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Sir Reginald Barnewall, Pacific aviator dies at 93


BRISBANE - Sir Reginald Barnewall, a descendant of Anglo-Norman knights and the founder of Polynesian Airlines, has died at the age of 93.

Sir Reginald served in Papua New Guinea during World War II as a lieutenant with the Royal Australian Engineers and Z Special Unit AIF. He lived at Mt Tamborine in Queensland.

He was in Aitape with the Army engineers in 1944 and after the war flew around many parts of PNG with Mandated Airlines. He had first met the Parer family, pioneering PNG aviators, in the 1930s.

Sir Reginald had been well and attended recent Anzac ceremonies in Brisbane.

Son of a wealthy Victorian grazier, he founded Goulburn Valley Air Services (later Southern Airlines Ltd) in 1954.The airline serviced Victoria and Tasmania including King and Flinders islands.

Having visited Apia in Western Samoa, Sir Reginald and his first wife decided to embark on a new tropical lifestyle and made it their new home.

He quickly identified the need for a local airline to connect Apia with neighbouring Pago Pago in American Samoa and, after encouraging local planters and businessmen to invest, gained the finance to found Polynesian Airlines Ltd in 1959 with a Percival Prince 10-seater aircraft.

A year later it was wrecked on landing and he purchased two of the same type in Tanzania and flew them back to Samoa. He later acquired two DC3s and a DC4 as his airline expanded.

During the 1960s he developed Orchid Beach Resort on Fraser Ireland, selling it in 1973 to purchase motels in Annerley and Toowoomba, Queensland.

In an autobiography, 'Operation Scupper', he described his involvement in 1942 in a commando mission to destroy a radio transmitter being used by Vichy French supporters in the Pacific to provided coded information to Japanese forces regarding allied shipping, air and troop movements.

A requiem mass will be held to celebrate Sir Reginald’s life at Our Lady of Graces Catholic Church, 100 Mayfield Road, Carina at 12 midday on Friday 18 May.


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Robert Onfray

Hi Rob - Do you know if his autobiography, 'Operation Scupper', is available publicly?

Andrew (Andy) Coll

I had the honour and absolute pleasure of taking care of Reg and Maureen whilst I worked in the aged care facility that they were in.

Marietza Anne Barnewall Jones

While doing all the mentioned things he also wrote a huge family history. His research after took him to Ireland. He was instrumental in saving Barnewall gravestones including one in a derelict church which weighed 3 tonnes

Robert L Parer CMG MBE

It was such an honour that I was able to attend Sir Reg's farewell Requiem Mass and to listen to his son Joe's magic words of remembrance. It was so uplifting.

I heard how ready Sir Reg was to pass on as he had suffered so much lately. The Dominican celebrant said that just a few days ago he met Sir Reg at his son's parish church and he had to laugh when Reg had a glance around and just nodded and said "OK this will do".

And he said that, even with all his suffering, each time he saw Sir Reg lately he was greeted by the usual beautiful smile that could light up Suncorp Stadium.

On the farewell leaflet there was a poem that was typical of Sir Reginald Robert Barnewall:


Now I have come to the end of the road
and the sun has set for me...
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room !
Why cry for a soul set free ?
Miss me a little ...but not too long-
and not with your heads bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared-
Miss me: and let me go.

OMG that was that grand guy who had lived life to the full.
Even in a wheelchair with one leg missing and in pain he attended an Anzac Ceremony a few weeks ago.

In my article I mentioned he founded two airlines but Joe also said he also founded an airline in New Zealand. No idea where he squeezed that one in.

Boggles the mind to keep track of the interesting people and complex deals he had been involved with over the years. And yet so humble that he was so intensely interested in other peoples minor stories.

A true legend if ever I have met one.

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