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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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15 Squadron Crest
05.04.1939 No 15 Squadron Battle I K9359 P/O. Shennan

Operation: Bombing exercise

Date: 05th April 1939 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 15 Squadron (motto: "Aim Sure")

Type: Fairey Battle

Serial: K9359

Code: EF-?

Base: RAF Abingdon

Location: Field near to Lashford Lane - see map

Pilot: F/O. Paul Geoffrey Chapman 37718 RAF Age 22. Survived (1)

Obs: P/O. Peter Shennan 40268 RAF Age 23. Killed


Taking off at 07:15 hrs on a low level bombing practice run. Reportedly, after having already made three bombing runs the aircraft dived to gain speed; by now about 1.5 miles from the Abingdon airfield boundary, and with an altitude of some 900ft. At this point the Pilot, F/O. Paul Chapman, was aware of something leaving the rear cockpit, and banking the aircraft, he saw a body falling to the ground.

P/O. Shennan’s body was found soon after, in a field near to Lashford Lane. The inquest reported that death was due to a fractured skull and multiple injuries, and a verdict of “misadventure” was returned. It seems that he was wearing his Pilots flying suit which did not have the facility to secure to the anchorage point.

(1) Recently promoted to Fl/Lt. 23 year old, Paul Geoffrey Chapman was killed the following year whist with the Squadron. Flying Blenheim IV P6917 when 4 of six aircraft from the Squadron were shot down by Luftwaffe fighters over Landrecies in France after the fighter escort that had been promised failed to appear. His two other crew members also lost their lives. 26 year old, Sgt. Cecil Ernest Colbourn 580435 RAF, 23 year old LAC Ernest John Fagg 540232 RAF - burial details as shown below.

Burial details:

P/O. Peter Shennan. Abingdon Cemetery. Born on the 25th August 1915 in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England. The son of Alexander Meade and Constance (née Gibbons) Shennan, brother to Peggy and Joan.

Further details:

The family had emigrated to New Zealand on board SS ‘Rotorua,’ departing the UK on the 18th December 1924 - Mr. Alexander Shennan being then described as a ‘Merchant’. The family are known to have later lived at 29 Everest Street, Khandallah, Wellington, New Zealand but Peter himself was educated at the Cathedral Grammar School, Christchurch, New Zealand, where he was a Prefect and Captain of the first-fifteen and first-eleven as well as school swimming champion. After moving to Wellington with his parents he was an active member of the Eastbourne Rugby Football Club, the Star Boating Club, and the Wellington Swimming Club. Towards the end of his time in New Zealand Peter was on the advertising staff of ‘National Magazines’.
In 1937 he was selected to go to England as one of the first batch of New Zealanders appointed to a short-service Commission in the Royal Air Force. He travelled back to the UK, again via the ‘Rotorua’, arriving in London on the 22nd August 1937, at which time his profession is shown on the passenger-manifest as “RAF” – one of a number of such airmen on-board.
Peter Shennan was formally Commissioned as Acting Pilot Officer with effect from the 24th October 1937 and was Confirmed in the rank of P/O. RAF 24th August 1938.
His first months in the UK were spent at Sywell Civil Flying Training School, after which he went to the RAF Flying Training School at Hullavington, Wiltshire. He gained his Pilot’s ‘Wings’, but after qualifying he was sent to RAF Manston for a special course in Navigation, and subsequently obtained his Navigator’s Certificate. As such he was (according to newspaper reports) appointed to No. 15 (Bomber) Squadron at RAF Abingdon as “navigating officer”. Sources suggest that he arrived there in September of 1938. (He was according to the newspapers made Captain of the RAF rugby-fifteen at Abingdon, during his short time there. A sporty young-man he was also a promising golfer, and on-leave in Switzerland shortly before his death, he won a gold-medal for skiing.

Others mentioned:

Fl/Lt. Paul Geoffrey Chapman. Landrecies Communal Cemetery. Row C. Grave 4. Son of Frederick George and Anne Mary Chapman, of Leafield, Oxfordshire, England. Grave inscription reads: "Son of Frederick George and Anne Mary Chapman, of Leafield, Oxfordshire".

Sgt. Cecil Ernest Colbourn. Landrecies Communal Cemetery. Row C. Grave 6. Son of Charles Allan and Gertrude Wyatt Colbourn, of Wood Green, Middlesex and husband of Jean Melanie Colbourn, of Winchmore Hill, Middlesex, England. Grave inscription reads: "All You Had Hoped For, All You Had, You Gave. Lovingly And Proudly Remembered".

LAC Ernest John Fagg. Landrecies Communal Cemetery. Row C. Grave 5. Son of Ernest Henry and Flora Fagg, of Canterbury, England. Grave inscription reads: "Peace, Perfect Peace, With Loved Ones Far Away? In Jesus' Keeping We Are Safe And They".

Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered. Page dedicated to the relatives of this crew member with thanks to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below:

MB/KTY 16.07.2019

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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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