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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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bomber command
16/17th February 1942 OADU Wellington IC AD635 P/O. O'Brien

Operation: Ferry Flight

Date: 16/17th February 1942 (Monday/Tuesday)

Unit: No. Overseas Aircraft Delivery Unit. 44 Group

Type: Wellington IC

Serial: AD635

Code: -

Base: RAF Portreath, Cornwall

Location: Near Kef Oum Tebouf, Algeria

Pilot: P/O. Allan O’Brien NZ/404564 RNZAF Age 31. Killed

Pilot: Sgt. Walter Brian Stehr NZ/41499 RNZAF Age 22. Killed

Obs: Sgt. Walter Robert Wren Aus/402433 RAAF Age 20. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Douglas Sandilands Aus/402613 Age 26. Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Alan Leslie Strang Aus/400311 RAAF Age 22. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Clifford James Foote 656751 RAFVR Age 27. Killed


On a ferry flight from RAF Portreath via Gibraltar for Malta, took off but flew off course and crashed into mountains at location shown. All the crew were killed and initially buried at the scene of the crash.

Burial details:

P/O. Allan O’Brien. Bone War Cemetery, Annaba. Grave III. D. 8. Born on the 26th December 1910 at Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa. Worked as a offset lithographer for Abel Dykes Ltd in Auckland. Served in the NZ territorial army for 2 years before enlisting at Levin on the 24th November 1940. Trained at No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School on the 09th February 1941.

Embarked for Canada on the 29th April 1941. Pilots badge awarded on the 08th August 1941 and promoted to sergeant. Commissioned on the 09th August 1941. Embarked for England on the 15th August 1941. Further training with 15 Operational Training Unit. Son of Lucius (died 06th August 1941, age 76) and Rosina O'Brien (née Williamson - died 08th November 1943, age 75), of Grafton, Auckland, New Zealand. On his 02nd operational sortie.

Sgt. Walter Brian Stehr. Bone War Cemetery, Annaba. Grave III. D. 12. Born on the 12th September 1920 at Dargaville. Worked as a sewing machine mechanic for R. Green and Son at Ponsonby. Enlisted at Levin on the 19th January 1941. Trained at No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School on the 02nd March 1941.

Embarked for Canada on the 29th April 1941. Pilots badge awarded on the 08th August 1941 and promoted to sergeant. Embarked for England on the 20th August 1941. Further training with 15 Operational Training Unit. Son of Arnold John Stehr (died 22nd August 1958, age 81) and of Edith Sarah Patti Stehr (née Teschler - died 09th March 1960, age 79), of Auckland City, New Zealand. A total of 220 flying hours logged and on his 02nd operational sortie.

Sgt. Walter Robert Wren. Bone War Cemetery, Annaba. Grave III. D. 10. Born on the 08th March 1921 at Newtown, New South Wales. Son of Robert Colin and Edith Wren, of Morbank, New South Wales, Australia. Grave inscription: 'He Died For King And Country- May God Rest His Soul In Peace'.

Sgt. John Douglas Sandilands. Bone War Cemetery, Annaba. Grave III. D. 7. Born on the 07th December 1915 at Uralla, New South Wales. Educated at the Armidale School, NSW. Son of James Bruce (died 05th August 1951, age 68) and Aline McLeod Sandilands (née Taylor - died 23rd May 1972, age 85), of Uralla, New South Wales, Australia.

The family lost two other sons. F/O. 22 year old, Geoffrey Bruce Sandilands Aus/421085 - killed on the 16th October 1944 in England and Fl/Lt. 31 year old, James Walter Sandilands Aus/402405 - killed on the 13th April 1944 in Bangladesh.

Sgt. Alan Leslie Strang. Bone War Cemetery, Annaba. Grave III. D. 13. Born on the 21st July 1919 at Melbourne, Victoria. Son of Leslie David (died 06th June 1950) and Lucy Strang (died 09th September 1924, of South Yarra, Victoria, Australia. Grave inscription: 'He Proudly Answered His Country's Call. His Duty Nobly Done'.

Sgt. Clifford James Foote. Bone War Cemetery, Annaba. Grave III. D. 9. Son of George and Ada Foote, of St. George, Bristol, England. Grave inscription: 'His Life A Beautiful Memory His Absence A Silent Grief'.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks 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:

KTY 28-11-2021

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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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