18.01.1944 No. 36 OTU Oxford V EB506 Fl/Lt. O'Connell DFC
Date: 18th January 1944 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 36 Operational Training Unit
Type: Oxford V
Base: Greenwood, Nova Scotia, Canada
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Lawrence James O'Connell DFC. J/15311 RCAF Age 25. Killed (1)
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Harold William Church J/5977 RCAF Age 26. Killed
Pilot: F/O. Rex James Walls NZ/417133 RNZAF Age 21. Killed
Pilot: F/O. John Dermot Walsh NZ/39116 RNZAF Age 26. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 16:00 hrs for dual pilot checks.
After climbing steeply to 300 ft. the aircraft suffered an engine failure, the Oxford then stalled and dived into the ground at location shown killing all four crew members.
Later investigations concluded th engine had failed as a result of mishandling of the fuel system, probably through inexperience of the pilot on this type. (12 hours of his total of 856 hrs. by Fl/Lt. O'Connell.
The two New Zealand pilots were both ex-instructors with 36 Service Flying Training School. They had been posted to 36 OTU just 8 days previously for operational training on the Mosquito.
(1) DFC Citation LG 31st December 1942:
"This pilot has participated in a number of operational flights against enemy shipping and also in a large scale attack on Bremen. On all occasions he has pressed home his attack with exceptional fortitude and determination, often in the face of the most intense and concentrated enemy fire. Pilot Officer O’Connell has always displayed outstanding devotion to duty and keenness to undertake hazardous flights."
Fl/Lt. Lawrence James O'Connell DFC. Bedford Gate Of Heaven Cemetery. Sec. 4. Plot L. Grave 59. Born on the 21st December 1918 at Halifax, the son of William John and Stella Grace O'Connell, of Halifax and husband of Irene B. O'Connell, of Middleton, Canada.
(1) Larry O'Connell Field is a sports field in Halifax, Nova Scotia beside Chebucto Road and Newton Avenue. Named in memory of Fl/Lt. Lawrence James O'Connell DFC. The area was once home to Halifax' first airport in 1931, which had two landing strips on Chebucto Road.
Fl/Lt. Harold William Church. Prince Albert (South Hill) Cemetery. Plot 757. Born on the 25th January 1917 at Parkside, Saskatchewan, the son of William Leonard and Dora Church, of Prince Albert and husband of Runa May Church, of Prince Albert, Canada.
F/O. Rex James Walls. Middleton Old Holy Trinity Cemetery. Sec. 1. Grave 3. Born on the 17th January 1915 at Stratford, the son of James and Mona Lillian Walls (née Lealand), of New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand. A ledger clerk for New Plymouth Savings Bank prior to service. 1082 flying hours logged with 786 on the Oxford. Grave inscription: 'Aged 21 Years Loved In Life. Honoured In Death. Treasured In Memory'.
F/O. John Dermot Walsh. Kingston St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Cemetery. Air Force Plot. Born on the 18th August 1917 at Hawera, the son of Thomas Dermot Walsh and of Margaret Mary Walsh (née Shaw), of Hawera, Taranaki, New Zealand. Worked as a cinematograph operator prior to service. 1104 flying hours logged with 810 on the Oxford. Grave inscription: 'Rest In Peace. We Have Loved Him In Life. Let Us Not Forget Him In Death'.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Jenifer Lemaire and to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below: