Ted Sparrow was born on 18 February 1922. In the summer of 1939, at the age of 17½ and earmarked for university, Ted favoured the service life and applied for the marines. Ted’s father told him he was too young and should go back to school!
Undaunted, Ted then saw an advert for direct entry to the RAF as Acting Pilot Officer which his father agreed to. In December 1939 he presented himself to the recruiting centre with his letter of acceptance for training and officially joined RAFVR on his 18th birthday, 18th February 1940. He worked at Standard Telephones for a year while waiting for training to start as aircrew.
Ted completed flying training with the RAF in Canada, first on the Tiger Moth and then the Harvard. Ted graduated top of the class, qualified as a service pilot, was awarded a commission, and was retained as an instructor in Canada gaining valuable additional flying experience. By the time Ted returned to England, the Battle of Britain was over and there was a period of additional training before joining 56 Squadron, where he converted to Hurricanes on convoy patrol and escorting bombers raiding targets in German-occupied France. In September 1941 the squadron had become the first unit to receive the Hawker Typhoon.
Throughout 1942 and 1943 the unit was based with No.12 Group RAF at RAF Matlaske in Norfolk where Ted joined them. During this time 56 Squadron's role changed from that of low-level defence against Fw 190 and Bf 109 fighter-bomber attacks into becoming fighter bombers themselves, attacking ground and sea targets, first with 2 x 500lb bombs and later with rockets.
In early 1944 while still at RAF Matlaske in Norfolk, 56 Squadron were visited by Roland Beamont who invited them to join 150 Wing, then being formed at RAF Newchurch. Here they joined 3 Squadron and 486 (NZ) Squadron; slowly re-equipping, one plane at a time, with the new Hawker Tempest V. 56 Squadron initially kept its Typhoons and was then temporarily equipped with Spitfire IXs until sufficient supplies of Tempests were available.
Ted wrote, “Whilst I was still serving on No 56(F) Squadron and flying Spitfires I was fortunate enough to be one of the many pilots who actually participated in the invasion of 6th June 1944 and numerous other escort duties to protect our invading troops. Typically we would escort the medium bombers at about 10,000ft and afterwards we were allowed to drop down and find targets of opportunity”
In an interview Ted recalled that, at the time, the Tempests at Newchurch were restricted to operations over Britain because of the fear of this new fighter being shot down and discovered by the enemy. Beamont, however, was having none of it and after lobbying the Air Ministry, the Newchurch Tempests were in action over the beaches before the end of the first day.
Shortly after converting to Tempests, Beamont called Ted in to his hut and announced that Ted would move from 56 Squadron and take over as a Flight Commander of 3 Squadron. It was later in June 1944 that the first V1 flying bombs were launched against London, and the Tempest's excellent low-altitude performance made it one of the preferred tools for dealing with the small fast-flying unmanned missiles so Ted, in 3 Squadron along with the other squadrons of 150 Wing was tasked to intercept them.
Ted (back row 2nd from left) with 3 Sqn pilots in front of the Operations Hut at Oak Farm, Newchurch.
After his accident Ted was termed as 'fit to return to working duties' after a very long spell of remedial treatment and he managed to talk the Air Ministry Posting Department into allowing him to return to full-time flying duties. The only proviso that was stipulated at that time was that he remained in the UK, so that the doctors could keep him under their close surveillance for the next year. Fortunately, no restrictions were imposed on the type of aircraft or altitude at which he could fly, or on duties he could perform.
This stipulation meant that Ted could not return to his old Squadron, which was still operating in Germany, but he was able to obtain an appointment to an Operational Training Unit in Northumberland to assist in the operational training of new young Pilots on the Tempest and Typhoon aircraft for front line duties.
In 1945 Ted was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for wartime flying duties as a fighter pilot, and went on to complete the RAF flying instructors course, after which he was employed as a Flying Instructor. He followed that by working as an Examining Officer (re-categorisation of flying instructors) where he was upgraded to A2 category (cfs) in November 1947 and to A1 (cfs*) in June 1948. He was awarded cfs* as an exceptional flying instructor and examiner.
Ted was then employed as a member of the directing staff of RAF Flying College where in 1951 he was awarded the King's Commendation for Valuable Services in the Air (KCVSA) for duties completed with the RAF Examining Wing. In early 1952 he completed a United States Armed Forces Arctic Survival course during a visit to Alaska as a member of RAF Flying College staff. Eighteen months later Ted was employed as a Selection Officer at RAF Aircrew and Officers Selection Centre and in January 1954 was promoted to Executive Officer. Throughout 1956 Ted completed Flying refresher training and conversion on Hunter (jet fighter) aircraft and also completed the School of Land/Air Warfare course leading to his appointment to command 71(Eagle) Squadron on Day Fighter duties based in Germany in June.
“I was fortunate to gain the appointment as the Commanding Officer of No 71 (Eagle) Squadron flying Hunter V jet aircraft in the mid 1950s. That was at RAF station Brüggen in Germany. The Eagle Squadron was one of the Units that was formed during World War II to house the American Pilots who volunteered for duty in the RAF before the USA entered the war as one of the Allied Nations. It had been disbanded and it was reformed to become one of the 2nd ATAF Squadrons operating in Europe. Hence, the 'Eagle' designation.
It then became quite a humorous talking point in aviation circles, therefore, when a 'Sparrow' was placed in charge as its CO to command the 'Eagles'. But it all worked well until there was a major cut back on military spending and costs to the UK budget and the whole HUNTER wing of three Squadrons at RAF Brüggen was disbanded in 1957.”
Throughout 1957 Ted completed the School of Aviation Medicine course at RAF Farnborough, an Escape and Evasion course (which included skiing tuition in the Bavarian Alps) and a RAF Guided Weapons course. In May 1957 he was employed as Operations Staff Officer at HQ 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, Germany:
“I then continued my duties in Germany, but as a Staff Officer at the 2nd ATAF Headquarters in Rheindahlen. I was fortunate, however, to remain in full flying practice, using a Vampire T11 aircraft based at the nearby RAF Aerodrome of Wildenrath during the tour."
Left: 71 Squadron at RAF Station Bruggen, Germany. Ted Sparrow 4th from left front row.
During 1958 Ted completed the American Officer's Nuclear Weapons course at USAREURIMPS, Oberammergau, Germany and was then employed as Course Director at RAF Flying College (later renamed RAF Air Warfare College). He was responsible for advanced flying and operational staff training of senior RAF officers.
“I next returned to the UK as a Wing Commander and appointed as a Senior Tutor at the RAF Air Warfare College which was then based at RAF Manby in Lincolnshire. This appointment also included flying duties and using the most modern of RAF and other service aircraft with which I was obviously delighted. Only Senior Service Officers were selected to complete that course.”
In June 1959 Ted was a staff graduate of RAF Flying College (pfc) and by September 1960 he was appointed to command 51 Squadron, flying Comet and Canberra aircraft.
In 1962 Ted was honoured in the Queen's Birthday Honours list and was Awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC) for duties completed as Officer commanding 51 Squadron.
Right: Ted Sparrow with his wife and daughter following the presentation of the AFC in 1962 by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
He went on to complete a NATO Staff College tour and awarded symbol “nadc”, and was appointed as NATO Staff Officer to the training division of NATO HQ Allied Forces SE Europe, Naples, Italy. He was responsible to the Commander in Chief AFSE for the implementation of Standard Agreements (STANAGS) by Military Forces of the Southern NATO Nations.
In 1965 Ted was appointed as Chief Instructor to the RAF Aircrew Officer Training School, where he was responsible for the satisfactory officer training and maintenance of adequate standards in all RAF Direct Entrant Aircrew Trainees. (Approximately 1300 potential aircrew officers).
During 1967 years later he was appointed as Staff Officer to HQ 22 Group of RAF Training Command, responsible for the implementation of policy concerning the ground training of all student officers, airmen and WRAFs entering the Service and for the maintenance of adequate standards at RAF Training Stations within the Group's chain of Command and Control. he also completed the Home Office Civil Defence Staff College Senior Officers Course at Sunningdale, Ascot, Berkshire, in connection with subsidiary duties as RAF Regional Liaison Officer for No.9 (Midland) Civil Defence Region and qualified as an Associate member of the British Institute of Management in readiness for resettlement in civilian employment on retirement from the RAF (membership no. 89127 ... MBIM).
A year later Ted qualified as a member of the Institution of Training Officers in preparation for leaving the RAF (MITO) and completed course of resettlement training in Industrial Relations and Personnel Administration at the London School of Economics and Business Studies, NW Polytechnic, Camden Town, London.
Ted ended duties at 22 Group HQ, RAF Market Drayton and retired from full time service with RAF with the rank of Wing Commander on 18th February 1969.
After leaving the service, Ted joined the emerging Industrial Training Boards in building trade although he knew nothing about building but he reasoned that he did know a lot about training! As soon as it was announced that Civil Aviation had opened up an Industrial Training Board, there was an opportunity to get near to aeroplanes again so he applied. The person who interviewed him was one of his former commanding officers. He was appointed Officer in charge of all Foreign Airlines operating in the UK where he was responsible for establishing proper training procedures for their personnel in the UK.
In retirement, Ted lived in Devon and Dorset. He was widowed in 2007 and moved to Waverley House in New Milton in 2014. In December 2015 he was awarded one of France’s highest honours, appointed to the rank of "Chevalier of the Ordre National de la Legion d'honneur", in recognition of the role he played defeating the Nazi’s during the Second World War.
Ted Sparrow died on 13th April 2016 aged 94.
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