A HERO pilot who averted the deaths of dozens by bravely steering his plane away from Sunderland homes has been immortalised in glass.
Seventy years to the day since Pilot Officer Cyril Barton flew a badly-damaged Halifax Bomber clear of houses in Ryhope, a striking glass artwork was yesterday unveiled at the new Barton Centre at Hopewood Park.
It will stand as a permanent reminder to the young aviator who made the ultimate sacrifice near to the new mental health hospital, which is being built on the site of the former Ryhope General.
Cyril’s sisters Joyce Voysey and Cynthia Maidment were among the RAF representatives, dignitaries and staff from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust who attended the unveiling of the glazed art work, which was designed by Dan Savage.
Joyce, who was 10 at the time of her big brother’s death, said: “It’s been lovely today, really lovely. We are so very proud of our brother and this is a great memento of him.
“There have been many memorials to him over the years but none in etched glass, this one is quite unusual.”
Officer Barton and his six crew members from 578 Squadron took part in a bombing mission to Nuremberg when the Halifax Bomber they were travelling in was hit by the Luftwaffe.
Though the aircraft was badly damaged and leaking fuel, Cyril decided to complete his mission before making the long journey home. He almost made it back to base in Yorkshire but was forced to crash land in Ryhope, steering clear of a row of miners’ houses and into the colliery.
Though his crew survived, Officer Barton died from his injuries. He was just 22. For his actions in the attack on Nuremberg, Barton was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.
Joyce, who lives in Surrey where her brother was born, said: “I remember Cyril well. He was always happy and smiling, always doing things for us when he was home. He was often away on operations but when he was home, he always made his presence known.”
Among the possessions returned to the Bartons was a birthday card which Cyril had penned to his little sister.
She added: “It brings it all back having the RAF here today. We feel so honoured to have Cyril remembered in this way here.”
Also in attendance was Alan Mitcheson, 81, from Hollycarrside who can recall the crash happening. He has long campaigned for the brave pilot to be honoured by the city where he saved lives.
As a result, Barton’s name and story was added to the war memorial on Ryhope village green in 1985 and a plaque was also unveiled at Cherry Knowle Hospital in 1991.
Alan, who is soon to release his book of memories of the war, said: “The artwork is brilliant, what I particularly like about it is the detail that has been taken from old maps of the area.
“I was 11 years and 11 months old when the crash happened. I looked out of my window and could see the outline of the bomber over the cliff tops.”
Alan recalls seeing the bomber gliding over the tops of the rooftops before Pilot Barton managed to prevent it from smashing into homes.
Hopewood Park is a new £50 million, 137 bed mental health hospital, currently being built by Laing O’Rourke. It is part of the Trust’s Pride Project, which also included the new dementia centre at Monkwearmouth Hospital which opened late last year.