The Pilot, the Lodge and the Dutch Resistance

Our story starts in 1985 when John Hartnett, the owner of Holly Lodge in the Grove, had a visit from John and Jean Ettridge who were interested in the house as a relation of their's, Stanley Sparkes, lived there during WW2.

Stanley was originally a soldier who was rescued from Dunkirk but after returning to England he changed services and became a pilot and flew Halifax bombers out of Burn Selby, Yorkshire, with 578 Squadron. His plane, MZ563 LK-Y, was shot down by flak over Someren, Holland, on the 22nd April 1944. He was rescued by the Dutch resistance and spent most of the time in a woodland camp with the resistance before being returned to England in September 1944. After being processed in London, he returned to Biggin Hill (his sister, Mabel, still lived there, in Holly Lodge) and knocked on her door on September 26th – his 26th birthday.

In January 1986 John received a Christmas card and letter addressed to "Mr. Sparkes (RAF Pilot), Holly Lodge, Biggin Hill)" It was from a Mr. A. Bennik who wrote:

...... I am the man who in Someren at first spoke English to you and who carried you on cycle to the school in Someren with Father Geboirs (?) when it was dark. Please let me know if you remember me and what has happened to you.

John had exchanged phone numbers with John and Jean Hartnett and contacted them to see if Stanley was still alive. They gave him Bill Sparkes', his brother, address in Swindon and obtained Stanley's address. He now lives in Canada. John passed on the Christmas card and letter to Stanley. Stanley never made contact with Mr Bennik. However, Stanley's son, Barry, has been in touch, via e-mails, with his son Jan Bennik and hope to meet him when he visits Europe in 2011.

After retiring from the RAF in 1955, Stanley took up farming in Canada – near Beaverlodge, Alberta. He was married at that time (to a girl from Beaverlodge) with 3 children.

Incidentally, Bill Sparkes' daughter, Mary Wilkinson, has contributed a couple of other photos to this website (Temple Bottom store and Tabernacle service).


Holly Lodge, taken in 1907, where Stanley Sparkes lived from time to time with his sister, Mabel Biddle, and her husband, Bert, who owned the property.

John Hartnett



This is Stanley Sparkes in his flying gear. The date of this photo is not known but must have been during WW2.



This photo shows Stanley Sparkes, centre leaning forward, in the woodland camp with other RAF airmen.


John Hartnett



Stanley Sparkes is second from the left with the checked shirt. What the event is is not known.


John Hartnett


Stanley now lives in Canada and turned 91 last September (2009) but suffers from Parkinson's Disease.