As It Happens

Meet Dave Barrett, a real-life World War II 'shepherd'

While "shepherd" Johnny Kavanagh may be both fictional and a ghost, Dave Barrett is a living, breathing, former pilot, who flew with the illustrious Pathfinder squadron in World War II.
Dave Barrett was a real-life former pilot who flew with the illustrious Pathfinder squadron during the Second World War. (April Butler)

It was just like driving a Rolls Royce, there was no comparison.- Former RAF pilot Dave Barrett , on flying the de Havilland Mosquito
As you know, the narrator of "The Shepherd" owes his life to a miraculous encounter with the pilot of a Mosquito -- who, he later learns, flew with the illustrious Pathfinder squadron during World War II. And while Johnny Kavanagh may be both fictional and a ghost, Dave Barrett is a living, breathing, former pilot, who flew with this ace unit that earned such an esteemed reputation during the war.
Barrett flew the de Havilland Mosquito. (Dave Barrett)

"It was just like driving a Rolls Royce, there was no comparison," Mr. Barrett tells As It Happens host Carol Off, about what it was like to fly a Mosquito.

He also explains why he lists the reading of "The Shepherd" by "Fireside Al" among his favourite recordings of all time, one that he replays several times a year. He describes a close call in which he was forced to execute an emergency landing in rough weather. And although he was not piloting a Mosquito at the time, he says he can relate to the feeling of despair experienced by the narrator of the story.

When I was in a tight spot, I was looking for a ghost. Anything that would get me the hell out of it.- Dave  Barrett

"At that point, I didn't know which end was up, or which way to go. When I was in a tight spot, I was looking for a ghost. Anything that would get me the hell out of it."

Barrett with his navigator, Bob Moore. (Dave Barrett)

Still, Mr. Barrett says he always felt that somehow, he would survive whatever ordeal he faced.

"Don't forget, in those days we were invincible...nothing could deter us. Did I ever think I was going to get killed or die? Never."

And to Carol's question as to whether he ever had the sense there were guardian angels looking out for him:                        

"Always. Always. Always."

If you'd like to hear more about the Mosquito and the men who flew it, be sure to check out our interview with April Butler. She's a documentary filmmaker who chronicled the five-year restoration of a de Havilland Mosquito in Sidney, BC. Several World War Two pilots -- including Dave Barrett -- are featured in her film.

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Dave Barrett (click 'Listen' at the top of the page.)

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