 Sabre.
A minor delay, with the children contracting Chicken Pox shortly before their departure from the US, saw Fred and his family miss the ship back to Australia, subsequently flying home with QANTAS via Hawaii and Fiji on a Constellation. He arrived in Sydney late for his Williamtown appointment. - Leaving the family in Sydney, Fred went up to Williamtown alone until a house could be sorted out. A friend gave them a lift up, as the RAAF hadn’t offered or arranged any transport.
3 Squadron was very busy with the introduction of the Sabre and Fred was able to hand on his knowledge of fighter tactics, gained during his time with the USAF. The Rolls Royce Avon engine proved superior to the American engine, but the Aden 30mm cannon was a mismatch with the sighting system, seemingly pointing in the wrong direction. All was overcome in time.
Fred remembers: "During my two years with No. 3 Squadron (1956/57) I was involved in Sabre conversions in addition to normal Squadron training and I led a local aerobatic team of four aircraft."
Other aircraft flown by Fred were the Vampire and Meteor. Fred recalls an Airframe Fitter called Wal Tierney [a lot of Association members remember ‘Wealthy Wal’ with fondness] working extremely hard when Headquarters ordered the Squadron to deploy to Townsville - the Squadron never having used drop tanks at all before this exercise!
Meanwhile another daughter, Deborah, had been born in 1956, bringing the number of children up to four. The next move was to undergo the Staff College Course at Point Cook in 1958. After completing the course, it was off to Department of Air at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne; the position was 'Director of Personnel Officers 2'. The entire Dept. of Air was moved to Canberra in late 1959, so Fred and family were in a new home in Lyneham, a new suburb. Fred recalls this period as ‘a long haul’ and he was pleasantly surprised to get a posting in March of 1962 to lead the RAAF pilot team to France to train on and introduce the Mirage Fighter.
After going down to the Central Flying School, Sale, in July 1962 for 10 days on a refresher flying course on the Vampire (also to renew his instrument rating) he rejoined the rest of the team at Williamtown, eager to tackle this new task. A 10-week course on the French language was carried out at the RAAF School of Languages at Point Cook in Oct-Nov 1962, but it was to be six months before this new skill could be used, due to program slippage. Fred was posted to 75 Squadron in March 1963, which required another family move to Williamtown. This position was short-lived, as Fred and the others were off to France in May 1963, where all the training for the Mirage was carried out. They found out that in the designator for our Mirage (the IIIO), the ‘O’ was for ‘Orstralia’. (The latest French Mirage model was the IIIE.)
In July '63, the team flew the Fouga Magister and then the Mirage at the Centre D’Experiences Ariennes Militaires at Mont-De-Marsan at Landes in the south of France. A busy time, but also a time to enjoy French hospitality. The take-off rocket-motor option for the Mirage was declined, as this was more suited to the European environment, where high altitude had to be attained quickly to intercept incoming enemy aircraft.
Fred then had a short stint with the RAF to compare tactics, and then it was home to Australia. He took up the position of Commanding Officer of No.2 OCU at Williamtown in October 1963. This was the first RAAF unit to be equipped with the Mirage. Due to delays in production and lack of ground-handling equipment, the first aircraft was not delivered to Williamtown until 26 Feb 1964, flown in by Fred. (I recall the day well. I was suitably gobsmacked by the look of the aircraft, which became known as the French Lady in some quarters……but generally ‘The Miracle’.)
Dual-Control Mirage. 2 (F) OCU, Williamtown
June of 1965 saw Fred back in Canberra at Department of Air, until he was again posted; this time to Paris as the Air Attaché. (But first it was back to the RAAF School of Languages for three months to brush up on his French.) Then it was off to Paris in June with Pamela and the two girls; the boys staying at school in Canberra. Three years of the Paris appointment was very much enjoyed by all and some Mirage flying was also fitted in, amongst his other duties.
Fred's next posting was to Butterworth in October 1968 to be the Air Staff Officer, which was to supervise all flying and to be 2 I/C to the OC Base. After settling the family, Fred went back to CFS for refresher training and checked out on the Macchi, before going back to 2 OCU for refresher flying on the Mirage. Out at Butterworth he kept up his flight currency by flying with each squadron, including the Dakota with the Transport Support Flight.
Fred also spent tedious time at Butterworth representing the RAAF in the RAF 'withdrawal' negotiations with the Malaysians. One of the British demands was quite a high price on the swimming pool on Base Married Quarters. ...The Malaysians suggested they could take it with them upon withdrawal.
In October 1971 there was a new posting. This time to London for a course at the Royal College of Defence Studies, an essential course for further promotions. With just three months before the course began, Fred and Pam returned to Canberra from October 1971 to January 1972 to arrange family and domestic issues before heading off to the UK. Then back to Canberra in January of 1973 to take up the post of Director General of Personnel. This brought a promotion to Air Commodore.
During this period, much to Fred’s disapproval, the RAAF lost a Fighter Squadron, the last Airfield Construction Squadron, a band and the University Air Squadrons.
Fred was back at Williamtown in January 1976 to January 1977 as Officer Commanding, where he was able to do a little Mirage flying. Promotion to Air Vice-Marshal came with a posting to the position of AOC Support Command in January 1977. Back to Canberra in March 1979 to DCAS, Fred found the continuous committee meetings less than desirable, and he saw the gradual depletion of war reserves of spares and stores due to lack of money. During this time, Fred was able to get a conversion onto the Caribou and logged 140 hours on the type. In his last three years of service, he did a refresher course on the Macchi, a familiarisation flight in an F-111, several Mirage flights, Mystere 20 and his last flight in the RAAF in a dual Mirage IIID from Fairbairn to Williamtown in November 1981 for his dining-out night. The night was a ‘splendid occasion’, attended by the Chief of Air Staff and the Minister for Air, Sir James Killen, among many others who wanted to honour Fred Barnes for his friendship and contribution to the RAAF over 38 years of wartime and peacetime service.
In initial retirement, Fred kept busy with volunteering on many boards and organisations, fitting in a little golf, of course; and living initially at Tweed Heads before moving to Berry in NSW to enjoy full retirement. AVM Fred Barnes certainly has an impressive record, built over many years and he met many challenges with dedication and hard work.
The highest accolade a WOD in the RAAF could give anyone was a shouted “WELL DONE THAT MAN!” - I think this is an appropriate way to end this profile of Fred Barnes.
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