14 October 1941: Malta Pilot Last of Three Brothers Killed on RAF Service

14 Oct

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Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit

Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit


Ace Malta pilot David Barnwell, DFC has been declared missing, presumed dead after a search failed to find him following an engagement early this morning with a Macchi fighter. P/O Barnwell was in one of five black Hurricanes of the Malta Night Fighter Unit scrambled at 0530 hours this morning to engage nine Italian Macchi fighters which launched a low-level strafing Luqa aerodrome, while 15 other fighters circled off the coast.

 The Hurricanes engaged the raiders as they turned away from their attack.  P/O Barnwell was heard on the radio reporting having shot down one a Macchi 202.  Within moments he was on the radio again, “Baling out, engine cut, am coming down in the sea.”  A search was launched immediately: Swordfish rescue aircraft continued their efforts until late today, when RAF headquarters concluded that P/O Barnwell had not survived. 

P/O Barnwell had served with 185 Squadron at Ta Qali since last June. He shot down a Macchi 200 fighter on 11 July, followed by a BR 20 bomber on 25 July.  A week later he was asked to join Malta Night Fighter Unit under Squadron Leader G Powell-Sheddon.  Overnight on 5-6 August he shot down a BR 20 bomber and damaged another, followed by two more raiders on the nights of 4-5 and 8-9 September.

His award of the DFC followed at the end of September. The citation reads: “This officer has displayed outstanding courage and determination when attacking hostile aircraft of which he has destroyed at least four by night. He has in every way set an excellent example.”

David Barnwell was the youngest of three sons of the late Captain Frank Barnwell, Chief Designer of the Bristol Aircraft Company which produced the Blenheim and Beaufort bombers. He had two brothers, both of whom were RAF pilots and who lost their lives last year.  David Barnwell was 19 years old.


Weather  Fine and cool.

1518-1527 hrs Three enemy aircraft are reported approaching the Island. Ten Hurricane fighters are scrambled and the raiders turn back while still 15 miles from Grand Harbour.

0312-0422 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy aircraft approaching the Island as the same time as Swordfish are heading back to base. Only four raiders – believed to be JU 87 Stukas – cross the coast, one dropping 500kg bombs on land between Rabat and Imtarfa.  The remaining aircraft drop high explosive bombs in the sea three miles north of St Paul’s Bay and east of Delimara.  Four Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit are airborne, two at a time, but there are no searchlight illuminations or interceptions. 

Military casualties  Pilot Officer David U Barnwell, DFC, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 607 Squadron.                                         


ROYAL NAVY  Unbeaten, Urge, Upright sailed at short notice for operation off Cape Passero.

AIR HQ Arrivals 10 Blenheim, 1 Clare, 4 Wellington.  69 Squadron  1 Maryland patrol Ionian sea; 1 Maryland shipping search.  Photoreconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes.  1 Blenheim reconnaissance east Sicilian coast. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish sent to attack a merchant vessel being towed southwards near Kerkennah Bank; the attack was successful and the ship sank within a few minutes.  Two Swordfish and high speed launches from Kalafrana and St Paul’s Bay search for P/O Barnwell without success.


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Posted by on October 14, 2021 in 1941, October 1941


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