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LAC John Barry Edstein 133329

Squadron/s110 MFCU
Rank On Discharge/Death Leading Aircraftman (LAC)
NicknameBarry, or Abe
Mustering / SpecialisationRadio Operator
Date of Birth06 May 1923
Date of Enlistment20 Apr 1943
Contributing Author/sSteve McGregor, Ray Hart, 2013
The Spitfire Association

Barry was born on the 6/5/1923 in Hamilton, NSW.

Our Past President passed away late last year. He joined the Army initially but when his Mother told the OIC that he was under age they asked him to leave and come back when he was of age.

However, after being dragged out of the Army for being underage he waited until he gained the required number of years. He never went back though and decided to join the RAAF, which he did on the 20/4/1943.

Barry was a great character, fun loving and known to the majority of the members of 110 Mobile Fighter Control Unit a support unit of No1 Spitfire Fighter Wing DARWIN and No 80 Spitfire Wing MOROTAI and BALIKPAPAN.

Although Barry trained as a VHF/DF Operator (Very High Frequency/Direction Finding) at Signals School POINT COOK Victoria at the same time as quite a few of our W/Ts (Wireless Telegraphists) we did not meet him until he joined the unit located at the 19 mile peg in DARWIN, the unit was about 1.6 Kms and 800 metres in the scrub north of SATTLER. A short time after joining the unit we had to add to our mobile wireless aerials Barry's VHF/DF equipment. During this procedure we soon realised Barry had a very keen sense of humour and enjoyed a practical joke.

One Saturday morning Barry wandered into the signals tent and the W/T on duty had the earphones jack out of the AR7 (wireless receiver) and this particular set having a very good speaker, the reception was loud and clear. The set was tuned to a MELBOURNE radio station which was giving the acceptances, scratchings and starting prices for the races that day. Barry's question was "What’s that?" and when told he went off to get his mate Bruce Clegg whose father was a registered bookmaker in SYDNEY and Bruce had penciled for his father. When told we could get this information every week Barry and Bruce decided to become the unit SP bookies. They had a good run for quite a period however, one Saturday for a major meeting all the punters backed the same favourite in the same race, the favourite won and Barry and Bruce had not had the opportunity of laying off any of the bets. They paid up but decided to give up the bookmaking business.

After this, because of the name Edstein he was considered to be of Jewish decent (he wasn’t) and nicknamed "Abe". Barry's next venture was selling magpie geese to the Americans. Whilst on outstations (in a mobile tender away in the scrub). Barry's group was bivouacked close to a lagoon frequented by magpie geese, so Barry decided to shoot them and sell them to the American unit we used to do trading with. From memory Barry worked it out it was a better deal to trade the geese for Lucky Strike and/or Chesterfield cigarettes. He reckoned the geese would taste better than Spam, and the Yanks thought so too!

At MOROTAI Barry and Bruce were offered a Jeep for 600 Guilders (A$200 Dollars) from an American Ordnance Company. They bought the Jeep and charged 1 Guilder to take you to the American open air picture theatre, one night when leaving the picture site they were pulled up by the American MP's for driving an unmarked vehicle, the MP's did not believe their story about buying the Jeep and impounded it and told them if they wanted to make a claim to report to the American Provost Marshal the next day. Barry and Bruce fronted the next day with paperwork they had received from the American Ordnance Company they had bought the Jeep from stating the vehicle made up of parts from Jeeps that had been written off. The Provost Marshal scratched his head and said they could keep the Jeep subject to our CO agreeing to taking it on strength. Doug Vanderfield, our CO, being a gentleman and suddenly very popular with Barry agreed and Barry and Bruce were back in business. The sequel to this being that when Barry and Bruce left for BALIKPAPAN they sold the Jeep to Digit Davey and unfortunately it was later stolen.

Also at MOROTAI Barry and Bruce were short of beer and decided to put down a brew of jungle juice. When the brew was ready they bottled it and were in their tent about to sample it when "Obie" Kevin O’Brien walked passed their tent and knowing he liked a drink they invited him in. They poured Obie a glass, which he tasted. He pulled a screwed up horrible face and declared "it’s beautiful" and stayed drinking with them. Late in the afternoon our CO Doug Vanderfield called on Barry and Bruce at their tent and asked "What did you do to O’Brien? He is in bed in his tent and they cannot wake him". It must have been a great brew.

Abe Edstein was discharged on the 14/2/1946. Barry was a great character and mate and is sadly missed by all who knew him.

Photo: Doug Vanderfield, Barry Edstein and Bruce Clegg with the jeep, plus a bag of magpie geese for the American cooks down the road. Better than SPAM.

No 110 MFCU "Skinheads" getting ready for the tropical climate of Morotai. Identified in the photo are Association members Kerry Burgess (Standing, second left) and Peter Nugent (kneeling on right)

Learn more about the squadron/s in which John served.

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