Robert Norman George BARLOW DFC


BARLOW, Robert Norman George

Service Number: 401899
Enlisted: 26 April 1941, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Last Unit: No. 617 Squadron (RAF)
Born: Carlton, Victoria, Australia, 22 April 1911
Home Town: St Kilda East, Port Phillip, Victoria
Schooling: Melbourne Grammar School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Car Salesman
Died: Lost in action on the "Dams Raid", Heeren-Herken, Germany, 16 May 1943, aged 32 years
Cemetery: Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany
Plot 5 Row C, Grave 9 Roll of Honor St Kilda, Victoria, Australia
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, International Bomber Command Centre Memorial
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World War 2 Service

26 Apr 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 401899, Aircrew Training Units, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
27 Apr 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), SN 401899, No. 1 Initial Training School Somers, Empire Air Training Scheme
20 Jun 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, SN 401899, No. 7 Elementary Flying Training School Western Junction, Empire Air Training Scheme
18 Sep 1941: Embarked Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, SN 401899, RAAF Personnel / Embarkation / Holding Units
10 Oct 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant, SN 401899, Royal Canadian Air Force Training Units, Empire Air Training Scheme
15 Jan 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force Training Units, Awarded Pilots 'Wings' 16 Jan 1942
15 Mar 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Pilot Officer, SN 401899, RAF Conversion Units , Empire Air Training Scheme
16 Jul 1942: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, RAF Conversion Units
27 Oct 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flying Officer, SN 401899, No. 61 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45
28 Feb 1943: Involvement Flight Lieutenant, SN 401899, No. 617 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45
16 May 1943: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant, SN 401899, No. 617 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

Robert Norman (known as 'Norm') George BARLOW, DFC (1911-1943)

Born in Carlton Victoria on 22 April, 1911, Robert (known as 'Norm') Barlow was the son of Alexander and Frances May Barlow, St Kilda Victoria.  By the outbreak of war, he was married to Audrey May Barlow and living at 9/176 Barkly Street, St Kilda Victoria Australia.  He and his older brother Alec were educated at Melbourne Grammar School.  Both men had learned to fly in 1938, made their first solo flights and received their pilot's licenses at Fishermans Bend airfield.  Alec went on to have a career in aviation and during the war was a Wing Commander commanding a Service Flying Training School in Australia, achieving the rank of Group Captain by war's end.

Prior to signing up with the RAAF in 1941, Norm had been employed as a motor dealer while living in Gardenvale with his wife Audrey.  Norm undertook Elementary Flying Training in Australia, then in September he was shipped to Canada where he completed his pilot training.

He was commissioned and appointed Pilot Officer on 15 January 1942.  Two months later he was posted to the UK and assigned to No.1654 Heavy Conversion Unit where he trained on four-engined bombers before being assigned to No. 61 Squadron.  He was promoted to Flying Officer on 16 July 1942.

According to his daughter, Adrianne, who was only a young child at the time, her father's letters home demonstrated his great love of flying.  In one letter he wrote of "thrilling experiences of dodging flak, searchlights and night fighters".  But he also expressed hope that their endeavours would lead to an early end to the war.  

He became a Flight Commander with No. 61 Squadron and had formed a tight knit crew with whom they completed a full tour of 30 operations.  Two of the crew accompanied him to No 617 Squadron, Flight Engineer Sam Willis and Bomb Aimer Alan Gillespie, DFM.  Other No. 61 Squadron personnel made up his crew including Navigator, Flying Officer Phillip Burgess, front gunner Flying Officer Harvey Glinz RCAF and Rear Gunner 18yo Sergeant Jack Liddell; all except for Glinz were RAF.  His Wireless Operator was another Australian, Flying Officer Charles Rowland Williams, DFC, a Queenslander.  Both Barlow and Williams had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Barlow and his crew were selected to fly with "The Dam Busters" as the leader of the second wave in Lancaster Tail Number ED 927, codes AJ-'E for Easy, on their famous raid on 16/17 May 1943. 

The second wave was assigned as their primary target, the Sorpe Dam.  They were the first to take off at 2128hrs, with the longest route to the target.

AJ-K was the first to be lost that night at 2257, when it was hit by flack crossing the coast.  The entire crew perished. At about 2350, Barlow's aircraft had made its scheduled turn near Rees in Western Germany, and flying at tree top level, are believed to have been hit by light flack just three miles from Rees.  Barlow attempted to climb to gain some altitude but hit a high tension power staunchion near Heeren-Herken and crashed into a field exploded and burned killing everyone on board.  Their bomb had separated from the wreckage and was later recovered intact by the Luftwaffe. The wreckage of the aircraft was later discovered and the crew were buried in the Reichswald Forest cemetery.

Pilot : Flight Lieutenant R.N.G. Barlow, DFC, RAAF
Navigator : Flying Officer P.S. Burgess
Flight Engineer : Pilot Officer S.L. Whillis
Bomb Aimer : Pilot Officer A. Gillespie, DFM
Wireless Operator: Flying Officer C.R. Williams, DFC, RAAF
Front Gunner : Flying Officer H.S. Glinz, RCAF
Rear Gunner : Sergeant J.R.G. Lidell

Compiled by Carol Foster and Steve Larkins


Burgess, Colin "Australian Dambusters' 2021 Simon and Schuster, Sydney ISBN9781760859237