14. Crew Information

Since publishing this web site, on-going research and contact by relatives has enabled an increasing understanding of Stephen's fellow crew members.  In each case, the starting point has been the entries in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records. Accordingly for each of the crew, I have first repeated the CWGC information. This chapter will be updated as further information becomes available.                        

Last update November 2017

Sgt Douglas Betts (Pilot)

Eraldo Manfroni wrote to Sgt Betts' father, Henry Betts, and received two letters in reply. Attempts have been made in 2013 to renew contact with the family, using the last known address (Church Hill Road, North Cheam, Sutton, Surrey) but so far without success.

 

Flt Sgt Horace Hurnell (Navigator)

On the guidance of the Air Ministry, Eraldo Manfroni wrote a letter to be forwarded by the Ministry to the family of Sgt Hurnell. There is no record of a reply.

In 2014 an email was received from Mrs Sally Ashby whose late father was cousin to Sgt Hurnell (known as Peter). This is most encouraging and it is possible that pictures of him will be found.

 

Sgt Cyril Bowman (Wireless Operator)

Eraldo Manfroni wrote to Sgt Bowman's family,  and received two letters in reply. Attempts were made in 2013 to renew contact with the family, using the last known address (Pembrook Road, Walthamstow, London).

In October 2015 an email was received from Mrs Dee Webb, niece of Cyril Bowman. She explains that Cyril's brother, aged 87,  now lives with her and her husband in Billericay. She also states that a member of the family will be visiting the graves in Staglieno Cemetery during November. She has very kindly provided details and two photographs.

In this picture, Cyril is on the right with his two brothers, and his mother Emily. Dee's father, Stephen Kenneth, is the youngest at the front and his other brother, MacDonald George (Donny, who died in 2015), on the left.

At the age of 8 to 10, Cyril joined the Boys Brigade in which he remained until the age of 18 when he was baptised and he joined the Royal Air Force. At the age of 16 Cyril started work at a chemical company where he met his girlfriend. They became engaged and had intended to marry when he was discharged from the RAF. Since the war his then fiancee has visited Cyril's grave at Staglieno in Genoa and now at age 92 keeps in contact with Cyril's brother Stephen Kenneth, aged 87.

This picture shows Cyril having achieved the rank of Sergeant and proudly bearing his aircrew brevet. Behind him and at his left shoulder other uniforms are visible. His "Chipbag" hat still bears a white training flash. It would thus be reasonable to believe that this picture was taken at the conclusion of aircrew training. Having joined the RAF he spent some time at Blackpool (believed to have been basic training) before embarking for his Aircrew Training at a US Navy base in Jacksonville (USA). It would seem that this was Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, ICAO code KNIP, in Florida.  So far from home he was glad of the friendship of a kindly couple who "took him under their wings" during days off and periods of leave. Whilst in the USA he visited Hollywood where he met Errol Flynn.

 

Sgt Stafford Barton (Air Gunner)

On the guidance of the Air Ministry, Eraldo Manfroni wrote a letter to be forwarded by the Ministry to the family of Sgt Barton. There is no record of a reply.

I am indebted to Gary Shaw, historian who researches and writes about boxing. He has published an article [30], in boxingnewsonline.net, sensitively published on 24th November 2014, and thus exactly 71 years after the death of his subject Stafford "Buzz" Barton. It is something of a revelation to discover that Buzz Barton was born in Jamaica on an unknown date in 1915. His father was the News Editor for Jamaica's "Daily Gleaner" newspaper. He traveled to Britain in 1936, by then as Jamaica's middleweight champion. He was described as handsome, popular and, by all accounts, polite and respectful. It would also seem that he had a keen sense of duty, initially volunteering to join the ARP (Air Raid Wardens) before volunteering for service in the Royal Air Force.

Gary quotes Jamaican boxing referee Gordon Scotter who wrote “One of the best middleweight boxers Jamaica has produced, a clean, colourful and courageous fighter. We can be sure that Buzz died as he fought, cleanly and courageously.”

Stafford Barton is nearest to the camera. Note that Tommy Barton (heavy weight boxer) was not  related. Copyright for this image has not yet been established.

 

Sergeant Stafford Alfonzo ‘Buzz’ Barton. A true boxing hero who died a long way from his home in Jamaica but will not be forgotten. Copyright for this image has not yet been established.

In May 2016 I was first contacted by Audrey Weatherly who lives in New Jersey, USA. Living with her was her mother Sylvia who passed away after her 99th birthday in the spring of 2107.  It transpires that a very young Sylvia married Buzz Barton in Jamaica in June 1938.  Whilst traveling to England in March 1939 she celebrated her 21st birthday. Following the loss of the crew HF694 Sylvia received a letter from Sig. Manfroni and even from Stephen's mother, offering condolences. Grief stricken at the death of Buzz, she remained in England until the end of 1948. She first returned to Jamaica before visiting an Aunt in New York. She decided to stay in the USA where, happily she met and married Audrey's father in 1951.

The text reads " To our dear ones at home.
From Buzz and Sylvia,18th Jan 1943 London "

Audrey has kindly provided this poignant photograph dated 18th January 1943. Buzz is wearing his Air Gunner's brevet and Sergeant stripes, indicating his completion of training. Sylvia would seem to be wearing a miniature replica brevet. Buzz joined the crew of HF694 in November the same year. He was born on 2nd May 1915.