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Wing Commander 'Butch' Barton


"Small and slight in stature, in no way a heroic figure and unassuming almost to a fault, he was a wonderful leader and one of the best fighter pilots it would be my good fortune to meet," wrote a fellow Battle of Britain ace. He was that, and something else. Perhaps we can see it in his face. Beyond skill and determination, Barton possessed a transformative quality described at the end of this post.

Wing Commander 'Butch' Barton, who has died aged 94, "became a fighter ace during the Battle of Britain and went on to lead his squadron with distinction during the fierce air battles over Malta".

He was born in Kamloops, British Columbia. He died in October. We are late to pay tribute to him. Here is part of the Telegraph Obituary -

Barton was flight commander of the Hurricane-equipped No 249 Squadron based in Yorkshire when it was transferred to Boscombe Down on August 14 1940; the aim was to reinforce the hard-pressed fighter squadrons in the south. He was immediately in action, and the following day shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter and damaged a second.

Over the next three weeks, Barton's successes mounted. On September 3, now flying from North Weald in Essex, his Hurricane was hit by return fire from a Dornier bomber and he was forced to bale out. On his return to the squadron later in the day he was ribbed by his colleagues for allowing himself to be shot down by a bomber.

When his CO was wounded, Barton led the squadron into battle during the most hectic phase of the Luftwaffe's onslaught, sometimes flying four times in a single day. On September 15, the day of the greatest air battle, he shot down a Dornier bomber over the Thames Estuary and damaged a second.
By the end of the Battle of Britain on October 31, Barton had accounted for two more enemy fighters and damaged two others. He was awarded a DFC for his "outstanding leadership".

After retiring from the RAF in 1959, he returned to Canada with his ill wife (they had married in 1939) and cared for her and their son.

Here is the quality I love, which transforms even enemies. The Telegraph writes, "During his career he had always tried to maintain the highest standards of chivalry", rescuing enemy airmen he had shot down.

"His ashes were scattered on his favourite lake in British Columbia on the morning of September 15th, Battle of Britain Day."

Ave atque Vale.

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