Barrie Heath

Back in the 1970s I worked in the press office at GKN when Barrie Heath (ex 611) was Group Chairman. He was an absolutely great boss, incredibly kind and generous but certainly did not suffer fools gladly. When he retired at Christmas 1980 a colleague and I did a full scale "This is Your Life" for him. I was lucky enough to get to meet James Ellis McComb (CO of 611 Sept 1939 - Oct 1940) at his home and get the two together for the first time since 1940. At the after event party the two of them came out with some great annecdotes (and some sad ones).

Sadly I do not have many pix. I have one of him taken at the "This is Your Life" with me giving him his red book.

The stories were incredible and I just wish I had taken the time to talk more with him about his exploits, sadly too late now.

I remember him and McComb reminiscing about buying mirrors from Halfords to fit on their new Spits which evidently were not equipped with them.

Then there was the anecdote about Biggin Hill damaging a Spit on landing and being given a rocket by McComb and a few days later a new Spit arriving that had been donated by Heath's father (a leading Midlands Motor dealer (George Heath Motors)) evidently Heath said to McComb "this is my Spit and I'll fly it any bloody way I like". Then there was one of their first sorties over Dunkirk when McComb would only fly straight and level because he had been called out of the mess for the scramble and had relieved himself in the cockpit and thought being drenched in his own urine a worse threat than the ME 109s! There were a lot more.

What incredible characters and the world is a sadder place without them.

Barrie Heath in later years was a wonderful boss. People either loved him or hated him. I guess it was something he learned from service life for even when he was at the absolute top of business life it did not matter to him what your rank was in the organisation if you did a good job and told him the truth, no matter how unpalatable it might be, he treated you like an equal. Not to say if you cocked up you did not get the rough side of his tongue but it was always forgotten the moment it was over. He did not like boot lickers, yes men or anyone who would toady up to him. I got on with him because I always told him if I thought he was wrong and he trusted me to keep him out of trouble with the press because he was not a particularly political animal and always wanted to be straight with people. Something which the head of a giant multi-national company cannot always be.

Tony Jeeves