Barr, Ernest Henry Mackenzie (No. 1796037)

Barr, Ernest Henry Mackenzie (Mac)

Sergeant (Air Gunner)

No. 1796037, 158 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed in action on Saturday 6 January 1945 (aged 21)

Buried:         

Durnbach War Cemetery, Bad Tolz, Bayern, Germany (Grave 5. D. 20)

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Foyle College, Londonderry

BIOGRAPHY

Ernest Henry Mackenzie Barr, known as Mac, was a son of Ernest David and Eileen May Barr (nee Freel), of Beech-Erne, Londonderry and his death on active service was reported in the 5 October 1946 edition of the County Down Spectator.  His uncle, J.H. Freel, and his aunt, Mrs Mackenzie, lived at 5 Somerset Avenue, Bangor.  The story of his death was reported under the headline Father Finds Body Interred in Unknown Person’s Grave.

Ernest David Barr was a chemist with premises in William Street, Londonderry and, during the First World War, he served with the Royal Flying Corps.

Ernest David Barr and Eileen May Freel were married on 6 September 1922 in St. Macartin’s Church of Ireland Church, Enniskillen.  Mac worked with his father before he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1943.  At the time of his death on 6 January 1945 he was serving with 158 Squadron.

Following a ‘2,000 bomber raid’ on Frankfurt in Germany during the night of 6 January 1945 Sergeant Ernest Henry Mackenzie (Mac) Barr was reported missing over Hanau.  Despite persistent enquiries, Mac’s father was unable to get definitive information as to his son’s fate so, after the war ended, he decided to go to Germany himself and pursue his investigations personally.  In July 1946 he obtained permission to travel to Paris to interview the American authorities who controlled the zone in which his son had been reported missing.  In September he travelled by train from Paris to Frankfurt (a 14-hour journey) and there he spoke to Red Cross personnel who provided motor transport, a driver and an interpreter.

For two days in Frankfurt Mac’s father tried without success to get information about the fate of his missing son.  He moved on to Hanau and interviewed people who remembered the raid on 6 January 1945, but they could give him no information about the fate of his son.  Then he travelled to Grossheim where he spoke to the Commandant and several people in a displaced person’s camp nearby.  A young lady living in the camp remembered the night of the raid and the spot where an aircraft had crashed.  She remembered that seven bodies had been recovered from the wreckage and, when she saw Mac’s photograph, she confirmed that he was one of the seven.  Then Mac’s father returned to Hanau to speak to Herr Wenzel who was the Registrar of births and deaths for the district.  He too recognised Mac’s picture and remembered that Mac’s identity disc had been missing so he was buried along with others in an unknown person’s grave.  Herr Wenzel took Mac’s father to see the grave.  Having located the grave Mac’s father obtained permission to have it opened and his son’s body exhumed.  He identified his son by his hair, teeth and the shape of his head.  Sergeant Ernest Henry Mackenzie Barr’s body was placed in a coffin and reinterred in Durnbach War Cemetery.  There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:

LOVING AND BELOVED IN LIFE;

IN DEATH SO TRULY NOBLE

The seven airmen were aboard a Handley Page Halifax Mark III aircraft (NR195) and the other six who died were:

  • Flight Lieutenant John Julius Krefter (aged 29) (RAAF)
  • Flying Officer Kenneth Roy Nerney (aged 19) (RAAF)
  • Sgt Alexander Thomas Clyde (aged 34) from Woodford Bridge, Essex
  • Flight Sergeant Leslie Gilbert Morgan (aged 22) from Enfield, Middlesex
  • Sergeant James Gore (aged 23) from Knotty Ash, Liverpool
  • Sgt Peter Samuel Cotterell (aged 21) from Broadway, Worcestershire

Sergeant Ernest Henry Mackenzie Barr (No. 1796037) was 21 years old when he died and he is commemorated in Foyle College, Londonderry.