Since publishing this web site, on-going research and contact by relatives of Stephen's fellow crew members has provided additional information. These men are no longer just names.  In each case, the starting point has been the entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.  This chapter will be updated as further information becomes available


Sgt Douglas Betts (Pilot)


After the war, Eraldo Manfroni wrote to Sgt Betts' father Henry Betts, and received two letters in reply. 

The father of Sgt Betts wrote to Eraldo on 30th September 1945. An image of the letter [24] can be viewed here. The content is as follows:

Dear Mr Manfroni

First on behalf of my wife and myself I must deeply thank you for the kindness you have shown to us. Yours through Dennis was the first we actually knew what happened to our dear son and it ended the agony of nineteen months waiting and hoping. It has at least eased our minds that he never suffered and is at rest in a grave on top of the mountain. He loved hills and the open country and we think he will be content there.

He also loved Italian music and has several records of their beautiful singers and bands. We have not yet had the story and poetry, as Dennis wrote that he would bring them when he came on leave. I wrote to the other parents giving your address and they said they would write to your personally and thank you.

We are hoping some time next year when transport is a bit easier to visit the grave and hope then to meet you and thank you for the interest and help you have given us.

We do understand how unhappy your beloved country must feel and how your former leaders have let you down so badly but I am afraid nobody gains out of war and all peoples must be made to realise the futility of it.

Your action alone shows that peoples of different nations have the same feelings and could live in harmony the best that each nation can provide. Again thank you for all you have done

Yours sincerely, H Betts

Sgt Betts' father wrote a further letter [24] just a month later on 28th October 1945 and can be viewed here. Its content is as follows:

Dear Sir

I thank you for the story of the last flight made by my son and his consequent death. I do not know how to thank you for the trouble you have taken to compose the story, the expense and the kindness behind it all.

I'm afraid we in England have got used to the mutilated bodies of civilians and airmen. It was a relief to learn that they all died instantaneously and that they were buried decently. We feel very grateful for the expressions of sympathy by your local peoples and would like to convey our thanks to the vicar and officials of the church for the Christian spirit they displayed to the mortal remains of my son and his friends.

I have written to the people mentioned by you and they will be writing to you themselves. I suggest you delete that portion dealing with the pitiful sight of their bodies but state their deaths were instantaneous and the subsequent burial portion, which is really beautiful. We hope to visit your country as soon as possible and to thank you in person for your kindness.

Yours sincerely, H Betts


The reference to "Dennis" in the first letter is partially explained by another letter provided by Eraldo Manfroni's daughter, Elisabetta. This letter was written by Trooper Dennis Lovell and is dated December 1945. His army unit, Prince of Wales Own Royal Hussars, acted as part of the "Army of Occupation" in both Italy and Germany at the end of the war. It is presumed that he had met Eraldo Manfroni during duty in Italy and had agreed to help contact the families of the dead airmen. The letter [24] can be viewed here whilst its content is as follows:

Dear Manfroni, I hope this letter will find you and all your dear ones in good health.

As you will see from the above address, I am now stationed in Germany. I have recently been to England for a 28 day repose and I did of course meet and speak with Mrs Betts. And I was very pleased to be able to tell Mrs Betts all that I know about the happenings at Venturello. Also Mr Betts said that you have written and told him the graves are being cared for, thank you. Mrs Betts is very pleased to know her son is buried in a proper cemetery. Perhaps in a year or two's time, when you are able, you could take some photographs. I am sure we would all appreciate it very much. I must finish this letter now, I once again assure you we all, family and friends, think a very lot of you and thank you.

I am your sincere friend, Dennis Lovell

Since the war further attempts have been made to renew contact with the family, using the last known address (Church Hill Road, North Cheam, Sutton, Surrey).  Schools in that area have been contacted to see whether his name had been recorded on any memorial.  Sadly, at this time it has not been possible to gain further information or a photograph.

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 June 2019 information was received regarding Horace Peter Hurnell from Eileen Bostle who was researching the history of Minchenden School in Southgate (London) where he attended from 1933 to 1938.  The family home was at 29 Eversley Park Road, Winchmore Hill, North London.  Normally called Peter, his father was Horace Frederick Hurnell who was an army Lieutenant at the time of Peter's death.  Peter trained as a navigator in the United States having sailed on the SS Neville from Gourock on the 13th March 1942 arriving in New York on the 25th March.  The passenger list describes him as being 5 feet 10 inches, fair complexion, brown hair, blue eyes.  At the present time no photograph of Peter has been found.  

There are however, two memorials that list him. The first is in the Garden of Remembrance in Broomfield Park, Enfield.

The second, for which I credit the image to Graham Frost of the Museum of Enfield, is of the Minchenden School 1939-45 Role of Honour.  Peter's name is the fifth on the centre list.  Of note is the fact that 55 former pupils from the school made the ultimate sacrifice.

Sgt Cyril Bowman (Wireless Operator)

Eraldo Manfroni wrote to Sgt Bowman's family,  and received two letters in reply.  The first has been written in Italian and appended with signature and address by his mother. The letter [24], the date of which is unclear, can be viewed here. The English text is as follows:

London 1?-19-45 (Possibly 19th January 1945)

Dear Mr. Eraldo,

I wish to thank you for your kind letter about my son and his friends. At the moment it's impossible for me to give any address of his friends as I don't know them, but I'll send you as soon as I receive them because I've written to the Ministry of Aviation to ask for the parent's addresses of the other aviators.

I thank you so much for the memorial you sent me either and for all the troubles you suffered due to my son.

I was disappointed to hear that my son has been moved from Polverara as I knew that he was (buried ) with his friends that's why I truly thank you for your kindness towards me. Here I've  found a friend who read your letter to me and he wrote this letter to you either so I can avoid to look for another interpreter. I wish to know if you found my son's identification tags or anything else that belonged to him, in order to find something to remind him.

I thank you so much

Best regards

A. Bowman (Mrs)

12 Pembroke Road

Walthamstow, E17

The second letter [24] is dated 6th August 1945 and can be viewed here. The content is as follows:

Dear Sir,

Having heard from Mr Betts, the father of Sgt Betts, whose aircraft was destroyed, I am thanking you for the care and consideration you have used regarding the loss of my son and others in a plane disaster, which no doubt you know more about than anyone.

I shall consider it a great favour if you will be good enough to inform me when my son was buried and I would like to know how the American Red Cross could let our Air Ministry know, after such a long time, to inform me of my son's death.

Is it possible for you to tell me if my son's disc or any other regimental or any of his belongings were found near him which can eventually prove that he was one of the party in the plane. I shall be grateful if in any way you can enlighten me, also thanking you for the utmost kindness and interest you have taken in the parents of these unfortunate lads. If you could tell me its not my son I would bless you always. As you are a Pastor, I can tell you that my son liked his chapel so well, and he was loved and esteemed by all, and was an Officer of the Boys Brigade.

I am yours very sincerely, a broken hearted mother, A Bowman

In October 2015 an email was received from Mrs Dee Webb, niece of Cyril Bowman. She explains that Cyril's brother, aged 87,  was living 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 that 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.

It was heartening to subsequently learn that Brenda Forsey, Cyril Bowman's niece, and her son have visited Staglieno.  Such news reinforces my hopes that the sacrifice made by the crew of HF694 will not be forgotten.

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, 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.”

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 this picture, Stafford Barton (Buzz) is nearest to the camera and shows that he had volunteered to join the Civil Defence Service (previously called the ARP).

Note that Tommy Barton (heavy weight boxer) was not  related.

Copyright for this image has not yet been established.



In May 2016 I was first contacted by Audrey Weatherly living in New Jersey, USA. Living with her was her mother Sylvia who passed away after her 99th birthday in the spring of 2017.  It transpires that a 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.

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.


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