AR banner
Search Tips Advanced Search
Back to Top

• Kracker Archive
• Allied Losses
• Archiwum Polish
• Paradie Canadian
• Searchable Lists

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
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.
Check our Research databases: Database List


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the Helpdesk.

No. 14 Squadron Crest
25.02.1942 No. 14 Squadron Blenheim IV V5657 -O F/Sgt. John Trueman Willis DFM

Operation: Martuba, Libya

Date: 25 February 1942 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 14 Squadron. Motto: 'I spread my wings and keep my promise', an extract from the Koran suggested by the Emir of Transjordan.

Badge: A winged plate charged with a cross throughout and shoulder pieces of a suit of armour - approved by King George VI in May 1937. The badge represents a crusader in association with the Cross of St George because of the Squadron's close First World War ties with Diospolis, Palestine, the reputed burial place of the Saint, and its location in the Middle East at the time of submission to the Chester Herald.

Type: Bristol Blenheim IV

Serial: V5657

Code: Call sign "O"

Base: Landing Ground 116 near Fuka, Egypt

Location: near Bir Hakheim, Libya

Pilot: F/Sgt. John Trueman Willis DFM 742094 later 120485 RAFVR Age 23 - Safe and uninjured

Obs: Sgt. Eric William Barr MiD 402240 RNZAF Age 24 - Safe but injured

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Harold Philip Tew 942546 RAFVR Age 33 - Killed

We appeal to anyone with further information and/or photographs to please contact us via our HELPDESK


Rommel's second offensive began at El Agheila, Libya on 21 January 1942 and though he made rapid advances he was eventually stopped by the Allies on 4 February at Gazala some 40 miles west of Tobruck, the new front extending for 50 miles in a south easterly direction from Gazala to Bir Hakheim. From then until the middle of May although there were no major engagements the bomber squadrons were kept busy in support of the army, bombing roads, vehicles, troop concentrations, airfields and the ports of Benghazi and Tripoli.


Blenheim V5657 took off from Landing Ground 116 some 12 miles west of Fuka in Egypt detailed to make an independent attack on Martuba airfield in Libya a flight of about 350 miles west. Before reaching the target the Blenheim was hit by anti-aircraft fire and severely damaged. After jettisoning his bombs F/Sgt. Willis turned for home but on the return journey his aircraft caught fire and he gave the order to abandon. John Willis and his Australian Observer Eric Barr both baled out near Bir Hakeim 80 miles south west of Martuba and fortunately over allied held territory. John Willis was uninjured but on landing Eric Barr suffered a broken ankle for which he was treated for two or three months at a New Zealand hospital in the Delta. Pilot John Willis was uninjured but Air Gunner. Wireless Operator Harold Tew however was unable to bale out and was killed in the crash at about 20.30 hours.

For his actions in this and previous operations John Willis was awarded the DFM, promulgated in the London Gazette of 18 September 1942. The citation reads:

"Throughout this airman has displayed great skill and determination. On several occasions he has successfully completed a bombing mission in extremely bad weather. One night in February 1942 whilst bombing Martuba landing ground his aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire which rendered the fore and aft control useless. By a brilliant and determined effort he succeeded in flying back to friendly territory before he and his crew were compelled to abandon the aircraft and escape by parachute".


(1) Fl/Lt. John Trueman Willis DFM was born 27 October 1918 at Oxford the son of Gordon A. Willis (a Motor Mechanic) and Ethel E. Willis nee Trueman of 188 London Road, Headington, Oxford. John Willis joined No. 14 Squadron as a Sergeant pilot direct from No. 4 Flying Training School at RAF Habbaniya, Iraq in June 1941.

742094 F/Sgt. J.T. Willis was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on probation (emergency) on 4 March 1942 (London Gazette 12 May 1942) and promoted to Flying officer (war subs) in 1 October 1942 (London Gazette 12 March 1943). Whilst a prisoner of war and on 4 March 1944 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant (war subs) (London Gazette 24 March 1944).

He was the sole survivor of his aircraft Marauder FK366 shot down over Tunis on 19 December 1942 and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria - L3. To read about this loss click here

John Trueman Willis died at Birkenhead, Cheshire in 1998 at the age of 90.

Sgt. Eric William Barr MiD was born c 1917 the third son of Stewart and Waihuia Margaret Barr, of "Gladsome Lodge" Upper Riccarton, Canterbury, New Zealand.

He attended Christchurch Boys High School between 1932 and 1935. He was a keen hurdler, cross country runner, sprinter and rugby player. In July 1940 he reported to RNZAF Levin for Observer training. In December 1940 his engagement to Vonnie Elveen Wilson of Christchurch, was announced. He was killed when flying as the Observer of the crew of Marauder KV366 captained by the above F/O. John Trueman Willis (the sole survivor) that crashed on 19 December 1942 shot down over Tunis. To read about this loss click here

On 2 June 1943 it was promulgated in the London Gazette that Eric Barr had been Mentioned in Dispatches.

Sgt. Harold Philip Tew was born 4 October 1909 at Stockport the son of John Percy Tew (an Organist and Music Teacher) and Elizabeth Maud Tew nee Alsop later of Bare, Morecambe, Lancashire. In 1911 the family lived at the home of Harold's grandparents John William and Ann Tew at Stockport Road, Marple, Cheshire. He had brothers James Kendrick Tew (1911-2005) Geoffrey Alsop Tew (1912-1946), John Humphrey Tew (1914-2000) and a sister, Christine Maude Tew (1918-2005).

He is commemorated on the Marple War Memorial and the Marple All Saints Church War Memorial


Sgt. Harold Philip Tew. Details of his original burial are not known but he was re-interred at Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya - Grave reference 8.G.4.

His epitaph reads

To live in hearts

Of those we leave behind

Is not to die.

He gave his all

Researched by Aircrew Remembered researcher Roy Wilcock for all the relatives and friends of the members of this crew - January 2017

With thanks to the sources quoted below.

RW 07.01.2017

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. 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.
Click any image to enlarge it

Click to add your info via ticket on Helpdesk •Click to let us know via ticket on Helpdesk• Click to buy research books from Amazon •Click to explore the entire site
If you would like to comment on this page, please do so via our Helpdesk. Use the Submit a Ticket option to send your comments. After review, our Editors will publish your comment below with your first name, but not your email address.

A word from the Editor: your contribution is important. We welcome your comments and information. Thanks in advance.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2024
Last Modified: 18 March 2021, 14:38

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor