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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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15 Squadron Crest
15/16.02.1944 15 Squadron Lancaster III ED628 LS-O Fl/Lt. Harris

Operation: Berlin

Date: 15/16th February 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday)

Unit: 15 Squadron (3 Group)

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ED628

Code: LS-O

Base: RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk

Location: Baltic Sea

Pilot: Fl/Lt. Willis Mark Harris NZ/416482 RNZAF Age 23. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Eric Cecil Sparkes 1604735 RAFVR Age 20. Missing - believed killed

Nav: F/O. Norman George Totty 128513 RAFVR Age 31. Missing - believed killed

Air/Bmr: F/O. John Scott Ragless 138068 RAFVR Age 27. Missing - believed killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O. Herbert Entwisle 759042 RAFVR Age 24. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Basil William Ralph 861857 RAFVR Age 33. Missing - believed killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harry Charles West 1852331 RAFVR Age 30. Missing - believed killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Taking off at 17:25 hrs from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk to bomb Berlin with 13 others from the Squadron, one of the targets all Bomber Command dread because of the flak and massive night fighter activity possible.

891 aircraft took part in the first raid on the city for more than 2 weeks. This was the largest raid of the whole war on the German capital resulting in the greatest ever tonnage of bombs dropped on the city with 2,642 tons.

The city was covered in cloud for most of the raid but the raid still inflicted huge damage to the city with 599 large and 572 medium fires, 1,000 houses and a further 526 wooden barracks also destroyed. 320 people on the ground were killed. The small number of casualties is mainly due to the large scale evacuation which had taken place but a further 260 civilians were reported to have been buried alive - no reports how many of these survived. Some of Berlin's most important industries were also hit including the Siemensstadt area. 59 people were also killed in other area hit by scattered bombs.

The bombers suffered heavily with 48 aircraft being lost. A huge loss of aircrew with 266 killed and a further 54 made PoW.

Probable claim by Hptm Erhard Peters 9/NJG3 - North East of Rostock: 6,000m at 20:52. (Nachtjagd Combat Archives 1944 Part 1 - Theo Boiten). The aircraft coming down in the Baltic. All the crew were listed as missing - believed killed. However 3 months later, the body of the New Zealand pilot was washed up on the 26th May on Hiddensee Island and buried at the Kloster cemetery by the Germans. Reinterred at the Berlin War Cemetery after the war.

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. Willis Mark Harris. Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. Joint grave 8.D.29-30. Son of Charles Sylvan Harris, and of Margaret Isabella Harris, of Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand. A very experienced pilot with 824 flying hours logged and on his 10th operational sortie.

Sgt. Eric Cecil Sparkes. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 238. Son of Cecil James Sparkes and Ellen Grace Sparkes, of Greenford, Middlesex, England.

F/O. Norman George Totty. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 209. Son of Thomas Dobson Totty and Alice Bland Totty, of Blackburn, Lancashire and husband of Constance Anne Totty, of Blackburn, Lancashire, England. Also commemorated on the War Memorial in Blackburn, Lancashire.

F/O. John Scott Ragless. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 208. Son of Joseph Henry and Jane Elizabeth Ragless, of Bognor Regis, Sussex and husband of Violet Mary Ragless, of Pagham, Sussex, England.

W/O. Herbert Entwisle. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 213. Son of Herbert and May Entwisle and husband of Mary E. Entwisle, of Walton-le-Dale, Lancashire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Basil William Ralph. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 221. Son of Charles Henry and Lucy Kate West, of Titchfield, Hampshire, England.

Sgt. Harry Charles West. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 240. Son of Charles Henry and Lucy Kate West, of Titchfield, Hampshire, England.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, also our thanks to Robin Stanbridge, cousin of Sgt. Eric Cecil Sparkes for photographs. Thant to John Jones for the correction to the Night fighter claim. Other sources as quoted below:

RS 18.12.2019 - Correction to Night Fighter claim

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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