COLLEN, Desmond O.

No.1354131, Sergeant (Air Gunner), Desmond Owen COLLEN
Aged 21

427 (RCAF) Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Killed on Active Service on Friday, 22nd October 1943

Desmond Collen was born in Isleham in 1922 (Newmarket Q1-1922 3B:806) son of Joseph and Mercy COLLEN (née AVES ).

In 1939 the family were at West Street, Isleham. Father (4-4-1876) a farmer; mother (17-4-1887); brothers Joseph B (19-5-1911) and Walter L (25-7-1913) both assisting father on farm. Also there was James E FORSYTHE (16-3-1929) perhaps an evacuee.

CWGC have Desmond as 426 (RCAF) Squadron, all other reports place him with 427 (RCAF) Squadron

85 Halifaxes from 419, 427, 428, 429, 431 and 434 squadrons were joined by 22 Lancasters from 408 and 426 squadrons on an attack at Kassel. The crews were over the target at between 15,000 and 21,000 feet, releasing 196,000 lbs of high explosives and 328,000 lbs of incendiaries. According to reports, the attack was accurate and concentrated with total devastation of this town. Twelve 6 Group crews failed to return from this operation.

and from wartime logs on
"E" piloted by W/O D.H. Welch, RAF, returning to base early for some unknown reason, crashed near Marston Moor, Yorks, all the crew being instantly killed.

more details from
W/O D. Welch, RAF and crew, flying Halifax V DK-182 coded ZL-E, crashed on return near Newton Kyme.

More detail from 'Aircraft Down air crashes around Wetherby 1939-45' by Brian Lunn and Gavin Harland published in 1985:-
According to the authors the pilot was W/O Welsh with an all RAF crew. Welsh was forced to return early because of overheating of the starboard inner engine. After dropping the bombs in the north sea Welsh headed back to Leeming. Unfortunately the oil pressure began to drop in the port outer engine which had to be shut down. Flying on two engines and now effected by icing the Halifax lost height rapidly, striking some tree tops in Newton Kyme before crashing near the railway. The crew were named as:-
Pilot- W/O DH Welsh; Flight Engineer- Sgt JH Proctor; Navigator- Sgt EJ Dutton; Bomb Aimer- Sgt KA Brown; Wireless Operator- Sgt PJ Moore; Mid Upper Gunner- Sgt JI McCullagh; Rear Gunner- Sgt DO Collen.
All were killed. This explains how Desmond came to be buried back home in Isleham.

Handley Page Halifax

photo courtesy Vernon Place

Desmond Collen is buried in Isleham Cemetery - grave 517

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