COLLIS,Leslie John

"Carpe Diem" - Seize the Day

No.1284701, Flight Sergeant (Pilot), Leslie John COLLIS
Aged 27

576 Squadron, R.A.F.Volunteer Reserve
Killed in Action Saturday, 25th March 1944

Leslie John Collis was born in 1916 (Risbridge Q3-1916 4A:1622), the youngest of three boys, James born 1903, and Reginald born 1911, son of Joseph Benjamin and Edith COLLIS (née WRIGHT). His father was a grist miller,born in 1874 at Wood Ditton, Cambridge, and his mother Edith was born in 1883 at Thurlow. His parents married in the third Quarter of 1901 at Thurlow, and the 1911 census shows that one child had previously died. There is a record of another child, by the name of Jabez J. W. Collis being born in Sudbury District in the fourth quarter of 1917, but it is not certain if this is a related birth, although the Mother's maiden name is shown as Wright. The family are shown as living at The Mill, Great Thurlow.

In the 1939 register, at Hill Farm, Great Thurlow were his father Joseph [5-3]1987] a farmer, and his mother Edith [19-1-1883].

Leslie married Constance Mary Potton in the third quarter of 1943 in Lewisham, London. They did not have any children and the Probate records show them living at 53 Perry Rise, Forest Hill, London, SE 23 at the time of his death and he left a total of £326-13s-1d

The following details of the circumstances of the death of Leslie from members of the family of his widow, Constance and

576 Squadron was active from 25th November 1943 until 13th September 1945 and was part of No. 1 group Bomber Command, flying Lancaster heavy bombers, based at Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire.
On 24th March 1944 at 18.51 hours Avro Lancaster Mk III, serial number LM 471, ( the aircraft's first operational mission and the crew's 3rd) call sign UL-J2, took off piloted by Flight Sergeant Collis and joined 811 allied bombers formed up to attack Berlin. The weather was extremely good with very high visibility, which resulted in many losses to the German Night Fighters who were already closing in on the bomber stream as early as 19.45 hours. Unforecast jet stream winds scattered the bombers to the South of the intended route. The night became known within Bomber Command as the 'night of the strong winds'. The raid itself resulted in the usual damage to civilian properties with 150 people being killed on the ground in the target area (A further 30 people were killed in other areas bombed by the scattered force). No major industrial targets were hit although some damage was done to 5 military establishments, including the Waffen-S.S. depot in Lichterfield. A total of 72 aircraft were lost in this last major raid on Berlin of the war. LM471 was blown well off course after the bombing run and it is thought likely that it was shot down by the radar controlled flak inside the Ruhr defences (No Luftwaffe claims have been made for this loss). The Lancaster came down at Beeck, 5 Km north of the city of Duisberg. Flight Engineer Sergeant Edward Smith was also killed and five crew were taken prisoner. Leslie and Edward were originally buried in Dusseldorf, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
The crew were
Pilot: F/Sgt. Leslie John Collis 1284701 R.A.F.V.R. Age 27. Killed
Flight Engineer: Sgt. Edward Smith 1818735 R.A.F.V.R. Age 27. Killed
Navigator: Sgt. R.J. Roper P.O.W. No: No details - Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Air Bombardier: F/O. A.C. Harper R.C.A.F. P.O.W. No: 3819 - -Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. P. McDougall P.O.W. No: 3828 - Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang
Air/Gnr: Sgt. B. Warren P.O.W. No: 43396 No further details.
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Joseph Robinson P.O.W. No: 2187 - Stalag Luft Heydekrug

For the family of his widow Constance and relatives of the crew.
Acknowledgments: With thanks to the following: Bill Chorley - "Bomber Command Losses", Theo Boiten - "German Nightfighter War Diaries", Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt "Bomber Command War Diaries" - Please see more at:

An Avro Lancaster Mk III

Leslie Collis is buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, grave 7:B:4
originally he and Sgt Smith were buried in Dusseldorf North Cemetery graves 388 and 389, being moved on 16/10/1946

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details

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