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80th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings

Updated: Jun 3

As we approach the 80th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings codenamed ‘Operation Overlord’ we remember the heroism & in some cases sacrifice paid by the Allied Forces who landed on the beaches of Normandy on the 6th of June 1944.


It was the largest seaborne invasion in history & on the first day alone 133,000 British, American & Canadian troops landed on the five beaches at Normandy.  Prior to the landings three Airborne divisions of 23,000 men had landed by parachutes & gliders to secure the flanks ahead of the invading force.


We must not forget the Naval support involved in such a landing & we are reminded of this in the iconic pictures of soldiers leaving the landing crafts & heading for the beaches.


D-Day Landings - Image Public Domain Wikicommons

One thing that is perhaps not always mentioned is the Air Support that was provided before, during & after the landings.   In the months leading up to the 6th June, Commonwealth Air Forces as well as many European Air Forces targeted railways, camps, factories, airfields, marshalling yards & ammunition depots in the hope that the enemy would not be able to identify the landing site.   Bridges, road junctions & tunnels were also destroyed to prevent the transportation of men & weapons into the Normandy area.  Patrols were carried out to try & keep the Luftwaffe at bay not only in France but in Britain so that the Enemy would not see the troops gathering ahead of the invasion.  Aerial mines were also dropped near coastal fortifications & harbours.   As the invasion grew closer bomber command would destroy radar stations, radio stations & coastal batteries in & around Normandy. 


At 1910 hrs on the evening of the 6th June, 8 Hawker Typhoon Aircraft of 440 (City of Ottawa) 'Beaver' Squadron based at RAF Hurn in Dorset took off to carry out bombing raids south of Caen, along with them & flying ‘Blue 4’ was F/O Leonard Ralph Allman a Canadian of English descent who was serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.   The operation was a successful one which saw a couple of enemy trucks being bombed and another 2 vehicles strafed.  On completion of the operation Blue 3 being flown by F/O Crowley called saying that he had been hit by Flak in his main tank.  Blue 3 & 4 were not in formation with the other 6 Aircraft so F/O Allman called & asked where he was, saying that he would try & return to base along with him.  F/O Crowley gave a bearing & F/O Allman acknowledged this saying he would endeavour to find him.   Blue 3 flown by F/O Crowley landed at Woodchurch stating that he had not seen F/O Allman since the bombing run.


Sadly F/O Allman was hit by Flak near to Falaise & crashed near Mauvieu, the Squadron operational report details him as being the only Airman ‘Missing’ during this operation.


In 1946 the Missing Research & Enquiry Unit carried out an investigation relating to his disappearance.  They reported that they located the Aircraft MN428 whilst sweeping the area of Norrey-en-Bessin.  Following an inspection of the aircraft they reported that F/O Allman had tried to bale out but unfortunately his parachute caught on a damaged wing of the plane causing him to be dragged down with it.  The plane, fell within enemy lines & the pilot was buried beside the wreckage.  He was later reinterred at Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian Cemetery in Reviers, France.


Leonards Grave at Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian Cemetery - Courtesy of Shirley Tort, Find a Grave

Leonard Ralph Allman was born on the 10th March 1919 in Toronto, Ontario to Ephraim Allman & Annie Bean.   He grew up along with his siblings Gerald, George, Gladys, Laura & Franklin.  In his spare time, he enjoyed Photography, collecting, swimming, field sports & rugby.


He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force on the 20th September 1939 & was allocated the service no J13588.  His pre-war his occupation had been as an Airframe Mechanic having studied Aeronautical Engineering in Toronto for 4 years.  He was described as being 5 ft 9 inches in height, 162 lbs, fair complexion, blue eyes & fair hair.


Late in 1940 Leonard would hear the sad news that his brother Trooper Franklin Allman died whilst serving with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps.


He carried out his Initial Training in Toronto completing this in February 1942.  He then moved to Elementary Flying Training at Mount Hope Ontario before moving to Service Flying Training at St Hubert in May of 1942, he received his wings on 28th August 1942 & received his commission on the same day.


Leonard Ralph Allman

In September 1942 he moved to 133 Squadron at Lethbridge, Alberta before moving to 111 Squadron in Tofina in the November.  


On the 19th November 1943 he married Regina Mary Ann Novak in Schenectady, New York State, USA.


In February 1944, 111 Squadron were transferred overseas in preparation for the Allied invasion of Europe & would be redesignated 440 Fighter/Bomber Squadron initially based at Ayr in Scotland. 


Whilst transporting an Aircraft from Ayr to England, Leonard was involved in an accident with Typhoon MM961 on the 18th March when his engine cut out whilst landing at RAF Woodvale causing him to overshoot the runway where he came to a halt with the nose up. 

 

In April 1944 ahead of the D-Day Landings the squadron moved to RAF Hurn with the objective of providing support to ground forces in & around Normandy by dive-bombing & strafing enemy strong points, rail & road traffic & bridges.


Leonard was just 24 years old when he lost his life.  He was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal, 1939-45 War Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal & Clasp as well as being posthumously awarded the RCAF Operational Wings in recognition of gallant service in action against the enemy.


 

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1 Comment


Nice write-up about an RCAF loss that day. FWIW, 8 a/c of the squadron were tasked with Armed Recce of the Falaise/Conde area where they destroyed two trucks and strafed two vehicles with heavy LAA being reported from St. Pierre.

Stephen M. Fochuk

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