|RAF Feltwell - Personnel - memorial pages.||
Photo pages ->
|Recollections||RAF Feltwell History||RAF Feltwell Planes & Buildings||75 NZ Squadron|
I was interested to read the account shown on your website of the time which the Ventura bombers served at RAF Feltwell and Methwold.
My family, although we are Welsh/ Londoners have a connection with your village in that my uncle, George Sparkes served with the RAF at both stations and was killed when flying on a Ventura bomber from RAF Methwold.
Most of the details of the last big Ventura raid have already been put on your website but I would like to give the details about my Uncle’s death on the 3rd May 1943 when his plane, B-Beer of 487 Squadron, crashed whilst attacking the Power Station at Amsterdam.
Sgt George Sparks 3rd from Left - others F/O S. Coshall, F/O R.A. North & Sgt W. Stannard
From what we have been able to gather, most of 487Squadrons planes took off from Methwold at quarter to five in the afternoon and most of them had been shot down by 6 o’clock. My uncle’s plane was shot down at a quarter to six when it was making its run-up to the target. The plane was so badly damaged that it broke up in the air and only two of the crew were able to escape. Sgt Stannard had an incredible escape. He was trapped in the back of the burning plane with no means of escape and his death seemed almost certain. Suddenly there was an explosion and the tail section broke away and by good fortune it began gliding down on its own. Eventually it hit a tree and Sgt Stannard was knocked unconscious. When he came-to he was inside a Dutch Mansion taking wine in the drawing room, with a Gestapo officer & a Luftwaffe official ready to take him into custody.
|Sgt George Henry Sparks Jnr served As an Air Gunner with No. 487 Squadron at Both RAF Feltwell & RAF Methwold. He was Killed on 3rd May 1943 whilst on Operations||In October 1942 (Whilst serving at RAF Feltwell), George Married Olive Florence at his home in Kennington, London|
The other survivor, Flying Officer Rupert North gave this account of the incident:
“We made rendezvous with our close escort who took up stations on our flanks and made a fairly uneventful crossing of the Channel. No sooner had we crossed the Dutch coast than all Hell broke loose. Tracer bullets were whizzing around, enemy fighters were flashing past and our planes were going down in pieces or flames. It soon became plain that we would soon be hit and the tension and suspense were paralysing. Squadron Leader Trio was still ahead, the escorting fighters were bobbing up and down to avoid cannon fire. Then there were a series of bangs and our plane juddered. I looked back from my position in the nose, past the Pilot into the doorway leading to the back of the plane where the rear gunner and upper turret were stationed. There were flames. I negotiated the narrow passage to the Pilots compartment and saw him reach up to release the escape hatch above his head. There was a fire extinguisher on the wall beside the entrance to the rear of the plane and I reached out to grasp it, although the fire seemed to be too fierce to be fought. I was met by a surge of flames probably drawn forward when the escape hatch blew off.
I felt no pain at the time, as if I had been struck a heavy blow. The Pilot seemed ready to go and my clothes were on fire. I grabbed my parachute pack and without clipping it on, stepped on to the seat and leaped through the roof hatch. There was a moment or two when things went blank and then I found myself in the air without any feeling of falling but nevertheless was most anxious to fit the parachute pack, still clutched in my hands to my harness. A sudden draught seemed to have extinguished my burning clothes so I set about fixing the pack. It seemed to be a lot more difficult than usual and when I finally got it clipped on I found that the right hand ring was on the left clip and I would have to take it all off again or risk being supported by just one catch. Time, I argued, must be short and in undoing the clip I might lose the pack so I pulled the release and hoped for the best. It worked all right and the descent seemed to take ages. Everything was quiet and peaceful with Holland like a map below and not seeming to come any nearer, and then approached more and more rapidly as the time to brace myself for impact approached. I made a perfect landing in a soft field of Tulips. I sank to my ankles in soft soil but did not fall over. Quite proud of my first parachute jump, I watched the silk gracefully fall to the ground, then it billowed out like a spinnaker and whisked me off my feet to plough a lonely furrow through the flowers for about fifty yards until I could release myself. I was soon picked up by a German motorcycle patrol, which took me to a military post. I went thence by lorry, (in which I was overjoyed to find Sgt Stannard our rear gunner), to hospital in Amsterdam, where the electric power was still operating”.
It is a sobering thought that the loss of all these men, including my uncle, had been decided by the toss of a coin between Squadron Leader Meakin and Len Trent. It was Trent who made the decision to take 487 Squadron out on the raid. Lamenting the loss of so many of the Squadrons crews the Squadron Diary recorded for that day; “It is a very bleak day with the loss of so many crews……….A better set of boys could not be found in thirty years. Everyone is dazed by the news,”
George is Buried at Bergen General Cemetery, Holland Next to Flying Officer Stanley Coshall, the planes pilot, who was also killed in the crash.