Redvers Cyril Malcolm Parris


Died : 29 July 1943


Cricket has always been important to Ringmer and to the men from Ringmer. One of the famous cricketers of the past was Frederick Parris, the Grandfather of Redvers and it was in 1894 that Frederick or Fergie as he was known, made his mark. During a match between Gloucestershire and Sussex he bowled W.G. Grace out in both innings. The Great Man was so impressed he gave Fergie £20 to buy a souvenir of the occasion. The Sussex bowler bought a gold watch which he had suitably engraved. Alas, it is no longer with the family but they hope one day it will return. Incidentally, Sussex won by an innings and 104 runs.

Young Redvers was following his grandfather’s sport by playing for Ringmer Cricket Club and who knows how his career may have progressed had not the War so cruelly intervened. Redvers Parris had been born on 3rd November 1920 at Norlington Lane, Ringmer and was educated at Ringmer School. He worked at the Mansfield Garage, Lewes before joining the Royal Air Force in 1940.

According to his brother Keith, who lived in nearby Glynde, Sergeant Parris number 912784 was usually a rear gunner in a Wellington Mark IC Bomber. It was not an enviable job for, as ‘tail end Charlie’, one was most vulnerable and lonely locked in a very cramped turret at the extreme end of the aeroplane. Your only real friends whilst there were two .303 machine guns with which to fight whatever the enemy threw at you. Communication with the rest of the crew was by crackly intercom. Constant vigilance was mandatory for the first fleeting glance of the enemy fighters was often from the rear. A telephone call from a surviving crew member to the author of 'Valient Hearts of Ringmer', sometime after the book was published, advised that on the day of the fatal flight Redvers occupied the turret in the very front of the Wellington. He also clarified details concerning the cause of the crash.

As part of 215 Squadron flying from Jessore in India, the usual assignments varied between bombing Japanese positions in the occupied villages of Burma, to training paratroopers. It was all part of the routine of slowly but inexorably winning the War. This part of India has an annual average rainfall of 66 inches, much of which falls in July. It is very wet. Events were soon to hot up for the six- man crew of Wellington number BB506 with the call sign ‘H - How’. wellington

Take off on 29th July 1943 was at 07.12 for a reconnaissance and intruder patrol of the Arakan Coast of Burma. In short, all enemy movement whether by land or sea was to be reported and, if appropriate, bombed. All eyes were peeled for Japanese fighters but it was evidently an engine that blew up and set fire to the aeroplane which caused it to crash in the Bay of Bengal. Nothing was heard at ‘base’ from ‘H - How’ after it took off and failed to return. The following day a search was made for the missing bomber by four aircraft from 99 Squadron, but they found no trace. All hope for the crew was abandoned.

The 8th August dawned darkly for 215 Squadron as a Wellington crashed on take off in torrential rain killing all the crew.

The Squadron Report continues:

One bright feature was the safe return after 8 days in a dingy of all the crew (except one) of the aircraft lost on 29th July 1943. [They] Landed on an island in the Sundarbans and were taken to hospital.

Redvers Parris was known to be alive after the fire started in that he responded to the pilot on the intercom who had alerted the crew of an imminent forced landing. It seems likely however that Redvers was trapped in his turret after the bomber ditched in the sea and he drowned as it sank.

As he has no grave Sergeant Parris is commemorated on Singapore Memorial to the airmen missing in respect of the Far East Theatre of War. He is also mentioned on his parents gravestone in Ringmer Churchyard. The surviving members of that fateful mission were Sgt J.A. Gee; Sgt A.C. Tenneson; F/O R.F.N. Jones; F/S L.E. Baxter and Sgt L.E.G. Baldry and they came to visit Redvers' parents as soon as they were returned to Britain.

Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993