Sergeant Andrew Leslie McConnell (1137800) served in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve during World War Two. He flew with RAAF 463 Squadron based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, England.
Born at 2 Ozone Avenue, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, he was the son of John A McConnell and Jenny McConnell.
Sergeant McConnell died on Sunday 30th January 1944 aged 23 years old. He was wireless operator and air gunner on board Lancaster III ED949 JO-A on a night raid on Berlin, Germany.
Raid on The Big City
On the night of 30th-31st January 1944, 534 Allied planes took off for a concentrated raid on “The Big City” of Berlin. It was the third raid on the German capital in as many days.
Lancaster ED949 took off from RAF Waddington at 1717hrs. The bombers were far into their run on the target before facing stiff opposition from enemy night fighters. Bombers came down over the target as well as on the approach and while making their return.
This raid caused the death of around 1,000 civilians and destroyed many objectives such as Joseph Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry. Thirty-five Bomber Command planes failed to return. This left 189 aircrew members dead and a further 56 detained as prisoners of war.
Andrew Leslie McConnell’s Lancaster came down on the night of 30th January 1944 short of the target. The crash site was near the town of Neuruppin in Brandenburg, about 36km north of Berlin. A night fighter shot the bomber down although no Luftwaffe claims back this up.
Lancaster ED949 Crash
Before leaving the base, the rear gunner reported his gun turret was out of action. ED949 carried on with its mission regardless. The base back in England heard nothing from ED949 after take off. Out of fourteen planes from the squadron that night, it was one of four that failed to return. When attacked by the night fighter, only the mid and upper guns of Harry Deakin could return fire.
Flames engulfed the bomb bay of the plane and Pilot Officer Dunn gave the order to bale out. With the plane in a shallow dive, he believed they had time to escape. The craft must have entered a spin or exploded in mid-air as the crew did not have time to make their escape. Witnesses near Neuruppin Aerodrome reported seeing the plane on fire, impacting with the ground and exploding.
Marshall Smith’s Letter
Post war, Marshall Smith, by then a Warrant Officer, remarked on the events of the night in a letter to Dunn’s family.
After leaving base the rear turret where Flight Sergeant Gloster was went completely out of order. After discussion, it was decided to carry on. About 10 miles from Berlin we were attacked by a fighter, with only the Mid Upper to fight back with. Billy and the Mid Upper did everything possible to evade the attack but it was useless. The aircraft was soon on fire in the bomb bay and starboard wing.
Shortly after Billy gave the ‘bale out’ order. Conditions in the aircraft were quite good when I baled out. I considered we were in a shallow dive and was firmly convinced that all the crew would survive and was shocked to find out later that I was the only survivor. I believe that the aircraft blew up in the air or went into a spin shortly after I left. I was picked up at Neuruppin airfield and later told that Ned was badly injured and in the hospital and not expected to live.
Warrant Officer Marshall Y Smith
Also killed in the incident were:
- Pilot Officer Douglas Chapman Dunn (AUS/416418) RAAF aged 22 years old.
- Flight Engineer Sergeant Frederick Thomas Henry Adams (629232) RAF aged 23 years old.
- Navigator Flying Officer Frederick George Fidler (135040) RAFVR.
- Air Gunner Sergeant Harry Deakin (1590148) RAFVR.
- Air Gunner Flight Sergeant Edward Fitzgibbon Gloster (AUS/425641) RAAF aged 20 years old.
A Sole Survivor
The sole survivor was air bomber Flight Sergeant Marshall Y Smith (9652759) RAFVR. Hailing from St Elgin, Morayshire, Scotland, he became a prisoner of war at No 1161 Camp, Stalag Luft Heydekrug.
On his capture, Smith learned that Rear Gunner Gloster, known as Ned, was injured and not likely to survive. The rest of the crew were dead. A shocked Smith was denied permission to see Gloster before he died.
Dunn’s crew were buried in the local cemetery in the town of Neuruppin with full military honours. A local parson officiated. After the war, the men were reinterred in the Commonwealth Cemetery, Berlin.
Remembering Andrew Leslie McConnell
Sergeant Andrew Leslie McConnell’s grave is in Section 7, Row Z, Plot 23-27 of the 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Charlottenburg, Berlin, Germany. His headstone bears the inscription:
In loving memory of Leslie. His loving parents, sisters, and brothers.