Nicky barr

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Last updated on August 9th, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Wing commander Andrew William “Nicky” Barr died recently aged 90. A brilliant WWII pilot, although equipped with aircraft he believed inadequate, Barr once offered this tactical advice:

The Tomahawk and Kittyhawk were not considered by us to be top fighter aircraft.

I decided early on that any deficiency either type had could be offset by unbridled aggression. I had done some boxing, and had beaten better opponents by simply going for them, and I decided to use this tactic in the air. It paid off.

Read the whole thing. Nicky Barr is a hero.

Posted by Tim B. on 06/22/2006 at 11:19 AM
    1. Good God. What a privilege it must have been to know this man.

      Posted by David Gillies on 2006 06 22 at 11:41 AM • permalink


    1. Consider that with all his WW2 exploits, that it was his services to the oil seed industry that won him his OBE.  What magnificent, unheralded heroism have we been deprived knowledge of, in the field of human contest that is the oil seed industry, to which the fight against the Huns was just a prelude?

      Posted by bhmildy on 2006 06 22 at 12:11 PM • permalink


    1. Seems he came to the same conclusion about the P-40 as Claire Chennault and the Flying Tigers, and saw similar success.

      This is just amazing:

      …on May 27 1942 the engine of his Kittyhawk overheated and he had to land in the desert. He took off the covers to repair the engine, having already prepared a rough strip for take off.

      Then he heard enemy tanks approaching and, despite the malfunctioning engine, he took off without replacing the engine covers and reached base after being missing for four hours. The next day he was promoted to squadron leader. It was just six months since he had joined as a junior pilot officer.


      Posted by Spiny Norman on 2006 06 22 at 12:17 PM • permalink


    1. What an amazing life! Truly a hero and one tough bastard to boot!

      Posted by Latino on 2006 06 22 at 12:39 PM • permalink


    1. Unbridled aggression definitely seems like a plan when the other guy is trying to kill you. I simply cannot imagine approaching combat any other way. But I’ve never been in combat. (Fortunately, since I’ve come to appreciate that my enlisted role in Cold War USAREUR was “Cannon Fodder, First Class.”)

      Posted by bovious on 2006 06 22 at 01:24 PM • permalink


    1. Good lord. If he shows up in a few more months, escaped from the clutches of death itself, I wouldn’t be too surprised.

      Posted by Sortelli on 2006 06 22 at 01:29 PM • permalink


    1. A rare individual.  His spirit lives on in our young fighting men and women of today, and is a rebuke to the vanishingly small men like John Kerry and John Murtha.

      Posted by RebeccaH on 2006 06 22 at 01:34 PM • permalink


    1. In the “Master and Commander” series, O”Brian has Aubrey quote Nelson as saying “forget tactics, go right at them”.  I tried google to see if the quote is historically accurate, but came up empty.

      Still pretty good advice it would seem.

      Posted by 68W40 on 2006 06 22 at 01:48 PM • permalink


    1. Its true the P40 wasnt a top fighter, thats why it never flew in european skies, but nicky barr made up for its deficiencies with sheer balls, kerry, murtha hang your heads in shame.

      Posted by phillip on 2006 06 22 at 01:56 PM • permalink


    1. “But it was at rugby that he made his greatest mark, playing as hooker for Victoria and Australia.”

      And he said it was boxing taught him “unbridled aggression”? Naaah. When you’re No. 2 you try harder.

      Posted by Jim Whyte on 2006 06 22 at 02:27 PM • permalink


    1. I love to read about the lives of such people.  #7 and #9, you nailed it about the candyasses that strut about today.  And it isn’t just those like Kerry and Murtha, but also those like the whining hand-wringers we get here occasionally.  I often wonder what excuse anyone can have for giving up on life in the face of people like Mr. Barr.  Though most people rarely live a life that would bring attention to their heroics, there are plenty of people who live courageous lives every day.

      And then we have the Kos Kids, who aren’t fit to supply spit to shine Mr. Barr’s boots.

      Thank you, Tim, for bringing this to our attention.

      P.S.  I hope I’m making some kind of sense these days.  My attention span is….  Time to clean out the empty soldiers, straighten up and fly right –  thank you Mr. Barr, sir, for the reminder.

      Posted by saltydog on 2006 06 22 at 02:53 PM • permalink


    1. One hell of a man and HERO.

      Posted by El Cid on 2006 06 22 at 04:04 PM • permalink


    1. I’m inspired – we should make Rugby Union compulsory!

      Posted by scoota on 2006 06 22 at 04:42 PM • permalink


    1. Thanks for letting us know about such an inspiring individual.  I am awed by people such as him.

      Posted by ladcraig on 2006 06 22 at 05:11 PM • permalink


    1. There is a book on his life… read it for more on this great man.

      Page-breaking link to DELETED. The Management.

      Posted by cal on 2006 06 22 at 06:39 PM • permalink


    1. Hero???  He was taken prisoner by Italians!!!

      Posted by anthony_r on 2006 06 22 at 07:21 PM • permalink


    1. Did he die in England?

      No Aussie papers covered a hero of his stature?

      Hope I’m not talking out of turn, but golly, the man deserves a great deal more.

      Posted by yojimbo on 2006 06 22 at 07:27 PM • permalink


    1. What an amazing story.

      I was also amused to learn there is such a thing as the “RAF Escaping Society”.  Such a British thing to set up.

      Posted by attilathepun on 2006 06 22 at 07:53 PM • permalink


    1. These guys were just studs, no question.

      “The next day he was promoted to squadron leader. It was just six months since he had joined as a junior pilot officer.”

      For, um, perspective, 3 years after I joined my first squadron, I was still a knucklehead “junior pilot officer”!  Of course, when you’re getting shot at (which I wasn’t), I suppose it quickly separates the men from the boys and identifies the real leaders.  I hope its all grass fields, smooth air and mates at the pub as you fly around heaven Wing Commander.

      Posted by Vanguard of the Commentariat on 2006 06 22 at 09:16 PM • permalink


    1. Nicky Barr was a part of a generation who had a very clear idea of what was right and what was wrong. It was not that there were no liberals or nay-sayers in his generation, just that they did not hold the high ground.

      Contrast the reports this week regarding our (Australian) soldiers in Iraq.  Having conducted a fire fight with a group from the Iraq trade ministry, our press go straight to Bob Brown, our resident lunatic, who says predictably that “this is why our men should be brought home immediately”.  Now Bob is entitled to his opinion but he represents only a fringe of lunatics.  In today’s press if Nicky Barr were to be shot down they would want to send him the bill for the airplane and our press would be going on about the misunderstood Germans and how the Jews have only themselves to blame and really how it is all our own fault.

      Nicky was clearly a man of action a man of destiny and a man who made a contribution to the world rather than taking from it.  In our age we would do well to study him and his brethren for clues as to how to get it right for the future.

      Posted by allan on 2006 06 22 at 10:04 PM • permalink


    1. Thanks for posting that, Tim. It was the most thrilling read I’ve had in a long time. And thanks to Nicky Barr and men like him I am alive and free to post this.

      Posted by ErnieG on 2006 06 22 at 10:52 PM • permalink


    1. There is a book about him.  Also another one about another Aussie Ace who flew in the desert and then against the Japs.  Good reads.

      Posted by pedro on 2006 06 22 at 11:40 PM • permalink


    1. Can’t think of a comment, so I’ll just salute.

      Posted by Daniel San on 2006 06 23 at 12:50 AM • permalink


    1. As soon as he felt fit enough he escaped, getting as far as the Swiss border, where he was apprehended by a customs official; Barr knocked him unconscious, but was soon captured.

      I suspect the Swiss were not as neutral as they like us to think they were. Here’s another example of perfidy. I think I recall reading the Swiss forced escapers back the way they had come rather than offering sanctuary.  The ongoing saga about Jews’ banking is another. I reckon they might be pricks.

      Posted by walterplinge on 2006 06 23 at 01:06 AM • permalink


    1. walter – you forgot this bit:

      “After a court martial, in which a Swiss border guard spoke in his defence, he was given 90 days’ solitary confinement in the notorious Garvi jail, near Genoa.”

      So at least some Swiss certainly weren’t pricks.  Are we sure the customs official wasn’t Italian?

      Posted by attilathepun on 2006 06 23 at 03:42 AM • permalink


    1. Tough bastards like Barr, unlike the moonbat riff-raff, know that attack is the best form of defence.

      Posted by EliotNess on 2006 06 23 at 06:09 AM • permalink


    1. Awesome.

      I love reading about guys like Nicky Barr.
      There were a hell of a lot like him in WW2.

      Places like Guadalcanal (Don Adams of ‘Get Smart’ was a Marine at Guadalcanal), Tobruk, Pearl Harbour, Midway, Normandy, etc, etc.

      So many heroes.
      Every conflict I’ve read about has had them, even going back to the Punic wars.

      Posted by Mike_W on 2006 06 23 at 08:09 AM • permalink


    1. Bravo Zulu, Sir, we are Honored by your service.

      Severely Off Topic – I’m looking for a quotation to engrave on a cutlass for display. After 22 years of USNavy, retirement approaches & I can’t make my brain come up with anything fitting for My Chief, who has been inflight tech on a P-3 for most of his career. Suggestions are needed & I thank you in advance.

      Posted by KC on 2006 06 23 at 09:47 PM • permalink


    1. 28. Auntie, the classic is “Fair Winds and Following Seas”.  My best to the Chief. You can be sure he was among the very best.

      Posted by Vanguard of the Commentariat on 2006 06 23 at 09:52 PM • permalink


    1. #28 Auntie KC,
      How about “they don’t like it up ‘em”?.

      Posted by Daniel San on 2006 06 23 at 11:03 PM • permalink


    1. Auntie KC

      If you love wealth better than Liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of Freedom, go home from us in peace, We ask not of your counsels or arms, Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you, May your chains set lightly upon you and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
      – Samuel Adams
      Probably a bit too long but one im fond of.

      Posted by thefrollickingmole on 2006 06 24 at 02:51 AM • permalink


    1. Auntie KC,

      I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy’.

      JFK in an address to the Naval Academy in 1963, also inscribed on the Navy memorial in D.C.

      Posted by 68W40 on 2006 06 24 at 10:53 AM • permalink


    1. Story recently retold about an aboriginal sergeant pilot.He could fly before the war but started off as a mechanic.He said after the war that his most perfect landing was the one where a bomb dropped from another allied plane -fell into the space behind his seat and stayed there -not splodyed.

      Posted by crash on 2006 06 25 at 08:49 AM • permalink


    1. #34 Nicky was a hero and so was this guy -an unacknowledged one.

      Posted by crash on 2006 06 25 at 08:50 AM • permalink


    1. Just so y’all know if you check back here, the quote by JFK has been chosen for the blade of the cutlass. My Chief wrote his speech on being selected as Sailor of the Year around it & made his mum cry. She died in 2002 so it makes HIM go teary-eyed now. Seems like a proper tribute to all. Thanks for the advice, 91B30!

      Posted by KC on 2006 06 27 at 10:41 AM • permalink


    1. BTW, I have the Samuel Adams quote as my signature on an email program, “Fair Winds” was an obvious selection for awhile – and I just love “Up ‘Em” too!  I knew I could count on y’all for help!

      Posted by KC on 2006 06 27 at 10:44 AM • permalink


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