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Remembered Today:

Col. R H Austin-Sparks, RAF...DoD 25/7/18


armourersergeant
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I wondered if anyone could enlarge on this chap. Came across him whilst I was taking a photo for a Pal in Clifton-On-Dunsmore St Mary's ext cemetery today. He seems to have a varied career. I am assuming that he was killed in a flying accident rather than in combat, given the date and his apparent last command. I only noticed the inscription at the base when I got home..it reads "Soldier, Traveler, Athlete" so this would explain perhaps the bit about being in Argentina.

AUSTIN-SPARKS, RALPH HAROLD

United Kingdom

Colonel

Royal Air Force

Date of Death: 25/07/1918

Additional information: Son of George and Alice Austin-Sparks, of 6, Elmwood Crescent, Kingsbury, Middx; husband of Elizabeth J. Austin-Sparks. Born at Streatham, London. Returned from Argentine Oct., 1914, rejoined London Scottish Nov., 1914. 2nd Lt. 11th Hussars (12th Cavalry Bde.), Dec., 1914. Captain R.A. May, 1915. Attd. R.F.C. June, 1915. Wounded whilst flying over Ypres July, 1915. Col.-in-Command R.A.F. (Midland Area) June, 1918. Member of the Thames Rowing Club, Belsize Boxing Club and the London Scottish Rugby Football Club.

I have also found this info on the web..01/10/1915-26/04/1916 5 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron, 19 Squadron, 34 Squadron and 20/07/1918-20/07/1918 School of Special Flying.

post-741-1211117986.jpg

Regards

Arm

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RAF service records probably in AIR 76. RFC & army service via the usual army searches.

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Thanks,

Only a passing interest, just wondered if anyone could enlarge upon him. Air is not normally my thing, given that birds have a tendency to drop on me from a great height!

regards

Arm

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Arm

Col R H Austin-Sparks, from the No 1 School of Special Flying, was killed in an accident while flying Bristol F2B B8917 on 25 July 1918.

Regards

Gareth

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Thanks Gareth,

That was what I had expected.

regards

Arm

PS..what did the school of special flying do?

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Arm

The School of Special Flying was established to train flying instructors.

Regards

Gareth

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Gareth,

Thanks for that.

I searched another site, the name escapes me, that gave what a perceived to be all British Aces (and other countries) and he was not listed. I assume then that he had no kills? Or perhaps that list is not complete. But where would this information be collated from.

regards

Arm

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  • 6 years later...

My name is Christopher John Mitchell and Ralph was my fathers uncle.We always thought his flying accident on 25-7-1918 was in an SE5A but have just learn't it was in a Bristol F2B.....A prop from an SE5A has been passed down as a family heirloom and now hangs on my wall along with photos of Ralph in uniform and of his time in Argentina on horseback, also a photo of his son that I was told died whilst flying in the RAF in the 30's....

Not sure if anyone is interested in this info but I would like to leave this stuff to a museum near where Ralph crashed in the Midlands when I 'pop my clogs'!

Regards....Chris.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Austin-sparks

hi, my name is sue Austin-sparks and Ralph Harold Austin- sparks is my grandad's brother. in reply to you above firstly, Christopher. your grandparents are probably george Mitchell and olive Millicent (nee Austin-sparks) Mitchell. is your dad john (Herbert) ? we are probably second cousins!! I would dearly love to see the photos and things you have, Chris, if you'd be willing. I live in devon but would travel anywhere!

Secondly for Armourer Sargent ( original poster) and any other readers, I relate some bits that might interest you. thanks for asking. I can't believe it!

Colonel

Ralph Harold AUSTIN-SPARKS

OBE

RAF

Died: 25/07/1918 - Age: 37 yrs

Action: Accident

Buried : CLIFTON-ON-DUNSMORE (ST. MARY) ADDITIONAL CHURCHYARD

Awards : Officer, The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire

Summary : AUSTIN-SPARKS, Ralph, Colonel, Royal Air Force. Ralph Austin-Sparks had a very eclectic career in the armed forces. At the outbreak of war in August 1914 he was in Argentina and promptly returned home to join up. He joined the London Scottish (1/14 London Regiment) in November 1914. He swiftly transferred to the cavalry in the 11th Hussars, 12th Cavalry Brigade in December 1914. Then in May 1915 was promoted to Captain in the Royal Artillery. Within only one month he was attached to the Royal Flying Corps and in July 1915 was badly wounded whilst flying over Ypres. We do not know the nature of the wounds but perhaps due to the need for convalescence or because he has some front line flying experience, he was posted in October 1915 to No 5 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron, followed by spells in 19 Squadron and 34 Squadron. In July 1918 he was at the School of Special Flying and also Col.-in-Command R.A.F. (Midland Area). Schools of Special Flying were set up at Turnberry, Marske, Sedgeforth, Feiston, East Fortune Gosport and Ayr, where finished pilots could simulate combat flying under the supervision of veteran instructors. On the 25th July 1918 Colonel Ralph Harold Austin-Sparks was killed when a Bristol F2B 8917, of the School of Special Flying spun into the ground at Lilbourne. He left a wife, Mrs S J Austin-Sparks ,and a two year old son,Philip Ralph Austin-sparks who was later killed in action on feb 11 th 1938.

Colonel Ralph Harold Austin-Sparks was a member of the Thames Rowing Club, Belsize Boxing Club and the London Scottish Rugby Football Club. He was conferred the honour of Officer, The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the King's Birthday Honours in June 1918. his brother was John Austin-Sparks, DFC, Flight Commander of B Flight, 103 Squadron RAF in August 1918.

Ralph and grandad also had another brother, John, who lived until he was 64 years old and was awarded the DFC

John Austin-Sparks

Nationality: British

Rank: Lieutenant

Rank (2nd): A/Captain

DFC Distinguished Flying Cross

This distinguished awarded was presented to John Austin-Sparks for an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the

His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to confer the mentioned Rewards on Officers and other ranks of the Royal Air Force in recognition of gallantry in flying operations against the enemy. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. An officer distinguished for gallantry and fine leadership. On 29th September Captain Austin-Sparks rendered exceptionally fine service. Detailed to carry out an important reconnaissance, he succeeded in reaching his objective and obtaining the necessary information. The opposition he had to encounter was exceptionally heavy and concentrated, his machine was badly damaged, and his observer's gun, with its mounting, was carried away by shell fire. Eventually both he and his observer were wounded, Captain Austin-Sparks being rendered temporarily unconscious and unable to control his machine. He, however, recovered sufficiently to land his machine safely with the aid of his observer.

The Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.) was instituted on 3rd June 1918 and is a Level 3 Gallantry Award, originally for Commission Officers and Warrant Officers of the Royal Air Force. Later it was for all ranks of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, and Royal Air Force.The recipient, John Austin-Sparks, as an owner of the Distinguished Flying Cross is entitled to use the letters D.F.C. after his name.

Duty Location: France & Flanders

My son is also now in the forces, but being colour blind was not allowed to fly, but he has the same 'dare devil' approach and loves every minute. he has just returned from Afghanistan, where he was promoted a few days after arrival because he showed ' leadership qualities' and 'bravery' when faced with "an incident" (army speak!!) There is certainly a 'rogue gene' passing through the generations as they all have been constantly on the go and love the adrenalin rush. Îm glad it's being channelled very positively.

Thanks again Armourer bearer sergeant, and please get in touch , chris via email : safebuttemp@mail.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello Sue Austin-Sparks...........

Have sent email to safebuttemp@mail.com .....but forgot to add my mobile...07795270056 and landline 01209698929

Am travelling through Devon today 7-9-14 and will camp over in Ashburton / Dartmoor tonight.

Best regards,

Chris Mitchell

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Hi Sue Austin-Sparks.......just a postcript to my last comms...I was led to believe by my family that Ralph's son Philip was killed in a flying accident and not in action as you stated....I have a lovely photo of him in RAF uniform not long before he crashed due to some formation flying in which the aeroplane above decended on top of Philips aeroplane at altitude, I believe the pilot who caused the mid air survived!.... anyway Philip couldn't have died in action in 38 as war didn't begin 'till 39.

What a pity my father and uncle didn't have access to a computer and the info contained in this site forum.....It would have been great talking to them about all this family history.

I wonder why they never mentioned Ralph's brothers, but I do vaguely remember my dad Donald mentioning another part of the family but never elaborated ,and now of course it's all too late unless what you say about 2nd cousins etc is fact.....I have had a strange email from someone who obviously reads this forum and made a placename comment that could only have come from here about my trip through Devon.

Regards,.....Chris.

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