Memorial Details

2016
Photo: James Pasby

Memorial

Housing estate Barton V.C. 1944

Reference

R52.09

Place

RYHOPE

Map ref

NZ 41?52?

Original Location

Barton Park, Housing Estate

Which war

1939-45

Dedication, Creation or Publication date

Plaque unveiled March 20th 2002 by Sqdn.Ldr. Rodney Burgess of R.A.F. Leeming.

Memorial Description

Housing Estate.
A brick wall carries a plaque 48 inches high x 24 inches wide (608mm x 1.21m) set within a stone frame. At top are (left) the badge of the R.A.F. and (right) the badge of 57 Squadron. The lettering is Roman with the quotation at the bottom in italics.

Materials used

Stainless steel plaque.

Inscription

BARTON PARK
This development is named as a lasting tribute to
Pilot Officer Cyril Joe Barton (168669) VC RAFVR
No 578 Squadron R.A.F.
On the night of 30th March 1944, Pilot Officer Barton was Captain and
pilot of a Halifax aircraft detailed to attack Nuremberg. Despite his
aircraft suffering severe damage from enemy fighters and the loss of
three crew members, Pilot Officer Barton courageously
completed his mission.
Without navigational aids and running low on fuel, Pilot Officer Barton
returned his crippled aircraft over heavily defended territory before
crossing the English Channel north of his base. He steered the stricken
aircraft clear of all but one of the houses at Hallycorrside before crashing
in a colliery yard approximately 200 yards North of this site.
Pilot Officer Barton, aged just 22, lost his life, but his three remaining
comrades survived.
In recognition of this supreme act of valour and dedication to his country
Pilot Officer Barton was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

"In gallantly completing his last mission in the face of
almost impossible odds, he displayed unsurpassed courage
and devotion to duty"

Names

See above

Who commissioned

House builders

Notes

1. Cyril Barton was born on 05/06/1921 at Elvedon in Suffolk and was the eldest of a family of 6 children. His three sisters attended the ceremony. He joined the RAF on 16/04/1941 and became LAC.

2. The ceremony was attended by Len Lambert, former navigator and last surviving member of the crew.

3. The action on 31st March 1944 was the ill-fated raid on Nuremburg in which an estimated 106 aircraft (Lancasters and Halifaxes) were lost or crashed. Given an average of 7 crew members per aircraft, there was a colossal loss of life. Some were taken prisoners, a few evaded capture.

4. A letter to Flypast Magazine from an eyewitness to the crash says that P.O. Bartonís plane landed on Ryhope Colliery, not near it; that the aircraft demolished the end house of West Terrace; he died shortly after being taken from the aircraft, not the next day. The witness was also the prime mover in having P.O. Bartonís name added to the memorial R52.01.

5. No. 578 (B) Squadron Codes: LK
This was formed at Snaith on the 14/01/1944 from C Flight of No 51(B) Squadron and equipped with B MK III Halifaxes. It moved to Burn on 06/02/1944. On 30/03/1944, Plt. Off. C.J. Barton earned the only 'Halifax VCí of the war. The Squadronís last operational mission was against Wuppertal on 13/03/1945. The Squadron was disbanded 16/03/1945.
The Halifax III flown by P.Off. Barton, LK797 LK-E, was constructed by Fairey Aviation Co Ltd. who made 200 aircraft. The Contract number was ACFT/891, requisition was HA1/E11/41. Deliveries commenced August 1943 (LK 626) and 20/01/1944. They also built B MK III LK 747-766, LK 779-812, LK 826-850, LK 863-887.
Source: The Handley Page Halifax; K A Merrick; Aston Publications, 1990; ISBN 0946627 606; page 210 and page 223.

6. Extract from the Fifth Supplement of The London Gazette No. 36584 of Tuesday 27th June 1944
The King has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery :-
Pilot Officer Cyril Joe Barton (168669), RAFVR, 578 Squadron (Deceased)
On the night of 30th March, 1944, Pilot Officer Barton was captain and pilot of a Halifax aircraft detailed to attack Nurenberg. Whem some 70 miles short of the target, the aircraft was attacked by a Junkers 88. The burst of fire from the enemy made the intercommunication system useless. One engine was damaged when a Messerschmit 210 joined in the fight. The bombers machine guns were out of action and the gunners were unable to return the fire.
Fighters continued to attack the aircraft as it approached the target area and, in the confusion caused by the failure of the communications system at the height of the battle, a signal was misinterpreted and the navigator, air bomber and wireless operator left the aircraft by parachute.
Pilot Officer Barton faced a situation of dire peril. His aircraft was damaged, his navigational team had gone and he could not communicate with the remainder of the crew. If he continued his mission, he would be at the mercy of hostile fighters when silhouetted against the fires in the target area, and if he survived he would have to make a 4 1/2 hours journey home on three engines across heavily-defended territory. Determined to press home his attack at all costs, he flew on and, reaching the target, released the bombs himself.
As Pilot Officer Barton turned for home the propeller of the damaged engine, which was vibrating badly, flew off. It was also discovered that two of the petrol tanks had suffered damage and were leaking. Pilot Officer Barton held to his course and, without navigational aids and in spite of strong head winds, successfully avoided the most dangerous defence areas on his route. Eventually he crossed the English coast only 90 miles north of his base.
By this time the petrol supply was nearly exhausted. Before a suitable landing place could be found, the port engine stopped. The aircraft was now too low to be abandoned successfully. Pilot Officer Barton therefore ordered the three remaining members of his crew to take up their crash stations. Then, with only one engine working, he made a gallant attempt to land clear of the houses over which he was flying. The aircraft finally crashed and Pilot Officer Barton lost his life, but his three comrades survived.
Pilot Officer Barton had previously taken part in four attacks on Berlin and 14 other operational missions. On one of these two members of his crew were wounded during a determined effort to locate the target despite the appalling weather conditions.
In gallantly completing his last mission in the face of almost impossible odds, this officer displayed unsurpassed courage and devotion to duty.

Newspaper cuttings, photos or archival material

Photos: C. Sanders; James Pasby

Journal 02/03/2002 reports proposal to unveil plaque and name the new housing estate Barton Park.

Sunderland Echo 24/04/2008 carries the story of Barton V.C.

A Chronicle of Membersí Memoirs 1999 published by The Aircrew Association Northumbrian Branch contains the story told by Len Lambert, navigator in the Halifax aircraft involved.

FlyPast April 2012; Key Publishing Ltd., carries an article and photo of P.O. Barton on page 85; January 2013 carries a letter quoted in Note 4 above on p 118.

Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War; 1944; W.R. Chorley; Midland Counties Publication; 1997; ISBN 0 904597 91 1; page 157

External web link

Research acknowledgements

C. Sanders; Alan Vickers; George H. Foster; James Pasby; George and Janet Brown

Research In Progress

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Housing estate Barton V.C. 1944 (R52.09)

 
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Parish Notes

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