BARTON, Leonard Arthur
Leading Aircraftman Leonard Arthur Barton (18368) was born on 13 November 1910 in Rainbow, Victoria to Arthur Bernard John Barton and Sophia May Wykes. Leonard was the eldest of seven children. His siblings were George Edward, Phyllis Sophia, Noel Robert, John Charles, Maxwell William and Margaret Ariel. Leonard’s grandparents, Caroline and Charles Edward Barton, had originally moved to Rainbow in 1904, establishing a building and undertaking business. The family business was inherited by Leonard’s father, Arthur, who went on to build the Post Office, the State School, the Eureka Hotel and numerous buildings and homes across Rainbow and the surrounding district.
Leonard was educated at Rainbow Primary and High Schools between 14 September 1915 and 13 November 1924, registration number 302. He later married Marjorie Stewart on 9 October 1932, fathering three children, Betty Joan, Robert Leonard and Denis Arthur. He lived with his family at Winifred Street in Rainbow and worked as a motor mechanic and fitter for 10 years, including managing his own business for six years in Taverner Street.
Barton enlisted in Melbourne on 30 August 1940 and was described as 'being of steady habits and honest'. Initially serving at No. 1 Aircraft Depot (RAAF) at Laverton, he was later transferred to RAAF Station Headquarters Darwin on 16 March 1941. He was serving as a Fitter in Driver Motor Transport when Darwin was bombed on 19 February 1942.
The only aerial defence during the bombing was provided by a squadron of Kittyhawks from the 33rd Pursuit Squadron USAAF. Led by Major Floyd Pell, the Kittyhawks had just arrived back in Darwin after turning back from a flight to Koepang because of bad weather. Four pilots, including Major Pell, were killed as they fought bravely against the overwhelming number of Japanese Zeros. Seven RAAF Station personnel also died on the ground, including Leading Aircraftman Barton. Barton had jumped into a trench with Neaylon, Latham and Smith during the second raid. All four were killed instantly when their trench received a direct hit. Barton was thirty-one years old. Buildings and facilities on the airfield were also severely damaged but the base continued to operate throughout the war.
Tragically, Barton’s oldest son Robert also lost his life at an early age; at sixteen he was killed in a shooting accident while holidaying with family friends on 13 March 1951. His second son, Denis, became a carpenter and remained living in Rainbow, Victoria, until recently.
Compiled with the assistance of Denis (son) and Helen Barton, Betty Ellis (daughter), Craig Adams (grandson), Dawn Petschel (Rainbow archivist) and Joan Douglas.
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