Pilot Officer Gordon Charles McKENNA

Service No: 432540
Born: Grafton NSW, 26 November 1924
Enlisted in the RAAF: 2 January 1943
Unit: No. 156 Squadron (RAF), RAF Station Upwood
Died: Air Operations: (No. 156 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ME366), Germany, 3 February 1945, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Charles Herbert and Alice Veronica McKenna, of Clovelly, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Grafton NSW
Remembered: Panel 126, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 1652 hours on the night of 3 February 1945 Lancaster ME366 took off from Upwood detailed to mark the Prosper Benzol plant at Bottrop, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it failed to return to base. The aircraft exploded over the target area and four of the crew members were killed and three became Prisoners of War.

The crew members of ME366 were:

Flying Officer Cecil Philip Clark (182483) (RAFVR) (Air Bomber)
Flying Officer John Costigan (45086) (Rear Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 5 February 1946
Flight Lieutenant John Granville Escourt Evans DFC (418527) (Pilot) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 29 October 1945
Pilot Officer Gordon Charles McKenna (432540) (Mid Upper Gunner)
Warrant Officer Frederick Parr DFM (570544) (RAF) (Flight Engineer)
Pilot Officer William Henry Preece (426390) (Wireless Air Gunner) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 26 October 1945
Flight Lieutenant Francis Charles Salt (130069) (RAFVR) (Navigator)

In his PoW report Flight Lieutenant Evans stated “Approximately 5 minutes after leaving the target the aircraft exploded. There was a fairly heavy barrage of flak but it did not seem to be near us. I was blown clear immediately and no order to abandon was given. As the main explosion blew the cabin section of the aircraft off I believe that the Engineer, Air Bomber and Navigator were either killed outright or blown out without their chutes packs as all they had were observer type chutes and had no chance of putting them on. There was another explosion about the mid upper turret which blew Costigan clear and probably killed McKenna (Mid Upper Gunner). Aircraft crashed 20 miles north west of Bottrop. I saw no chutes during my descent and the aircraft disintegrated without warning. I later learned that Costigan was blown from his Rear Turret (Pilot type chute on) and
Preece (WOP) managed to escape from the remnants of the fuselage. I was passing a small village when some children saw me and told their father who appeared with a revolver before I could escape.”

Pilot Officer Preece in his PoW report stated “Aircraft hit by direct flak bursts. Complete nose of aircraft blown off down to WOP’s position. Pilot blown out. Starboard wing blown off, height 17,000 feet. Nav, Bomb Aimer and Engineer presumed killed with first hit. Rear turret blown off but Rear Gunner Costigan survived. Nothing seen or heard of Mid Upper Gunner. I baled out at 9000 feet or less. Aircraft crashed 20 miles north of Essen. Pilot, Rear Gunner and WOP survived. Captured 4 February 1945. Released American 3rd Army 29 April.45.”


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/262/780

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