15/16.02.1944 15 Squadron Lancaster III ED628 LS-O Fl/Lt. Harris
Date: 15/16th February 1944 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit: 15 Squadron (3 Group)
Type: Lancaster III
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.
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: