He was born in Finchley, north London, in 1907. By the age of 15 he was apprenticed to Messrs Watts, Watts & Co, and went to sea in their ship SS Hounslow. When he first qualified as a navigating officer he transferred to the employ of the Bank Line and spent some years trading in the West Indies and Venezuela.
In 1935 Barnard gained his Master's certificate and joined Blue Star Line, in which he served through all the ranks. It was when he was Chief Officer of Andalucia Star in October 1942 that she was torpedoed and sank 190 miles off Freetown, Sierra Leone. Although the ship sank in 35 minutes all but one of the 160 passengers were saved, and only three crew members perished. Barnard was picked up from his lifeboat by the corvette Petunia and landed in Freetown from where he was repatriated with 1,500 other survivors of sinkings, and achieved his first command with the Blue Star Line in 1945.
Barnard was elected a Younger Brother of Trinity House in 1949 and an active Elder Brother in 1958, which meant an end of his active seagoing career; in 1961 he was elected Deputy Master (Chairman). Trinity House was first granted a Royal Charter in 1514 by Henry VIII and is the general lighthouse authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, providing such aids to general navigation as lighthouses, light vessels, buoys and beacons. It is also a charitable organisation for the relief of mariners and their dependants who are in financial distress. Until recently it was also the principal pilotage authority but this responsibility has been devolved to the ports, and Trinity House now issues licences only for deep-sea pilots.
Barnard led Trinity House through an era of change in the field of aids to navigation and pilotage; the automation of lighthouses; formulation of an international buoyage system; and the use of fast launches in pilotage were all initiated in his time.
In retirement Barnard was a keen gardener and croquet player.
Few people have had such a profound influence on maritime affairs as George Barnard, writes C. J. Parker. By undertaking to become chairman of the trustees and, later, elected as the first President of the Nautical Institute, he introduced a new concept of professionalism into the Merchant Navy and built a permanent bridge between all sea users in a way which had never before been possible.
As founder President it was not easy to introduce a new outlook in such a conservative profession, particularly as there were well-established relationships between unions, owners and government whose leaders saw no need for change.
Barnard had the foresight to see the limitations and insularity of the shipping industry and against considerable opposition led the profession forward. The Nautical Institute is now one of the world's premier maritime professional organisations with over 6,000 members in 70 countries. All its members mourn the death of "Captain Sir George".
George Edward Barnard, mariner: born London 11 August 1907; Elder Brother of Trinity House 1958-95, Deputy Master 1961-72; Treasurer, International Association of Lighthouse Authorities 1961-72; Honorary Secretary, King George's Fund for Sailors 1967-75; Kt 1968; Chairman, Nautical Institute 1972-73, President 1973-75, Fellow 1975-95; married 1940 Barbara Hughes (died 1976; one son); died Watford, Hertfordshire 14 April 1995.