Hunt to find family of Doomsday airman

Sergeant William Flynn. Picture: contributed
Sergeant William Flynn. Picture: contributed
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A team of European researchers is on the hunt for the descendants of a plane crash victim who helped liberate Norway from the Nazis during the Second World War.

Edinburgh recruit Sergeant William Flynn crash-landed with a plane of 24 British troops in May 1945 as part of Operation Doomsday – the Allied drive to supervise the surrender of Nazi forces in the country after victory in Europe had been declared.

The shattered Short Stirling aircraft LJ899  which saw four British troops die. Picture: contributed

The shattered Short Stirling aircraft LJ899 which saw four British troops die. Picture: contributed

The RAF gunner’s plane LJ899 was one of three Short 
Stirling aircraft that smashed onto the shores of Lake Rodjen just north of the Swedish 
border on May 10, 1945.

Foggy conditions were cited as the biggest culprit for the incident – along with planes that were carrying far too many people on board. Four men drowned as Swedish forces desperately scrambled to save the stranded British troops.

Sgt Flynn was lucky enough to survive the harrowing crash – but between all three aircraft that crashed that morning, a total of 48 men died on the mission.

Now, a team of Nordic servicemen have joined British historians to piece together exactly what happened to those men that survived the ordeal – and invite their descendants to attend a poignant 70th anniversary service honouring their deaths in 2015.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bengt Fransson, of the Swedish Armed Forces, said Sgt Flynn was the only man whose family they have yet to trace.

“Next year, a memorial gathering will be held in Norway to celebrate and commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE day, and plans have been made to invite the relatives of crew members and passengers on board the LJ899,” he said.

“Until now, we have managed to contact the relatives of each and every one of the crew members of LJ899 except for Sgt Flynn.”

Livingston resident Gordon Connolly, whose uncle was on Sgt Flynn’s plane when it went down, said it was paramount the descendants be found. “These men gave their lives for freedom and democracy.”

“I never met my uncle, Private Duncan Connelly, because he was one of the four men that drowned when that Stirling went down. He was only 19 years old. The stories about what went wrong were all very conflicting, and up until this year I wasn’t really sure what had happened.

“Then I got a call from Bengt, who was working on investigating the crash. He told me the facts about my uncle’s death, and invited me to come along to a memorial service in Norway for the victims of the crash.”

Records indicate Sgt Flynn enrolled in the RAF in 
Edinburgh, and researchers are calling upon city residents that may have known or been related to the RAF gunner to reach out by contacting Mary Ghrist at ghrist@waitrose.com.

nash.riggins@edinburghnews.com