Sergeant Richard Henry Sproge (427266) served in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War Two. Born on 30th September 1921, he was the son of Richard Peter Sproge and Claudia Sproge (née Kochanovsky) of Manjimup, Western Australia. Richard had three 3 brothers and 4 sisters.
Sergeant Sproge died on 27th March 1944. The 22-year-old was the navigator on board Avro Anson MG385 on a non-operational training flight with No. 2 Advanced Flying Unit.
During the night flying exercise, the Anson developed engine problems. At 0021hrs, the crew received a message to divert to RAF Bishops Court, Co. Down and to land there. The pilot and navigator altered the route but soon after, the starboard engine cut out. Pilot Sergeant RC Gillespie increased the other engine but it failed seconds later.
The pilot ordered the crew to bale out at 2,500 feet. The plane came down at 0120hrs at Bowhill Farm, Crumlin, Co. Antrim. The remaining aircrew baled out and survived although many sustained injuries. Reports suggest that Sproge baled out but had an issue with the strapping on his parachute.
An inquiry found that both outboard cocks were on and the fuel tanks empty. Conversely, the inboard tanks contained around 15 gallons of fuel but both cocks were off. The engine failure was likely due to a shortage of fuel.
Richard Henry Sproge’s grave is in Grave 32a of Killead Presbyterian Church, Co. Antrim. His name is on Panel 130 in the Commemorative Area of the Australian War Memorial. Sproge’s headstone bears the inscription:
Always with you in thoughts. Kith and kin in Australia.