LEST WE FORGET

Sergeant John MacKenzie Oberlin HARRIS

Service No: 408129
Born: Sydney NSW, 21 October 1921
Enlisted in the RAAF: 3 January 1941 (at Hobart TAS)
Unit: No. 455 Squadron, RAF Station Leuchars
Died: Air Operations (No. 455 Squadron Hampden aircraft P5304), Sweden, 5 September 1942, Aged 20 Years
Buried: Kviberg Cemetery, Sweden
CWGC Additional Information: Son of John Redford Oberlin and Helen Harris of Malvern, Victoria, Australia
Roll of Honour: Hobart TAS
Remembered: Panel 106, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

Hampden P5304 took off from RAF Sumburg at 2050 hours on the night of 4 September 1942 for Vaenja, Northern Russia via Afrikanda (Operation Orator). The aircraft was one of 16 aircraft from the Squadron to take off for Vaenja. P5304 failed to arrive at its destination. It was later established that the aircraft crashed on the Swedish coast on the night of 4/5 September 1942. The British Air Attache in Sweden reported at the time that “the accident occurred in mountainous country in the far north of Sweden. Search parties found the wrecked aircraft largely destroyed by fire. All the crew killed and they were buried in Boden Cemetery, Sweden.” The bodies were later reinterred.

The crew members of P5304 were:

Flight Sergeant Louis Arthur Biggin (1368006) (RAFVR) (Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Sergeant John MacKenzie Oberlin Harris (408129) (Second Wireless Operator Air Gunner)
Corporal Donald Henry Nelson (6707) (Fitter IIA)
Flight Sergeant Thomas Graham Nicholls (400331) (Navigator Bomb Aimer)
Sergeant Edward John Smart (400282) (Pilot)

AWM 237 (63) records that all the RAAF members are buried in the Overlulea New Churchyard, Sweden. The RAAF Casualty files record in 1950 that the name of the Boden Cemetery had been changed to Overlulea New Churchyard, Sweden. The CWG record also states “Although Sweden remained neutral throughout both World wars, a number of Commonwealth servicemen lie buried in her cemeteries and churchyards in isolated and inaccessible locations. In 1961 the Gothenburg Church made land available for a war graves plot in Kviberg Cemetery, which allowed these graves to be relocated “

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records (RAAF Casualty Information compiled by Alan Storr (409804))
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 163/120/593

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