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One night over Berlin: Leslie Dean Anderson, Navigator, WWII

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A librarian, family historian and artist, Jen loves to travel and take photographs

He was so proud to" get his wings" & that hat to distinguish his higher rank.

— Jan Grambower, neice

Jock in Officers uniform

Jock in Officers uniform

Early Years

The son of Leslie John Anderson and Florence Greenbury, Leslie Dean Anderson was born on 26 February 1923 in Towoomba, Queensland, Australia. Here is a photo of Les as a baby with his sister Myrtle, his mother Flo Anderson and his grandmother Mary Anne Greenbury.

Named Leslie after his father, he was only known as Les or Leslie officially and grew up with his nickname "Jock", short for Jockey, as his dad always had horses to train and had his son riding at an early age.

Jock was bright at school and especially good at maths. He always wanted to be a pilot and was in the Air cadets as a teenager. Once working in an accountants office he went to night school to further his qualifications - before the war.

— Jan Grambower - Jock's neice

Les as a baby with his sister, mother and grandmother

Les as a baby with his sister, mother and grandmother

When Jock wanted to join the RAAF his father refused to give permission as he was under age, but finally his mother signed the enlistment papers to defend his country. Like so many other young lads he joined up seeking adventure and at least get to see Canada and USA on leave, and then was based in England.

— Jan Grambower - Jock's neice

Enlistment - 1941

Staff of the No 3 Recruiting Centre, Creek St. Brisbane.

Staff of the No 3 Recruiting Centre, Creek St. Brisbane.

Les's enlistment papers are available at the National Archives of Australia. According to the papers, Les enlisted at the Number 3 Recruiting Centre in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland on 16 August 1941. He was 18 and a half years of age and had been working as a Clerk.

Training

"It was in Canada where Jock learned to fly Halifax, Wellingtons and Lancaster planes. Jock was told that "he should train to be a Navigator as he was so bright and that took more skill than a pilot". He studied and passed all the exams and was rewarded with his "Wings" and promoted to a Pilot Officer, then sent to England."

Information from Jock's neice, Jan, February 2013

Jock undertook training from 17th August 1941 and was awarded the Air Navigator's badge on 14th September 1942.

Photo of Halifax bomber aircraft of 466 squadron at RAF Station Driffield, Yorkshire, Enhgland c1944

Photo of Halifax bomber aircraft of 466 squadron at RAF Station Driffield, Yorkshire, Enhgland c1944

466 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force

1942

In October 1942, number 466 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was formed at Royal Air Force (RAF) Station Driffield, which is located 1.7 miles (2.7 km) south west of Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. The squadron's main operational focus was the strategic bombing of Germany.

Location of Driffield, Yorkshire

Les with his crewmates - at Leconfield, Yorkshire

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Group portrait of crew of 466 Squadron RAAF under the nose of their Wellington aircraft 'Y' Yorker, around the time of the Hamburg raids. Identified, left to right: Geoff Coombes, Pilot; 414121 Pilot Officer (PO) Leslie Dean (Les) Anderson, Navigator of Toowoomba, Qld; 409617 PO Clifford John (Cliff) 'Butch' Trotman, Rear Gunner of Essendon, Vic; Peter Balderston, Wireless Operator.

The squadron relocated to RAF Leconfield on 27 December 1942.

Off the coast of England c1943 during dinghy training.

 Top row standing (ignoring the two guys hanging on the mast). from L to R; Ron Last, Pete Balderston, unknown, Roger Nelson, Cliff Trotman, Les Anderson, Geoff Coombes. 2nd row s

Top row standing (ignoring the two guys hanging on the mast). from L to R; Ron Last, Pete Balderston, unknown, Roger Nelson, Cliff Trotman, Les Anderson, Geoff Coombes. 2nd row s

Letter to home

4 June 1943

A letter from Jock to his family is part of the Australian War memorial's collections.

Parts of the letter are quoted below

"Dear mum, dad and all,

Here I am again still in the best of Health.... I now have 5 1/2 ops up so that's 24 1/2 to go!"

page 2 of Jock's letter - Jock describes a raid when everything was ...

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"It was a strange feeling over the target, the flashes used to light up the cabin and I could see Jeffs face clearly, a grim expression and perspiration dripping off him... Everything was going on like normal, every few seconds someone would talk over the intercom, it went something like this:

Butch "theres a light on our tail"

Jeff "ok"

Mike "left left steady, left left steady"

Butch "that one was b--- close"

Mike "bomb gone"

Jeff "what's the next course Andy"

Andy "so and so"

Jeff " the faster the better"

and so we were finished and heading for home."

Australian War Memorial: 3DRL/0508 - Anderson, Leslie Dean.

Les and the crew

Pilot Officer Geoff B Coombes, Captain (Pilot)

Flight Sargeant R D Hughes, (2nd Pilot)

Pilot Officer Leslie Dean Anderson (Jock), (Navigator)

Pilot Officer Ron R Last (Bomb Aimer)

Flight Sargeant Peter P Balderston (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)

Pilot Officer Clifford John (Cliff) 'Butch' Trotman(Rear Gunner)

The squadron converted to Halifax at the end of August 1943, requiring two extra crew. Two Englishmen, Roger Nelson, Mid Upper Gunner, Jackie Causier, Flight Engineer joined the crew.

Leconfield, Yorkshire - c1943

Photo: Taken at Leconfield, Yorkshire, England, probably during the latter part of 1943. Debriefing - L to R; unknown, Ron Last, Les Anderson, Geoff Coombes (crew 50).

Photo: Taken at Leconfield, Yorkshire, England, probably during the latter part of 1943. Debriefing - L to R; unknown, Ron Last, Les Anderson, Geoff Coombes (crew 50).

Christmas ca. 1943

Group portrait of crew members of No. 466 Squadron. Left to right: Pilot Officer PO William Edmond Eagleton; PO Leslie Dean Anderson; PO Darrell William Cuthbert; Flt Lt Wilfred Guy Baldwin; PO John Devenish Chapman; Flt Lt Colin Osborne Chapman

Group portrait of crew members of No. 466 Squadron. Left to right: Pilot Officer PO William Edmond Eagleton; PO Leslie Dean Anderson; PO Darrell William Cuthbert; Flt Lt Wilfred Guy Baldwin; PO John Devenish Chapman; Flt Lt Colin Osborne Chapman

A written history of the squadron

Les's last mission

January 1944

Les and the crew left for Berlin on the night of 28-29 January 1944. This was Les's 17th mission. Night raids over Germany. Their orders were to bomb the industrial areas of Berlin. Les was well aware of the dangers of the operation as many crews never came back.

They, "flew out from base over the North Sea and Denmark ... A fighter attacked us from the rear... on the final attack I was hit on the forehead and passed out for a few minutes..." Geoff Coombes, pilot. (Brave and true. A Silverstone and Stan Parker, 1992.)

"...The gunners must have been killed duriing the first few attacks as their guns became silent..." Peter Balderston wireless, operator/air gunner (Brave and true. A Silverstone and Stan Parker, 1992)

"...I gave the order to bale out which the crew did except for the rear gunner who had not acknowledged the order... rode the plane down to 6,000 feet and ... baled out." Geoff Coombes. (Brave and true. Silverston, Parker, 1992.)

After the war it was "established that the aircraft was shot down by a night fighter from 20,000ft and crashed at Biesdorff, 10kms ESE from the centre of Berlin". Storr, Alan. & Australian War Memorial.  (2005).  Second World War fatalities : 466 Squadron RAAF : RAF Bomber Command.  [Canberra :  Alan Storr]

Pilof Officer Anderson and two of his fellow crewmembers, Trotman and Nelson, never came home from this mission. The others were captured by the Germans and were held as prisoners of war. Les was listed as Missing In Action. Some time later this was changed to Presumed Dead. The family were eventually notified that P.O. Leslie Dean Anderson had in fact been killed and was buried in Herstrasse Military Cemetery in Berlin, Germany.

"Sgt Nelson who is missing has his name commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing, Runnymede, Surrey, UK." (Storr. Second World War fatalities : 466 Squadron RAAF : RAF Bomber Command)

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Roll of Honour

Leslie Dean Anderson

Leslie Anderson is included on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial. Les was not quite 21 years old when he died. Here are the details from the roll.

Pilot Officer Leslie Dean Anderson

Service number: 414121

Unit: 466 Squadron

Date of death: 29 January 1944

Place of death: Germany

Cause of death: Flying Battle

Commemorated on: Panel 110 (At the Australian War Memorial). Photo by ashroc.

Source: AWM148 Roll of Honour cards, 1939-1945 War, Air Force

Gravestone - Lest we forget

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Les is buried at the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Germany. Photo courtesy of Geoff Swallow.

After

The pilot of Jock's crew, Geoff Coombes, visited the Anderson famiy and told Jock's father that he saw Jock bale out with his parachute when their plane was hit.

Many years later, Jock's younger sister tracked down the few surviving crew members through a photo she put in a magazine. Geoff Coombes and Peter Balderstone contacted her. The information that was passed onto Jock's family was that Jock had landed safely on a farm property, but the farmer's wife shot him, fearing the enemy.

Information from Jock's neice, Jan, February 2013

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In memory

There are a number ways in which Les is remembered. Les's mother, Flo, arranged for a memorial headstone to be erected in his memory near other members of the family buried at Drayton Toowoomba cemetery.

  • His name is included on the Mother's Memorial at Toowoomba. This memorial was built by mothers to honour their soldier sons who did not return from World War I. Since then the names of soldiers lost in later conflicts have been added to the memorial.
  • Honour boards at Les's Church and Boys Grammar School are testiment to the feeling for Les and his contribution.
  • Squadron 466 members who lost their lives in the War are commemmorated at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

More recently, Les's name is on an Honour Wall at Mt Cootha in Brisbane.

Photo of Toowoomba Mother's Memorial by Travis Lord.

Honour Board - Toowoomba Boys Grammar School

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leslie-dean-anderson

Photos courtesy of D Miller.

Friends of 466 Squadron

On facebook there is a group called Friends of 466 Squadron. A marvellous group of people, connected to or interested in 466 Squadron. There is also a webpage: halifaxlv827.co.uk

which is chock full of information and photos.

On this website you can find complete listing of the missions and the aircraft that were involved. Along with, a list of the aircrew who lost their lives whilst operating with the Squadrons. Also there is an A - Z listing of all flight crew who's name appear in the Operations Record Books along with a picture if available and their service numbers.

A wealth of information is gathered together on these pages, invaluable for the family historian or anyone who is interested in 462 and 466 squadrons.

This photo, courtesty of John Dann, was taken on 25 April 2013. A group of Australians travelled to Driffield to pay their respects to those who lost their lives while serving in Squadron 466.

Ron Last with his daughter Sheila Leech appear in this photo. Ron is in the wheelchair on the right of the picture with Shelia standing behind him.

The gang with the halifax

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Phil Kemp,Shelia Leech, standing behind Ron Last (in wheelchair), Rob Woods, Tiana Adair, John Dann,Teresa ? Adrian McClelland, Mike Pomeroy, Adrian McDonald far right

Photo courtesy Nick Davey

© 2014 Jen Wood

New Guestbook Comments

Jen Wood (author) from Australia on December 21, 2018:

Thankyou Fraser for stopping by and reading my article. My grandfather was a cousin of Les Anderson, he always spoke proudly of Les. On the 29th January 2019, the Australian War Memorial will be featuring the story of Les Anderson and his crewmates in the last post ceremony. It will be videoed. I will post a link to it in the article when it is available. Regards Jen

Fraser Balderston on December 18, 2018:

My father, Peter Balderston, was in 466 and a crew mate of Les Anderson I found your article quite interesting and a little moving as it brought memories of dad , thank you , Fraser .