Sergeant Colin O’DONNELL

Service No: 402168
Born: Casino NSW, 23 August 1916
Enlisted in the RAAF: 24 June 1940
Unit: No. 3 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit (RAF), Detachment RAF Station Silloth
Died: Injuries from an Aircraft Accident (No. 3 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit Whitley aircraft P4791 on 16 July 1941), Silloth, 11 August 1941, Aged 24 Years
Buried: Silloth (Causeway Head) Cemetery, Holme Low, Cumberland
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Herbert Henry and Elsie Martha O’Donnell, of Swansea, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Newcastle NSW
Remembered: Panel 128, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 1405 hours on 16 July 1941 Whitley P4971 took off from Silloth for dual instruction purposes. The aircraft crashed at 1415 hours when visibility was 20 miles with 5/10ths cloud at 2500 feet. Two of the crew were killed in the accident and four were injured, one fatally. A Court of Inquiry reported that: “in its opinion the cause of the accident was the presence of a bolt in the aileron locking slot causing the Pilot to lose control of the aircraft. A subsidiary cause is that the Pilot failed to test his controls before the flight.” The Air Commodore Commanding No 17 Group stated: “the following points emerge which are directly relevant to the crash – the aileron controls were locked; they can only have been locked by Leading Aircraftman Milliken (see his own evidence); it was the duty of Leading Aircraftman Milliken to unlock them again before flight, but there were certain extenuating circumstances surrounding this omission (See Milliken’s evidence); – the omission would have been discovered by the Pilot before the flight, if he had tested his controls in the normal manner and as laid down. The accident is attributed to the omissions of the Pilot Officer Jordan and Leading Aircraft Milliken, and each appears equally to blame.”

The crew members of P4791 were:

Sergeant J Davis (1356087) (RAFVR) (Supernumerary) Slightly Injured
Sergeant Albert Horace Green (950638) (RAFVR) (Wireless Air Gunner) (Supernumerary)
Flying Officer J E Jordan (RAF) (Pilot Instructor) Seriously Injured
Sergeant R N Lord (995714) (RAFVR) (Supernumerary) Uninjured
Sergeant Colin O’Donnell (402168) (Pilot under instruction) Fatally injured, Died: 11 August 1941
Sergeant Arthur Ernest Whitbourne (400164) (Pilot) (Supernumerary)


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, 163/148/120

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