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australian rowers profiles and history

E R Barnfather

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

(27 Jan 1915 to 18 May 1942)

Eliot Ralph Barnfather hailed from Geelong and joined Mercantile Rowing Club in the 1939-40 season as a senior member. 

Barnfather, 27, was the son of Thomas Stanley Barnfather and Ruby Alice Barnfather, of Geelong. He was educated at Geelong College where he raced in the third crew in 1932. He then trained and became a barrister and solicitor.

In his first and only active season at Mercantile he raced in maiden and junior crews. He maintained his membership whilst on service.

1939 - Henley-on-Yarra, Maiden Eight, five seat - won heat but lost in final1  

1939 - VRA Regatta, Maiden Eight, five seat - First2

1940 - Barwon Regatta, Junior Eight, five seat - Third3

1940 - Ballarat Regatta, Junior Eight, five seat - unsuccesful4

1940 - Victorian Championship Junior Eight, five seat - Third5

Barnfather enlisted into the RAAF on 20 Aug 1940 and attained the rank of Flying Officer in 218 Squadron.

Sadly he died in action on 18th May 1942. His Stirling bomber took off from RAF Marham at 23:16. The plane was on a minelaying operation over the eastern Danish waters. Hit by Flak, it was abandoned at 0100 near Lyne, 12 km SSW of Tarm, Denmark. Three members of the crew were wounded by shrapnel as they descended by parachute and F/O Barnfather RAAF died after being struck in the stomach. Six men were captured, slightly injured or unharmed.6

Barnfather was buried 23 May 1942 in Esbjerg (Fourfelt) Cemetery.

He is remembered annually at the ANZAC Day service at Mercantile. 


  1. 1939-40 Mercantile Annual Report and Melb Age 20/11/1939 p.12
  2. 1939-40 Mercantile Annual Report and Melb Argus 27/11/1939 p.15
  3. 1939-40 Mercantile Annual Report
  4. 1939-40 Mercantile Annual Report
  5. 1939-40 Mercantile Annual Report
  6. Eliot Ralph Barnfather (

Andrew Guerin
January 2023

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