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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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56 Squadron badge
20.01.1943 56 Squadron Typhoon Ib DN433 Fg Off. Bernard Coleman

Operation: Training

Date: 20th January 1943 (Wednesday)

Unit No: 56 Squadron

Type: Typhoon Ib

Serial: DN433

Code: US:?

Base: RAF Matlaske (a satellite of RAF Coltishall), Norfolk

Location: Blickling, Norfolk

Pilot: Fg Off. Bernard Joseph Coleman 411287 RAAF Age 27. Killed

Above: 56 Squadron Typhoons

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the morning of 20th January 1943 two 56 Sqn Typhoon Ib’s took off for a training flight. Aircraft DN433 was flown by Fg Off. Coleman and R8822 by Plt Off. Bruce Calder McKenzie 401994, both of 'A' Flight. They also happened to be to only two Australian pilots on the Sqn at the time.

Note: Coleman’s aircraft is incorrectly identified in many sources as PN433 but this Serial No. actually belonged to a Halifax B.III flown by 462 Sqn, RAAF.

The two Typhoons were flying in formation and entered an area of thin cloud. From statements made by Plt Off. McKenzie it appears that Fg Off. Coleman’s aircraft drifted below his own and they collided. The entire tail section of DN433 was sheared off, probably by the propeller of R8822. Similarly, a large hole appeared in the cockpit of R8822 prompting Plt Off. McKenzie to immediately “jump for it” breaking his leg in the process.

Fg Off. Coleman made no attempt to escape from his aircraft and is thought to have been killed, or at least knocked out, in the collision. Both aircraft crashed close to each other in fields at Blickling Hall near Aylsham. The wings and forward fuselage of Fg Off. Coleman’s aircraft had descended like a falling leaf and landed in a fairly flat attitude then catching fire. Some local agricultural workers were quickly on the scene and managed to extricate Fg Off. Coleman’s body from the wreckage, in spite of the fire and exploding ammunition, but he was already dead.

Plt Off. McKenzie’s aircraft had descended rapidly and buried itself deeply on impact. Having bailed out, he was initially taken to Blickling Hall where he was soon visited by his CO.

Note: Plt Off. McKenzie was admitted to Norwich Hospital and then transferred to RAF Hospital Ely later that day. After lengthy treatment and rehabilitation he returned to 56 Sqn on the 21st September 1943. He was posted to 3 Sqn on the 9th July 1944. Flt Lt. McKenzie was KiA on the 21st April 1945 when his 3 Sqn Tempest V EJ610 was hit by flak attacking German Mechanised Transport and was last seen east of Hamburg in Germany.

Burial Details:


Above Scottow Cemetery - visited by Aircrew Remembered May 2013

Fg Off. Bernard Joseph Coleman. Scottow Cemetery, Norfolk. Grave 293. Born on the 28th November 1915 in Newcastle, New South Wales. Son of Francis Bernard (deceased) and Jessie Mary (née Thomson) Coleman, Merewether, New South Wales, Australia.


Bio details:

At the beginning of WW2 the family lived at 2 Pell Stret, Merewether, New South Wales. Bernard had an older brother, Francis Gerald, born in 1909. Their father died in 1934. Bernard was working as a Tally Clerk but by 1941 his occupation was given as school teacher. He enlisted in the RAAF (having previously served in the territorial militia) with a mobile unit of No 2 Recruitment Centre in Sydney on 28th April 1941. His initial rank was Aircraftman 2nd Class (AC2) and he was immediately sent to No 2 Initial Training School (ITS) Lindfield to undertake basic military training. On the 19th July 1941 he was promoted to Leading Aircraftman (LAC) and five days later was posted to No 5 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS), Narromine, where he undertook his initial pilot training on Tiger Moths.

On 19th September 1941 Bernard was posted to No 2 Embarkation Depot at Bradfield Park in preparation for departure to Canada to continue his flying training. He embarked on 16th October, arriving in Canada on 19th November. On the 10th November he was posted to No 1 Service Flying Training School (SFTS), RCAF, at Camp Borden, Ontario. Here he completed his flying training, mainly on Harvards, gaining his Pilot’s Wings on 27th February 1942. The same day he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer (Plt Off).

Embarking for England on 13rd March he arrived in the UK ten days later having initially been posted to No 3 Personnel Reception Centre (PRC) at Bournemouth. After a period of holding, on the 19th May, he was posted to No 17 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit (AFU) at Watton, Norfolk. Here he would have flown the Miles Master in preparation for conversion to front line fighter aircraft. On 16th July he was posted once more, this time to his final training unit, No 56 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Tealing in Scotland. Here he probably flew Hurricanes.

On 27th August 1942 he was promoted to Flying Officer (Fg Off) and finally, on the 1st December he was given an operational posting to 56 Sqn at Matlaske (a satellite of Coltishall), Norfolk, where he would fly the Hawker Typhoon.


Researched and dedicated to relatives of the pilot. Thanks to John Allan of Aylsham, Norfolk for providing his research into the Life of Bernard Joseph Coleman and the circumstances of the loss of Fg Off. Coleman (Jan 2022)

RS 01.01.2023 - Update of narrative

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Acknowledgements
Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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