LEST WE FORGET
Flight Sergeant Paul Francis O’CONNELL
Service No: 426377
Born: Toowoomba QLD, 17 December 1921
Enlisted in the RAAF: 20 June 1942
Unit: No. 467 Squadron, RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire
Died: Air Operations: (No. 467 Squadron Lancaster aircraft ND729), France, 25 June 1944, Aged 22 Years
Buried: Poix-De-Picardie Churchyard, Somme, France
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Michael Francis and Annie Maria O’Connell, of Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. Pharmaceutical Chemist
Roll of Honour: Toowoomba QLD
Remembered: Panel 111, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
On the night of 24th-25th June, although No. 466 had a quiet trip to Le Grand Rossignol, Nos. 463 and 467 had an unhappy introduction to Noball targets when a force from No. 5 Group was sent against Prouville. Between them the two RAAF units supplied 34 Lancasters and eight other Australian pilots flew in the total force of 112 aircraft. At first all augured well because the weather was clear with only a slight haze and the initial illumination and marking was done punctually. Before the attack got under way, however, intense enemy searchlight activity in cooperation with guns and fighters threatened to disrupt the work of the pathfinder “backers-up”, so the master bomber ordered the main force to refrain from bombing and to circle the target until a deliberate attack could begin.
The 20-minutes delay caused by this zealous attempt to make the best possible attack gave enemy fighters and guns ample opportunity to take heavy toll of the bombers, 13 being destroyed. Wing Commander Donald Roy Donaldson (400631) who had taken over command of No. 463 as recently as 18th June was shot down by gunfire and two other Lancasters of his squadron captained by Pilot Officer Jeoffrey Maxwell Tilbrook (417248) and Pilot Officer John Francis Martin (16203) failed to return. No. 467 also lost two crews while the Lancaster captained by Pilot Officer Johns DFC (425021) was so heavily damaged by cannon fire from a night fighter that the rear turret was almost completely severed and the gunner blown out without his parachute. The aft end of the aircraft was set on fire and with the inter-communication set out of action the mid-upper gunner baled out. Nevertheless the fire was brought under control and, although the badly-damaged Lancaster was difficult to control and was virtually defenceless, Johns insisted on continuing his journey and bombed the target. … Flight Lieutenant Forrest (415635) of No. 61 Squadron (RAF) also failed to return from this raid.
Extract from Herington, J. (John) Air War Over Europe 1944-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1963 – Pages 176-7
Lancaster ND729 took off from RAF Waddington at 2233 hours on the night of 24/25th June 1944 to bomb flying bomb launch sites at Prouville, France. Bomb load 2 x 1000 lb (450 kg) and 14 x 500 lb (225 kg) bombs. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. Sixteen aircraft from the Squadron took part in the raid and two of these including ND 729 failed to return. Post war it was established that the aircraft while orbiting the target area was coned by a searchlight and on being hit by flak ND729 broke up over Mareuil-Caubert (Somme). Mareuil-Caubert is a village 6kms south from Abbeville, France.
The crew members of ND729 were:
Flight Sergeant Herbert Kenith Brown (423639) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Flight Lieutenant Roland Reginald Cowan DFC (425278) (Pilot)
Sergeant Harry Kitchener Feltham (1540769) (RAFVR) (Flight Engineer)
Flight Sergeant Paul Francis O’Connell (426377) (Bomb Aimer)
Sergeant Jack Sheffield (1578397) (RAFVR) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Arthur Albert Summers (429503) (Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Andrew Leslie West (422779) (Navigator)
No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster LM574 (Pilot Officer Jeoffrey Maxwell Tilbrook (417248) (Pilot)) on 25 June 1944.
No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster LM571 (Pilot Officer John Francis Martin (16203) (Pilot)) on 25 June 1944.
No. 463 Squadron lost Lancaster LM587 (Wing Commander Donald Roy Donaldson DFC (400631) (Pilot) (Commanding officer No. 463 Squadron)) on 25 June 1944.
No. 467 Squadron lost Lancaster LM450 (Pilot Officer Arthur Albert William Berryman (415495) (Pilot)) on 25 June 1944.
No. 467 Squadron suffered a further operational casualty (Flight Sergeant John James Fallon (414546) (Rear Gunner)) on 25 June 1944.
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 Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/31/213