John Frederick Barrett was born in Deal, Kent on 18 May 1927. He had an elder brother George, and a younger sister called Elizabeth (Betty). John spent most of his childhood in Portsmouth where he went to school, supported Portsmouth Football Club and enjoyed model aircraft flying. And it was here that his passion for nature, the skies and the clouds began.
At the outbreak of war John was evacuated to Winchester, a place he fell in love with. John excelled at school, and afterwards applied for an RAF university sponsorship, his exam grades were good enough for him to get a place at Trinity College Oxford. With Geography as his core academic subject, he started his RAF career at university, flying first in gliders and then on to full time training on detachment in Rhodesia.
During his early RAF career in Devon he met Rita – she was a qualified nurse from South Wales. They married a year later.
John’s RAF career saw him fly a whole host of aircraft including Tiger Moths, Spitfires,Vampires, Venoms, Meteors, Hunters, Hastings and finally Shackletons. He lived at several fighter bases around southern England, during which time he and Rita had two sons, Andrew and Michael.
John became an RAF flying instructor and a flight commander on one of the Auxiliary Pilot Training Squadrons, No 604 Squadron. During this time he trained many national service pilots, one notable pilot being Norman Tebbit, now the Rt Hon Lord Tebbitt.
Postings then followed to Singapore and Penang where John was involved in the Communist Emergency, seeing action in his Venom fighter-bomber over the Indonesian Peninsular. It was at this stage he also led the Venom Aerobatic team –displaying at many locations around the Far East. He returned to the UK for a grand tour before moving off to Scotland to fly Shackletons and then out for a tour of duty at Luqa, Malta. John and the family loved Malta as much as they had Penang and Singapore, playing tennis every day and spending afternoons on the beach.
Malta was followed by a short tour of duty in Portsmouth and then retirement at the rank of squadron leader – Squadron Leader F J Barrett.
Still in his 40s, John returned to Trinity to complete a teaching degree and went to Magdalen College School on teaching practice and was offered a permanent position and the family settled in Kennington. John thoroughly enjoyed his second career. He taught Geography, taught a minor course in meteorology, especially cloud formations. He helped run week-long field trips for the boys around the country and became Maltby Housemaster and a careers master. He was in charge of the RAF section of the CCF and also became an RAF voluntary reservist and a member of No 6 Air Experience Flight flying Chipmunk aircraft carrying air cadets. John became active in the local community, especially the Kennington Church and he began his long-time relationship with the yearly‘Overseas Aid Week’, through organising the village Fun Run.
John’s wife, Rita passed away in 1983 after several years bravely battling against cancer. John continued to live in the big house in Bagley Wood Road by himself for a few years. He then met Jeanne and they were married in February 1985 with John continuing to work at MCS until his retirement in 1992.
John studied Italian, and gained an A level in the subject. His interest in Italian stayed with him for the rest of his life. He joined a local Italian-speaking club, and had good friends in Italy. After more than 30 years of marriage, Jeanne and John decided to go their own ways and live apart for a while. John moved down to Lyndhurst in 2016 to live next door to his son Andrew during his final years.