21/22.08.1944 No. 614 "County of Glamorgan" Squadron Halifax II JP228 P P/O. Thomas Bernard "Barney" Sparrow
Operation: Szőny Oil Refinery (Szőny is now part of Komárom, Hungary)
Date: 21/22 August 1944 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 614 "County of Glamorgan" Squadron - Motto: Codaf I geisio ("I rise to search")
Squadron Badge: On a demi-terrestrial globe, a red dragon passant. The red dragon points to the squadron's connection with Wales,No. 614 being the Glamorgan Squadron.
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Amendola, Italy
Location: Near Bakonybánk, Hungary
Pilot: P/O. Thomas Bernard "Barney" Sparrow J89691 RCAF - Missing believed killed (1)
Fl/Eng: Sgt. Rupert George Curtis 1603504 RAFVR Age 24 - PoW No. 156171 Camp: Kaisersteinbruch, Austria - 17A (2)
Nav: P/O. C. H. Sparks J89482 RCAF - PoW - details not known (3)
Air/Bmr: F/O. Samuel Noah "Sam" Kwinter J25072 (formerly R175050) RCAF - Killed (4)
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. John Graham Evans 1418593 RAFVR Age 21 - Missing believed killed (5)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. Romes Patriarca 1390889 RAFVR Age 22 - PoW No. 3549 Camp unknown (6)
Air/Gnr (MU): Fl/Sgt. Norman Stuart Yates R224482 RCAF Age 20 - Missing believed killed (7)
Air/Gnr (R): Fl/Sgt. Douglas James Heath R199461 RCAF - Age 21 Missing believed killed (8)
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Formed in 1937 as an army co-operation unit, No. 614 Squadron moved to North Africa in 1942 and became a bomber squadron until being disbanded in January 1944.
The Squadron was re-formed in February 1944 by renumbering the 462 RAAF Squadron. From then until the end of the war the Squadron was engaged in bombing and partisan supply drops in Italy and the Balkans.
Though trained for, and undertaking pathfinder duties with 205 Group based in southern Italy, the Squadron was not technically Pathfinder Force as it was no longer part of Bomber Command.
Though the initial crews were trained in PFF techniques at Newmarket in England later crews were operationally trained after joining the squadron in Italy
Celone airfield was one of a series of 22 major located within a 25 mile radius of Foggia in south east Italy. Opened on 15 February the airfield was the first home of the newly reformed 614 Squadron.
The members of Barney Sparrow's crew when he joined 614 Squadron on 1 May 1944 are uncertain but when he flew his first operation on 8/9 June (as a visual marker on a raid on the Marshalling Yards at Niš in Yugoslavia) the crew members were, navigator WO. C.H. Sparks, wireless operator WO. P.F. Branch, flight engineer Sgt. S. Elniski, air bomber WO. M.A.B. Fox and air gunner Sgt. D.J. Heath.
All went well and they returned safely but two days later it was a different story as Barney's Halifax swung on take off, crashed and caught fire. The aircraft was completely destroyed and the crew had a very narrow escape when petrol tanks burst into flames.
Only the 23 year wireless operator, Paul Fisher Branch R112764 RCAF, was injured having suffered burns to his face, left arm and hands. He was admitted to hospital and in August he was repatriated to the UK where he was admitted to RAF Hospital Wroughton in Wiltshire and on 4 November transferred to Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead in West Sussex. He underwent 3 operations there and afterwards became a member of the Guinea Pig Club. He later held the post of Eastern Representative of the Canadian Wing of the Guinea Pig Club until his death in Toronto on 8 July 2000 aged 79.
The next operation flown by Barney Sparrow was as a blind illuminator on the night of 20/21 June, the target being Ventimiglia Marshalling Yards in Liguria, northern Italy. There were two changes to the crew, the injured Paul Branch was replaced by London born Romes Patriarca. Aged 22 he was an experienced airman who had previously flown with the crew of F/O. J.M. Morrison. The other change involved the air bomber, Bernard Fox being replaced by fellow Canadian Sam Kwinter. The crew completed the operation successfully and returned safely.
Over the next two months the same personnel flew eight more operations without serious mishap. On the night of 17/18 August however they were allocated Halifax JP228 for an operation to attack the Xenia Oil Refinery at Ploesti, Romania but were forced to return 40 minutes after take off due to overheating off all four engines. They had experienced considerable difficulty in gaining height and were unable to climb above 2000 feet. The cause was said to be unknown.
Their next operation was on the night of 21/22 August when 7 crews were detailed for an attack on the Szőny Oil Refinery in Hungary. Located on the river Danube 45 miles west north west of Budapest this small but modern refinery, having been severely damaged by the United States 461 Bomber Group on the 16 June 1944, had been rapidly repaired and was now back in production.
The 7 Halifaxes of 614 Squadron were the pathfinders of a force of 81 aircraft of 205 Group that had been detailed for the raid.
Barney Sparrow and his crew were designated as one of the Visual Markers and they were again allocated Halifax JP228, presumably having now been repaired and passed fit to fly following the shortcomings experienced by the Sparrow crew four days earlier.
There were also to be some changed to the crew which for this operation consisted of 8 members.
Although listed in the Squadron Operations Record Book as the flight engineer for this operation, Sgt. Elniski was in fact replaced by Sgt. Rupert George Curtis, an experienced flight engineer who had flown regularly with the crew of Sgt. Church up to 22/23 June after which for some reason, neither he nor the rest of the Church crew had taken part in any further operations.
There were also to be two additional crew members for the operation viz. Norman Yates aged 20, an experienced air gunner who had been with the Squadron since March 1943 and had flown eight previous operations with various crews was to fly as the mid-upper gunner and 21 year old Fl/Sgt. John Graham Evans was included as a second air bomber. John Graham is not previously mentioned in Squadron records so this was probably his first operation and intended to help him gain operational experience from Sam Kwinter.
REASON FOR LOSS
The time of take off for Halifax JP228 is not recorded but the first of the other six, F/O. W.A Irwin's JP186 was away at 1925 hours with four more following by 1945 hours and finally JP227 at 2020, presumably having been delayed for some reason. It seems likely therefore that Barney Sparrow's Halifax, JP228, was also airborne by 1945 at the latest. In very favourable weather Barney set course for the target.
The following description of the enemy defences encountered on the raid is taken from The Operations of James J. MacIsaac (No. 37 Squadron) 1944 see: http://natureonline.com/37/17-op7.html
Flack in the target area was moderate to intense. Self-destroying (at 7000 to 8000 feet) tracer fire was encountered at Gyor, and intense tracer fire, some of it heavy calibre, was experienced in the general area north of Lake Balaton. Night fighter flares were seen from south of Gyor to the target and again out from the target to the south of Lake Balaton and, in one instance, as far as the Zagreb area. Crews reported that in various cases fighter flares were cooperating with flak in the Balaton area.
After take off nothing further was heard from the crew of Halifax JP228. Reports were received from other crews attacking the same target that they had seen an aircraft being hit by flak but there was no evidence that this was in fact JP228.
It seems probable however, that JP228 was shot down by a night fighter piloted by Lt. Bach of Stab II/NJG 101 who claimed a 'Lancaster' at 2307. At the time Stab II/NJG 101 was based at Parndorf in Austria, some 60 miles north west of Szőny.
It later transpired that three crew members had baled out and subsequently become prisoners of war. In his post war liberation report the navigator, Romes Patriarca, stated that Curtis and Sparks had also baled and been taken prisoner and that he believed that the pilot who was still in aircraft when he baled out was dead. He said that the aircraft had crashed "just north of Lake Ballaton". Curtis and Sparks' reports both agreed with that of Patriarca but none of them had any knowledge of the fate of the others apart from Barney Sparrow.
In October 1946 a searcher party of the Missing Research and Enquiry Unit located the wreckage of Halifax JP228 near Bakonybánk, a village some 20 miles south west of Komárom and some 25 miles north of Lake Ballaton, Hungary.
The remains of three crew members had been extracted from the wreckage having been originally buried locally at Bakonybánk Civil Cemetery. These were later exhumed and re-interred at Budapest War Cemetery. Of the three, the only remains that were positively identifiable were those of Sam Kwinter.
No trace whatsoever was found of the other two crew members. Sam Kwinter was buried in a separate grave but it being impossible to identify the other remains all four are commemorated on the Malta Memorial.
BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS OF THE CREW
(1) P/O. Thomas Bernard Sparrow, known as Barney, was born on 16 March 1917 at Calgary, Alberta, Canada the son of Albert Costigan Sparrow (an Oil Broker) and Mary Ethel Barbara Sparrow nee Burns.
He had four siblings: Mary Patricia Sparrow (1920-2006), Dr. Albert Dominic Sparrow (Lieutenant CDC) (1921-2007), Lawrence Angus Sparrow (Pilot Officer J90408) (1923-1979) and Barbara Ann Sparrow (1928-2017)
The family lived at 2115 W. 5th Street, Calgary Alberta
Barney was educated at Holy Angels School, Calgary (1924-1930) and St Mary's Boys School Calgary (1930-1935). After leaving school he was employed by Burns & Co., Ltd as an Office Clerk from 1935 until 1939 when he left to take an Aircraftman's Course at Aero ITS in Los Angeles California. From 1941 until enlisting in the RCAF he was employed by Boeing Aircraft in Vancouver as an Aircraftman.
He was a keen sportsman playing football, hockey and baseball extensively; basketball and track work moderately as well as boxing and wrestling occasionally.
When he enlisted on 17 April 1942 at Vancouver he was 6' 0½" tall weighing 155 lbs with a fair complexion blue eyes and brown hair.
After training at No. 7 Initial Training School at RCAF Saskatoon, No. 6 Elementary Flying Training School at RCAF Prince Albert and No. 4 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Saskatoon (all in Saskatchewan) he was awarded his Flying Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 2 April 1943.
He embarked for the UK on 27 May 1943 and the day after arrival was posted on 5 June to No 3 Personnel and Reception Centre at Bournemouth until 13 July when he was posted to No. 14 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Banff in Banffshire, Scotland. On 28 September 1943 he was posted to No. 23 Operational Training Unit at Pershore, Worcestershire for night bomber training on Vickers Wellingtons. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 2 October 1943 and on 28 January 1944 posted to No. 1659 Conversion Unit at RAF Topcliffe in the North Riding of Yorkshire for conversion training on the Halifax heavy bomber.
On 2 April 1944 he was promoted to Warrant Officer 2nd Class.
He was posted to 614 Squadron at RAF Celone in Italy on 1 May 1944. The Squadron relocated to Stonara on 10 May and to Amendola on 15 July. He was commissioned as a Pilot officer on 6 August 1944
(2) Sgt. Rupert George Curtis was born on 12 November 1919 at Reading, Berkshire the son of Fred Adam Curtis and Kate Loise Curtis nee Hearn. He had three siblings: Ronald H. R. Curtis born 1912, Phyllis K. Curtis born 1914 and Donald A. C. Curtis born 1918.
In 1939 the family lived at 50 Pinewood Avenue, Chertsey. Fred Curtis was a Butcher's Manager and Rupert Curtis a Finish Shaper of Aeroplane Propellers.
In 1941 he married Molly J. Coughlin at Surrey North West. They had three children: Dianne Curtis born 1942, Jeffrey D. Curtis born 1946 and Lesley R. Curtis born 1949.
Rupert George Curtis was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the RAFVR Training Branch on 2 July 1949 (London Gazette 9 August 1949) and resigned his commission on 15 January 1951 (London Gazette 17 April 1951)
He died at West Surrey in August 2002
(3) P/O. C. H. Sparks - Nothing known. If you have any information please contact our helpdesk
(4) F/O. Samuel Noah (Sam) Kwinter was born at Toronto, Ontario Canada on 27 February 1921 the son of Polish born parents, Naftuly (Nathan) Kwinter (a Butcher) and Helen Kwinter nee Knopman.
He had three siblings: Lily Kwinter born c1922, Frances Kwinter born c1925 and Morris Kwinter born c1928.
The family lived at 372 Spaddina Avenue Toronto
Sam was educated at Orde St. Public school (1926-1934) and Harbord College (1932-1938) After leaving school he was employed as the Manager of Naftuly's Retail Butcher's shop
When enlisted on 19 June 1942 at Toronto he was 5' 8½ tall weighing 145 lbs with a fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.
His sporting interests were playing baseball, football, swimming skating and bowling.
Before commencing aircrew training he was required to undertake a War Emergency Training Program (WETP) Course at the Central Technical School in Toronto which he completed satisfactorily on 3 July 1942.
After training at No. 6 Initial Training School at RCAF Toronto, No. 7 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Poulson and No. 7 air Observer School at Portage la Prairie (both in Manitoba) he was awarded his Air Bombers Badge, promoted to Sergeant and commissioned Pilot Officer on 2 April 1943. He embarked for the UK on 21 July and on 30 July the day after his arrival was posted to No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre at Bournemouth. On 24 August he was posted to No. 3 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at RAF Bobbington, Staffordshire and on 5 October to No. 24 Operational Training Unit at RAF Honeybourne, Worcestershire for night bomber training on Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys. He was then posted to No. 1659 Conversion Unit at RAF Topcliffe in the North Riding of Yorkshire on 7 February 1944 for conversion training on the Halifax heavy bomber.
The date of his promotion to Flying Officer is not known.
He joined No. 614 Squadron at RAF Celone in Italy on 1 May 1944. The Squadron relocated to Stonara on 10 May and to Amendola on 15 July.
(5) Fl/Sgt. John Graham Evans was born in August 1923 at Pontypridd Glamorganshire Wales the son of Colliery Hewer, Gwyn Baden Evans and Edith Evelyn Evans nee Head. He had a sister Margaret Evan born 1928
In 1939 the family lived at 27 Nantgawr Road, Caerphilly, Glamorganshire.
He is commemorated on the Caerphilly War Memorial
(6) Fl/Sgt. Romes Patriarca was born in 1922 at Lambeth, London the son of Loreto Patriarca and Fiorina Patriarca nee Tartaglia. He had four siblings: Violetta A. Patriarca born 1921, Armando Patriarca born 1924, Julietta Patriarca born 1928 and Carllo A. Patriarca born 1934.
In 1939 Romes was living with his family at 36 Sandbourne Road in Deptford. His father, Loreto, was a Machine Hand in an Ice Biscuit Factory.
(7) Fl/Sgt. Norman Stuart Yates was born on 2 August 1924 at Verdun, Montreal, Quebec, Canada the son of an English born father and Restaurant Manager, Oswald Stuart Yates and Canadian born mother Elizabeth Yates nee Crowder, of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
He had four siblings Joan Elizabeth Yates born c1926, James Hayes Yates born c1928, William Jeffrey Yates born c1929 and Richard John Yates born c 1934.
The family lived at 35 - 12th Avenue, Ste. Eustace Sur-le-Lac, Quebec and later at 3810 St. Antoine Street, Montreal.
Educated at St. Willibrord's School, Montreal from 1930-1941 he was afterwards employed by Canadian National Railways as a Junior Clerk until enlisting in the air force when he was 18 years old.
He loved playing all sports including rugby, tennis, hockey, skiing and swimming.
When he enlisted at Montreal on 20 April 1943 he was 5' 6½" tall weighing 110 lbs with a fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.
Prior to commencing aircrew training he graduated from No. 9 Pre-aircrew Education Course at McGall University Montreal (14 June 1943 to 8 July 1943).
After training at No. 1 AGGTS at RCAF Quebec and No 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at RCAF Mont Joli, Quebec he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 1 Oct 1943.
He embarked for the UK 22 October 1943 and on 31 October, the day after arrival, was posted to No. 3 Personnel and Reception Centre at Bournemouth
On 23 November 1943 he was posted to No. 23 Operational Training Unit at Pershore, Worcestershire for night bomber training on Vickers Wellingtons and 28 January 1944 posted to No. 1659 Conversion Unit at RAF Topcliffe in the North Riding of Yorkshire for conversion training on the Halifax heavy bomber.
He was posted to 614 Squadron at RAF Celone in Italy on 24 March 1944. The Squadron relocated to Stonara on 10 May and to Amendola on 15 July. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 July 1944
(8) Fl/Sgt. Douglas James Heath was born on 22 February 1923 at Portland, Ontario Canada the only child of Merchant, Stanley Lawrence Heath and Lucetta Rae Heath nee Gallagher.
He was educated at Portland Public School (1930-1937) and Smith Falls Collegiate (Sept 1937- March 1941)
After leaving school he was employed by the Royal Bank of Canada as a Bank Clerk.
He played hockey and enjoyed swimming
When he enlisted at Toronto on 2 November 1942 he was described as being 5' 6½" tall weighing 132 lbs with a medium complexion, blue eyes and brown hair
After training at No. 17 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Souris, Manitoba and No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at Mont-Joli Quebec he was awarded his Air Gunners Badge and promoted to Sergeant on 23 July 1943
He embarked for the UK on 26 August 1943 and on arrival was posted to No. 3 Personnel and Reception Centre at Bournemouth on 2 September and on 21 September 1943 to No. 23 Operational Training Unit at Pershore, Worcestershire for night bomber training on Vickers Wellingtons. He was posted to 1659 Conversion Unit at RAF Topcliffe in the North Riding of Yorkshire on 28 January 1944 for conversion training on the Halifax heavy bomber.
Promoted to Flight Sergeant on 23 April 1944 he was then posted to 614 Squadron at RAF Celone in Italy on 1 May 1944. The Squadron relocated to Stonara on 10 May and to Amendola on 15 July.
BURIAL DETAILS, MEMORIALS AND EPITAPHS
(1) P/O. Thomas Bernard Sparrow - Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial Panel 16 Column 1
(4) F/O. Samuel Noah Kwinter was buried at the Budapest War Cemetery Hungary. Grave reference I.C.1
(5) Fl/Sgt. John Graham Evans - Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial Panel 14 Column 1
(7) Fl/Sgt. Norman Stuart Yates - Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial Panel 16 Column 2
(8) Douglas James Heath - Having no known grave he is commemorated on the Malta Memorial Panel 16 Column 2
Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - December 2018
With thanks to the sources quoted below.