Sparks had volunteered for the RNZAF in 1941 and his log records 45 missions with 487 (NZ) Squadron. Having flown 11 trips initially in the Ventura 1 light bomber, the squadron was rested and converted to the De Havilland Mosquito twin-engined bomber.
On February 18, 1944, along with his regular navigator P/O Dunlop, he was briefed for a dangerous bombing operation on Amiens Prison – which would become known as Operation Jericho.
This very low altitude attack aimed to blow holes in the prison walls, kill German guards and use shock waves to spring open cell doors. The French Resistance was waiting on the outside to rescue prisoners who got out and spirit them away.
Sparks was detailed to fly number 3 in the first wave, his squadron tasked with the destruction of the guards’ quarters. The target was reached and Sparks and his navigator approached at only 10ft from the ground, dropped their bombs, made a steep powered climb and his aircraft only just cleared the roof of the prison.
Some 258 escaped, including 79 Resistance and political prisoners.
Post-war, Sparks later served extensively in the Far East and was rewarded with the Air Force Cross in 1960.
The medal group and archive of Sparks was offered at Stafford auction house Marlows (22% buyer’s premium) on September 15, estimated at £4000-6000. The items included the AFC and his logbooks. The lot sold for £12,500.