501 Squadron – Nathanial John Merriman Barry (known as ‘Nat’), was the son of Richard and Gladys Barry of Cape Province in South Africa. In 1938 he travelled to England to enrol at Pembroke College, Cambridge to study Mechanical Engineering. He early on joined the University Air Squadron and with the outbreak of war in September 1939 was called up as a member of the RAF Volunteer Reserve.
Now a Pilot Officer, he was appointed Aide-De-Camp to Air Vice-Marshal Hugh Vivian Champion de Crespigny MC, DFC, the Air Officer Commanding No 25 (Armament) Group. Barry made a request for an operational posting and in early July was serving with 3 Squadron at Turnhouse.
On 26th September 1940 Nat was posted south to 501 (County of Gloucester) Auxiliary Air Force Squadron at RAF Kenley and was soon in action. In the morning of 30th September he was in combat with Me109’s over Maidstone. His Hurricane L1657 was hit in the engine and he force-landed at Pembury, east of Tunbridge Wells. The Hurricane was repairable.
The following day he wrote a letter to his sister Erica, who was living in Yorkshire with her husband Robert Thompson, the headmaster of Aysgarth School in the Yorkshire Dales.
My dear Erica,
Many thanks for a letter just forwarded from Turnhouse, containing Adrian’s second letter describing London’s Air Raids.
Hope you had my last letter telling you of this change in my address, as letters are somewhat liable to go astray.
All goes well here. We do a lot of flying! I got shot down yesterday with a bullet in my engine – this is nothing to fuss over, so don’t be surprised. I have explained the matter as tactfully as possible to Mother and Dad, as it is the sort of thing which may happen at any time, and if I were to get so much as a cut finger in the course of it, they would, as well as you, be officially informed by telegram.
I have seen far less of the Air Raids than Adrian has, and can only give you my own, dull, side of the story; which is that the sirens go on and off all day, so that is hard to tell whether it is “all clear” or “alarm”. Every night is just one long raid – I find I can sleep very satisfactorily in my own bed which no bomb has arsed out yet. Were one to behave like a good citizen, and take cover, it would be impossible to keep awake during the day – besides shelters frighten me.
My love to your family, especially to Jennifer at school. Hugh will be disappointed to hear that I have no “confirmed victories” or even “probables” yet – only one “damaged”, also that I haven’t used my parachute yet!
[Note: grammar and spelling in the above letter is faithfully reproduced, except for the underlined segment.]
Regrettably six days later, in mid-morning 7th October, Barry was forced to take to his parachute when his Hurricane V6800 was shot down above Wrotham by Me109’s.
Although he was able to leave the aircraft and deploy his parachute, he was found dead at Wilmington to the south of Dartford. Less than 2 miles to the east, his Hurricane crashed in flames at Lane End in Darenth. Whether he was struck by a shell before baling out or subsequently is not known.
Barry was 22 and is buried in Finghall churchyard, Yorkshire. On 26th May 2007 a memorial in honour of F/O Barry was unveiled by the Shoreham Aircraft Museum close to the crash site at Darenth, to the south of Dartford, Kent.
A full account is at: