Cyril Joe Barton

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Cyril Joe Barton
File:Cyril Joe Barton.jpg
Born 5 June 1921
Elveden, Suffolk
Died 31 March 1944 (aged 22)
Ryhope Colliery, County Durham
Buried at Bonner Hill Road Cemetery, Kingston-upon-Thames
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Air Force
Years of service 1941 - 1944
Rank Pilot Officer
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png Victoria Cross

Cyril Joe Barton VC (5 June 1921 – 31 March 1944) was an English World War 2 military aviator and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth Armed Forces.

RAF career

Cyril Barton volunteered for aircrew duties and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 16 April 1941.

After pilot training via the 'Arnold Scheme' at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama, and 'Darr Aero Tech' at Albany, Georgia in the United States of America,[1] he qualified as a Sergeant Pilot on 10 November 1942. He then returned to England and completed his training with No. 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit at Rufforth, Yorkshire.

On 5 September 1943, Barton and his crew joined No.78 Squadron, and Barton was commissioned as a Pilot Officer three weeks later. Their first operational mission was against a target at Montlucon in occupied France. Barton completed nine sorties with No.78 until 15 January 1944, when he was posted to No.578 Squadron, based at RAF Burn in North Yorkshire. His second sortie with the new Squadron was an attack upon the city of Stuttgart in Germany, flying in Halifax LK797 (codename LK-E). By 30 March 1944, he had completed six sorties in LK797, which the crew had named Excalibur. Prior to his final mission from RAF Burn, Barton had already taken part in four attacks upon Berlin.[1]

Attack on Nuremberg

On the night of 30 March 1944, while flying in an attack on the city of Nuremberg, in Germany, whilst 70 miles (110 km) from the target, Pilot Officer Barton's Handley Page Halifax bomber (Serial identification: LK797) was badly shot-up in attacks by two Luftwaffe night-fighters, a Junkers Ju 88 and a Messerschmitt 210,[1] resulting in two of its fuel tanks being punctured, both its radio and rear turret gun port being disabled, the starboard inner engine being critically damaged and the internal intercom lines being cut. In a running battle, despite the attacks being persistent and determined, Barton as captain of the aircraft succeeded by good flying in throwing off and escaping his faster and more agile assailants. However, a misunderstanding in on-board communications in the aircraft at the height of the crisis resulted in three of the 7-man crew bailing out, leaving Barton with no navigator, bombardier or wireless operator. Rather than turn back for England, he decided to press on with the mission deep into the III Reich's heartland, against the odds of further attacks in a semi-wrecked aircraft which was leaking fuel and handicapped by lack of a full crew. Arriving over the target, he released the bomb payload himself and then, as Barton turned the aircraft for home, its ailing starboard engine blew-up. Subsequently he nursed the damaged airframe over a four-and-a-half hour flight with no navigational assistance back across the hostile defences of Germany and occupied Europe, and across the North Sea. As LK797 crossed the English coast at dawn 90 miles to the north of its base its fuel ran out because of the battle damage leakage and, with only one engine still running on vapours, and at too low a height to allow a remaining crew bail-out by parachute, Barton crash-landed the bomber at the village of Ryhope, steering away in the final descent from the houses and coal pit-head workings. Barton was pulled from the wrecked aircraft alive but died of injuries sustained in the landing before he reached the hospital. The three remaining on-board members of the crew survived the forced landing. One local man, a miner, also died when he was struck by a part of the aeroplane's wreckage during the impact of the crash.[2][3]

After her son's death his mother received a posthumous letter addressed to her from him containing the following passage:-

'I hope that you will never receive this letter, but I quite expect that you will. I know what "Ops." over Germany means, and I have no illusions about it. By my own calculations the average lifespan of an aircrew is twenty operations.'

(The attack on Nuremberg was Barton's nineteenth sortie).[4]

Award of the Victoria Cross

For his actions in the attack on Nuremberg Barton was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously in June 1944.[5]


Barton's body was buried with full military honours in April 1944 in a registered war grave at the South-West corner of Kingston-upon-Thames Cemetery, his home town in Surrey.

Barton Green in New Malden, Surrey, where he had attended Beverley Boys School, was named in his honour in the early 1950s.

Barton Road at the Yorkshire Air Museum in Elvington, North Yorkshire, was named in his honour in the year 2000 on the 56th anniversary of his death.

A housing estate in Ryhope, "Barton Park", was also named after him, and a nearby street was named "Halifax Place", after the bomber-type that he flew in the exploit.

Kingston College, where Barton was a pupil when the war broke out, offers an annual prize for the pupil of the year, which is named after him.

A portrait painting hangs in his memory in the "Wheatsheaf Inn" at Burn, North Yorkshire, where Barton's squadron, 578 Squadron, was based.

Barton's Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, Middlesex.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Victoria Cross citation, London Gazette, 27 June 1944
  2. Jones & 1978, pp. 121–128.
  3. Moyes 1976, p. 357.
  4. Article on the opening of a new residential building district at the village of Ryhope named in Pilot Officer Barton's honour, Sunderland Echo, 21 March 2002.
  5. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36584. p. 3041. 23 June 1944. Retrieved 01 July 2015.


  • Buzzell, Nora (ed.) (1997). Register of the Victoria Cross in "This England" (3rd ed.). This England Alma House. ISBN 0-906324-27-0.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Harvey, David (1999). Monuments to Courage: Victoria Cross Headstones and Memorials. Vol.2, 1917-1982. Kevin & Kay Patience. OCLC 59437300.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Jones, Geoffrey (1978). Raider: The Halifax and its Flyers. London: William Kimber & Co. Ltd. ISBN 0-7183-0066-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Laffin, John (1997). British VCs of World War 2: A study in Heroism. Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lowther, William (1994). Cyril Joe Barton, VC. Wear Books. ISBN 0-905108-25-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. (1976). Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd. ISBN 0-354-01027-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links