02/03.08.1943 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF Halifax V EB212 Plt Off. Victor T. Sylvester
Operation: Hamburg, Germany
Date: 2nd/3rd August 1943 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit No: 428 (Ghost) Squadron, RCAF
Type: Halifax V
Base: RAF Middleton St. George, County Durham, England
Location: In the Wadden Sea 25 km (15½ mls) WNW of Heide, Germany
Pilot: Plt Off. Victor Thomas Sylvester J17282 RCAF Age 22. MiA (1)
2nd Pilot: Fg Off. Harvey George Funkhouser J7036 RCAF Age 21. KiA (2)
Flt Eng: Sgt. Derek Charlesworth 1684079 RAFVR Age 20. MiA (3)
Nav: Sgt. Patrick John Forde 1136637 RAFVR Age 28. MiA (4)
Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. Geoffrey Keith Henry Creighton-Kelly 1331396 RAFVR Age 20. KiA (5)
WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. Thomas Leslie Rose 1071860 RAFVR Age 24. MiA (6)
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Sgt. John Wilson Lunn 1071860 RAFVR Age 24. KiA (7)
Air Gnr (Rear): WO2. Earl George ‘Smitty’ Smith R79401 RCAF Age 27. MiA (8)
Above: Wellington X HE505, NA:X. In the turret is Sgt. E.J. 'Smitty’ Smith, left is Sgt. V.T. Sylvester, right is Navigator, Sgt. Eric Howard Pell 1432424 RAFVR. (Courtesy of Sandra Sylvester)
Note: Sgt. Pell went on to be commissioned and survived the war.
On the 18th/19th February 1943 Sgt. Sylvester was making his 1st sortie as skipper and Sgt. Smith was on his 4th sortie on a "Gardening" mission in the Friesian Islands. The after mission report by Sgt. Sylvester described the encounters with enemy aircraft during this operation:
'Mines were laid in the allotted position at 20:07 hrs from a height of 500 ft, heading 338o(M) 183 MPH. No clouds and got visual pin point in eastern end of Terschelling. On outward journey at 19:39 hrs, height 1000 ft, our aircraft was intercepted by a Ju88 which came in dead astern and opened fire at 250 yds. The rear-gunner claims hits when he opened fire at the enemy aircraft which broke away to port and disappeared. At 20:29 hrs in position 53o42’N, 04o 22’E, an aircraft, presumed as enemy, with red light in nose come in dead astern at 1400 ft. Our aircraft was at 1500 ft, the the light went out and the aircraft disappeared without opening fire. At 21:40 hrs on return journey height 3000 ft, about 40 miles off Flamborough Head, our aircraft was again intercepted by a Ju88, which came in dead astern. Our aircraft, made a turn through 360o, and our rear-gunner opened fire at 200 yds. Tracer bullet was seen to enter the fuselage of the Ju88 which then broke away. Enemy aircraft came in again dead astern our rear-gunner again opened fire at 150 yds, and then attacking aircraft caught fire and dived into the sea. Smoke and flames shot up from sea-level. This was confirmed by the crew from Wellington X DP668, NA:W.’
Note: Details of the Ju88 and its crew have not been found.
REASON FOR LOSS:
This raid was the last of a period known as ‘The Battle of Hamburg’ which ran from 24th/25th July to 2nd/3rd August 1943. Sir Arthur Harris had chosen this target to succeed ‘The Battle of the Ruhr’ in order to disrupt submarine and ship building production by the bombing of generally civilian infrastructure areas of the city with the aim of demoralizing and displacing the labour workforce.
In total four major attacks were made during the battle which saw the introduction of ‘window’ a tactic to render the German radar defences useless by dropping hundreds of strips of aluminium foil covered paper from the attacking bombers. Tests had shown that if enough of the strips were dropped many, many erroneous returns of the radar beams would totally confuse the radar operators as to which were real echoes from an enemy aircraft or a false return from a foil strip.
This operation was the most unsuccessful of the four raids as the bombers flew directly into a large thunderstorm as they reached the target area. Some of the Captains made the decision to turn back or bomb alternative targets which resulted in scattered bombing in and around Hamburg. Although not a designated target the town of Elmshorn outside of the city bore the brunt of most of the bombing. In total 30 aircraft were lost although not all by enemy action as several were lost due to icing, turbulence or being struck by lightning.
Although it is not certain it is suspected that Captain Sylvester and crew had reached the Hamburg area and after releasing their bombs were making their way back over the German coast when they were intercepted by a German night-fighter.
EB212 was claimed as a probable by Maj. Erich Simon, his 9th and first of two victories this night, from Stab IV./NJG3, over the sea 25 km (15½ mls) WNW of Heide at 01:43 hrs. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 June - 22 September) 1943 Part 2 - Theo Boiten)
Maj. Simon was the Kommandeur of IV./NJG3. He was posted MiA on the night of 7th/8th October 1943 following air combat in his Ju88 C-1 D5+CF with 149 Sqn Stirling EF410 over the Skagerrak to the north of Tvested, Denmark. He was credited with 10 victories. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (23 September - 31 December) 1943 Part 3 - Theo Boiten).
It estimated that EB212 crashed into the Wadden Sea some 8 km (5 mls) off the coast.
(1) Plt Off. Victor Thomas Sylvester:
An American citizen, Victor was one of Victor was one of five brothers and two sisters, Judith and Thelma, who emigrated with their parents to Paswegin, Saskatchewan in 1925.
On completion of Grade XI at Paswegin High School in 1940 he helped his father on the family farm until he enlisted in the RCAF on the 27th May 1941. He complete his initial training at Regina on 13th September and was posted to No.15 Elementary Flying School (EFS), Regina. Posted to No.11 Service Flying School (SFS) at Yorkton, on 8th November 1941 he graduated with his Pilots Flying Badge on 28th February 1942. After 14 days leave Victor embarked at Halifax bound for the UK arriving at No.3 PRC Bournemouth on 29th March 1942. Next posted to No.14 Pilots Advanced Flying Unit (PAFU) at RAF Ossington on 15th June for training on the twin engine Airspeed Oxford in preparation for converting to multi-engine bombers. Victor next trained on Wellington bombers first at No.25 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at RAF Finningley 28th July 1942 and then No.26 OTU at RAF Wing from 29th September until 20th January 1943 when he joined 428 Squadron. Victor completed 27 operations prior to being lost.
Brothers Vernon Stanley and Gordon Freeman both served with the RCAF, Vernon overseas, and Gordon served with #14, Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at Aymler, Ontario.
Brother Lance Bombardier Clarence Eugene L74860, serving with 3 Anti-Tank Reg, Royal Canadian Army (RCA) was KiA on the 7th July 1944. He was laid to rest at Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery in France.
Above: Plt Off. Victor Sylvester (courtesy Victor's niece Jan Bergman).
Operational record with 428 (Ghost) Squadron
7/8 Lorient (served as 2nd pilot to Captain Manning) all flying the Wellington
18/19 Gardening Friesian Islands – 1st operation as skipper
28/1 St. Nazaire
28/29 St. Nazaire
28/29 Gardening Friesian Islands
9/10 Gelsenkirken – first operation flying the Halifax
(2) Fg Off. Harvey George Funkhouser:
Harvey was born in his hometown of Port Colborne on the 21st September 1921. By all accounts a very good student and perhaps more so an outstanding athlete and sportsman. He excelled at many sports both individually and as a member of several teams where he developed a strong sense of leadership and reliability such that he was held in high regard by his peers and mentors alike. Harvey graduated from Port Colborne High School with his Senior Matriculation Certificate in 1940 and worked for six months as a clerk at Bradleys Clothing Store before enlisting on 11th December 1940.
After completing his basic training, Harvey was promoted to a Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) and posted to No.3 Elementary Flying Training School (EFS) at London, Ontario on the 11th April 1941. He was next posted to No.1 Service Flying School (SFTS), Camp Borden where he graduated with the award of his Pilot’s Flying Badge on the 21st August 1941 and granted an immediate commission with the rank of Pilot Officer (Plt Off). His success at flying and his sound leadership abilities led him to take a course to become an instructor. That October Harvey undertook a six-week course at Central Flying School, Trenton and was awarded his Instructors Certificate on the 17th November 1941. Posted soon after to No.1 SFTS where he instructed student pilots until the 28th December 1942 when he volunteered for active service on operations.
Above Fg Off. Funkhouser from his Service Record
Posted overseas he disembarked in the UK on the 13th February 1943 and was posted to No.3 Pilots Advanced Flying Unit on 2 March and then to No. 24 OTU on 4 May 1943 where he trained on the twin-engine Whitley bomber. Upon completion of his course at OTU, he was recommended for flying four-engine bombers with the remarks: “An above average pilot and very sound captain. His long flying experience is evident in his flying. He has volunteered and is recommended for pathfinder duties when his navigator has had more experience.” Harvey’s next posting was to No.1664 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) for training on the Halifax and Lancaster heavy bombers on 10th July 1943. On the very last day of July, Harvey was taken on strength of 428 (Ghost) Squadron.
Tragically, on his very first sortie, serving as the second pilot to Captain Sylvester to gain operational experience, he would lose his life in the loss of EB212.
Fg Off. Funkhouser was recovered from the open sea near Trischen Island, which is some 15 km (9¼ mls) south of the estimated crash area, on the 20th August 1943 and laid to rest at the Neuen Friedhof at Büsum on the 21st August 1943.
(3) Sgt. Derek Charlesworth:
Derek as the Flight Engineer would have joined Sylvester crew at 1664 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) to convert to the Halifax. His 1st operation with this crew was on the night of 9th/10th July 1943.
He enlisted after November 1941 at Padgate, Warrington in Cheshire. No further details are known.
(4) Sgt. Patrick John Forde:
Patrick first flew with Captain Sylvester on 14th/15th April 1943. The original Navigator was Sgt. Eric Howard Pell 1432424 RAFVR. He enlisted between September 1939 and February 1940 at Padgate, Warrington in Cheshire. No further details are known.
(5) Flt Sgt. Geoffrey Keith Henry Creighton-Kelly:
Geoffrey was born on the 31st August 1922 in Calcutta, India. He was baptized at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Dhurrumtollah, Calcutta on the 28th September 1922. An older brother Hubert was born in India in 1920. He enlisted in Uxbridge, London or Weston-super-Mere, Somerset after November 1940.
He first flew with Captain Sylvester on the 18th/19th February 1943 on a gardening operation to the Friesian Islands and would remain with him until the final flight.
Flt Sgt. Creighton-Kelly was recovered from the sea and laid to rest at Friedrichkoog, near Cuxhaven at the Point of Dam 34.
(6) Sgt. Thomas Leslie Rose:
He first flew with Captain Sylvester on the 18th/19th February on a gardening operation to the Friesian Islands and would remain with him until the final flight. No further details are known.
(7) Sgt. John Wilson Lunn
He joined the Sylvester crew on the night of 9/10 July 1943 when they converted to the Halifax bomber. No further details are known.
Sgt Lunn was recovered from the sea on the 9th August 1943 and laid to rest at the Neuen Friedhof at Büsum on the 10th August 1943.
(8) WO2. Earl George ‘Smitty’ Smith:
Like his captain Plt Off. Sylvester, Earl was an American citizen who volunteered to join the RCAF in 1941. He was the eldest son of George and Martha having a younger brother and two older married sisters. After graduating from Classical High School in 1939, he had also worked as a hotel clerk in Florida for periods of time between 1937 and 1939. At the time of his enlistment, he was working at a factory in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. Earl travelled up to Montreal and enlisted on the 26th April 1941.
After basic training and several temporary postings, Earl was posted to No.3 Initial Training School at Victoriaville, QC on the 27th July 1941. Selected as a candidate for pilot training he was promoted to Leading Aircraftman (LAC) and posted to No.4 Elementary Flying School at Windsor Mills that September. Unfortunately for Earl his progress in the course was unsatisfactory and not suitable for further training as a pilot ending up at Composite Training School (KTS) at Trenton on the 15th October 1941. Following four months at KTS he was posted to No.4 Bombing and Gunnery School at Fingal, Ontario to train as an air gunner where he graduated on the 16th March 1942 with his badge and the rank of Sergeant (Sgt).
Posted to the UK he arrived at No.3 PRC on the 13th May 1942 and then posted to No.3 Air Gunnery School at RAF Castle Kennedy, Scotland on the 29th June. Posted to No.14 OTU, Cottesmore on the 11th August 1942. 428 (Ghost) Squadron was formed at Dalton in Yorkshire on the 7th November 1942 and Earl was posted there on the 10th of that month. When squadron operations began in February 1943, Earl flew his first sortie with Captain Manning to Lorient on the 7th/8th of that month. On his next operation on the 18th/19th February, he flew on a gardening operation to the Friesian Islands with Captain Sylvester and would remain with him until the final flight. Earl was approaching the completion of his first tour with 26 missions accomplished.
Above: Earl's Combat Report after an encounter with a Ju88 night-fighter on the night of 18th/19th February 1943.
Above: Earl's Combat Report after an encounter with German night-fighters on the night of 4th/5th May 1943.
Above: Earl's Combat Report after an encounter with German night-fighters on the night of 18th/19th June 1943.
Sylvester Creek in Saskatchewan was named after Plt Off. Sylvester in 1957
Above: In memory Courtesy of Janice Bergman
Plt Off. Victor Thomas Sylvester. Runnymede Memorial Panel 178. Born on the 10th March 1921 in Finely, North Dakota, USA. Son of John Henry and Olive (née Christopherson) Sylvester of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Fg Off. Harvey George Funkhouser. Kiel War Cemetery, 2.G.7. Grave Inscription: 'O MOST MERCIFUL JESUS, GRANT HIM ETERNAL REST'. Born on the 7th September 1921 in Port Colborne, Ontario. Son of George Harry and Annie (née Rafferty) Funkhouser of Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada.
Sgt. Derek Charlesworth. Runnymede Memorial Panel 145. Born during the 1st Qtr of 1923 in Hanslet, Yorkshire West Riding. Son of Rowland and Ada (née Wastnage) Charlesworth, of Rothwell, Yorkshire, England.
Sgt. Patrick John Forde. Runnymede Memorial Panel 149. Born on the 8th July 1915 in Liverpool. Son of Patrick and Lilian (née Wigglesworth) Forde of Liverpool, England.
His father was a L/Cpl. in the Royal Munster Fusiliers and was KiA on the 9th May 1915.
Flt Sgt. Geoffrey Keith Henry Creighton-Kelly. Kiel War Cemetery 1.H.19. Son of Hubert Henry Carlise and Edna Clare Louisa Boyde (nee Staples) Creighton-Kelly of Calcutta, West Bengal, India.
Sgt. Thomas Leslie Rose. Runnymede Memorial Panel 163. Born in the 1st Qtr of 1919 in Pontefract. Son of Thomas and Teresa Casia (née Cook) Rose; husband of Joan Rose, of Pontefract, Yorkshire, England.
Sgt. John Wilson Lunn. Kiel War Cemetery 2.G.16. Born during December 1918 in Sunderland, Durham. Husband to Sylvia Mary (née Gaunt) Lunn of Hull, East Yorkshire, England.
WO2. Earl George Smith. Runnymede Memorial Panel 180. Born on the 6th June 1920 in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Son of George Davis (Deceased July 1937) and Martha Cathiel (née Thompson) Smith of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, USA.
Originally researched by Colin Bamford and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (Feb 2023). Updated by Ralph Snape with thanks to Janice Bergman and Sandra Sylvester for the photographs of their uncle, Plt Off. Sylvester (Mar 2023).
Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Canada, Service Files of the Second World War – War Dead, 1939-1947, Series: RG 24, Volume: 28236
Ancestry.com. Canada, World War II Records and Service Files of War Dead, 1939-1947 [database on line]. Lehi, UT, USA. Ancestry Operations, Inc., 2015;
The Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM) Veterans Affairs Canada;
RAF Operations Record Books, AIR 27/1 – AIR 27/2893. National Archives Kew, UK.
Other Sources listed below: