Crew: Coleman


Alan Joseph Coleman


Pilot: F/L P/O Alan Joseph Coleman
Flight Engineer: Sgt Dennis Maurice Moore
Navigator: F/S Leslie George Kitchener Lock
Bomb Aimer:  F/S Vincent Nicolas Walter Turner
W/Op: Sgt Cyril Percy Matthews
M/U Gunner: Sgt Charles Robert William Jones
Rear Gunner: F/S James Earl Marchant        

3rd/4th December 1943, lost without trace, the crew is commemorated on Runnymede Memorial


Pilot Officer Coleman’s usual flight engineer, 24 year old Maurice Durn, had been slightly injured by flak on the previous night’s raid. The thirty-four year old Dennis Moore took Durn’s place. It was the most dreadful bad luck for Moore – Coleman and his crew, who had barely survived their previous trip, vanished without trace on this Leipzig operation and nobody would ever know what had happened to them.
Smith, dennis moore
Dennis Moore of the Smith crew

John Arthurson, a navigator, remembers what a very bitter, indeed shattering, blow it was for him and the rest of Dennis Moore’s regular crew when Coleman’s plane did not return. Their crew (see Crew: Smith) had not yet had their first operational flight. Moore was a married man with children. His place on John Arthurson’s crew would be taken by Maurice Durn once he recovered.

Des Evans, when running the old 97 Squadron Association website, wrote of Coleman’s crew:

“When I arrived at Bourn towards the end of 1943 about November time, straight from my Mechanics course, the first Lancaster I ever worked on with a fellow Mechanic as part of a permanent team was OF-U. I believe this was the one lost without trace on the night of December 3rd/4th 1943, flown by PO A J Coleman, RAAF.

I didn’t realise at the time how many Lancasters went missing on Ops. I didn’t know the crew at all as I was very inexperienced and very much the junior. I was soon to learn though how many young men were losing their lives. P/O Coleman and his crew arrived at Bourn on 12th October from 1654 Conversion Unit. They were all killed in action on their 3rd operation.”

Coleman, James Earl Marchant
James Earl Marchant

When Jennie Gray was researching the Coleman crew, Des added the following information:

“OF-U Uncle was the first Lancaster I was assigned to on a permanent basis and I know it went missing straight away. It was an odd feeling seeing them off and waiting for their return and of course they didn’t. About 2 days later another crew turned up and I do remember a Sgt. Ground crew in charge of us saying, ‘I wonder how long they will be with us’, and it wasn’t long.. Then of course when the 16th (Black Thursday) came along, the reality struck home.
It was an awful winter, perishing cold and these Aircrew had lousy accommodation like the rest of us. We used  to huddle round an old stove in the middle of a corrugated metal hut. The Aircrew (Non Commissioned types) had similar billets, so they would be cold when not flying and damned cold when they did go on Ops. I was glad when we all went to Coningsby.”