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6 May 2017
Alan Leslie Harris, 439363 RAAF
Alan Leslie Harris 439363 RAAF, at enlistment June 1943 (NAA)
Photo from the National Archives of Australia: A9300, 439363.

Alan Leslie Harris 439363 RAAF at enlistment June 1943.

He was known to his fellow Air Gunner trainees as Flip or Phlip Harris, and also as Bomber Harris, after his famous namesake in Bomber Command.

(Photo – NAA Service File).

In September 2009, information about Flip Harris was received from Bob Hetherington (also seen in the next photo). This information then allowed Flip's full identification, followed by sourcing of his Service History. The handwritten name 'Phlip Harris' on the back of the original Luna Park photo had previously been mistaken for 'Philip', but no relevant RAAF file had been located for any Air Gunner with the name Philip Harris. Thank you Bob!

Sgt M.J.Hibberd, & Sergeants Harris, Wilson & Hetherington at Luna Park, Sydney, Feb 1944

No. 2 Embarkation Depot, Bradfield Park, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, February 1944. This was the final Australian posting after receiving Air Gunnery badge and promotion to Sergeant.

Photo taken at Luna Park, Sydney, Australia prior to embarkation by ship to the UK. This was a staged photo at the fun-park, in a fake bar with empty bottles.

In front of the bar, left – Sgt. M.J.Hibberd;

In front of the bar, right – Sgt. Flip/Phlip Harris (Alan Leslie).

Behind the bar, left – Sgt. Bob Wilson; right – Sgt. Bob Hetherington.

(Photo from the M.J.Hibberd Collection)

P/O Alan Leslie Harris 439363 RAAF, DFC (NAA)
Photo from the National Archives of Australia: A9300, 439363.

Alan Leslie Harris 439363 RAAF, DFC.

(Photo – NAA Service File).

Date of photograph not known, but most likely as Flying Officer, and after receipt of his DFC insignia.

The actions which lead to his Citation were carried out in January and February 1945 when he was Flight Sergeant posted to 158 Squadron. He was commissioned to Pilot Officer 16/3/45, and then to Flying Officer 16/9/45. His DFC was promulgated in the London Gazette on 25 Sept 1945, and he was presented with his insignia by the Governor-General of Australia at Government House, Sydney on 11 Sept 1947.

 

The following information was kindly supplied by Eddie Fell of the 158 Squadron Association web site. Thank you Eddie.

Relevant sections of this information can also be confirmed via the following web sites – Australian War Memorial (Honours and Awards section), the Australian National Archives (Item 5260550 digital copy of Service File, copy of Citation for non-immediate award for DFC on page 12 of 36 pages of Service File), and the WW2 Nominal Roll.

(My comments where relevant, have been added in italics below).

Alan Leslie Harris – Background

Born: Singleton, N.S.W.
Date of Birth: 20 January 1925
Pre War Occupation: Trumpeter (Brass Band)
Date of Enlistment: 19 June 1943
Enlisted at Sydney

Alan Leslie Harris – Training

No. 2 Initial Training School, Bradfield Park 19/6/43
No. 6 Initial Training School, Bradfield Park 28/7/43
No. 3 Wireless Air Gunners School, Maryborough 14/9/43 (M.J.Hibberd posted here 22/06/43)
No. 1 Embarkation Depot, Ransford 12/12/43 (same date as M.J.Hibberd)
No. 3 Bombing and Air Gunnery School, West Sale 7/1/44 (same date as M.J.Hibberd to No. 1 AGS, West Sale)
No. 2 Embarkation Depot, Bradfield Park 4/2/44 (same date as M.J.Hibberd)
Embarked Brisbane 1/3/44 (same date as M.J.Hibberd)
Disembarked UK 7/4/44 (same date as M.J.Hibberd)
No. 11 Personnel Dispatch and Reception Centre, Brighton 7/4/44 (same date as M.J.Hibberd)
No. 27 Operational Training Unit, Lichfield 6/6/44 (same date as M.J.Hibberd)
No. 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit, Rufforth 25/8/44 (on this date M.J.Hibberd was posted to 1652HCU)

Alan Leslie Harris – Service

Posted to No. 158 Squadron at Lissett 10/12/44

Flew as Rear Gunner to F/O. D.R. Denehy on Operations to
24/12/44 – Essen/Mulheim a/f
29/12/44 – Coblenz
30/12/44 – Cologne
1/1/45 – Dortmund
5/1/45 – Hanover
6/1/45 – Hanau (action mentioned in DFC citation)
1/2/45 – Mainz
4/2/45 – Gelsenkirchen
7/2/45 – Goch (action mentioned in DFC citation)
9/2/45 – Wanne Eickel
13/2/45 – Bohlen
14/2/45 – Chemnitz
20/2/45 – Reisholz
21/2/45 – Worms
23/2/45 – Essen
24/2/45 – Kamen (S/Ldr. A.G. Salter)
27/2/45 – Mainz
2/3/45 – Cologne
3/3/45 – Kamen
5/3/45 – Chemnitz
7/3/45 – Hemmingstedt
8/3/45 – Hamburg
11/3/45 – Essen
12/3/45 – Dortmund
14/3/45 – Homberg
15/3/45 – Hagen
20/3/45 – Recklinghausen
24/3/45 – Gladbeck
25/3/45 – Münster
4/4/45 – Harburg Rhenania
(Total of 30 Ops with 158 Squadron)

No. 11 Personnel Despatch and Reception Centre, Brighton 4/6/45

Released from Service 6/12/45

Alan Leslie Harris – Decorations

Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as per the London Gazette dated 25 September 1945. Citation not published but reads,

‘Pilot Officer Harris has completed numerous operational sorties as an air gunner. During an attack on Hanau in January 1945, and again in February 1945, over Goch, his aircraft was attacked by enemy fighters. Pilot Officer Harris opened fire. On both occasions he damaged the enemy aircraft and, by his expert guidance, gave his pilot the opportunity of evasive action. Pilot Officer Harris has always remained cool under the fiercest fire and his efficiency has frequently enabled his crew to complete their sorties successfully.’

The Insignia was present to him by the Governor-General at Government House, Sydney on 11 September 1947.

 

Alan Leslie Harris – Promotions

AC2 on Enlistment
LAC 11/9/43
T/Sgt. 3/2/44 (same date as M.J.Hibberd)
T/F/Sgt. 3/8/44 (same date as M.J.Hibberd)
Pilot Officer 16/3/45
Flying Officer 16/9/45

Bomber Crew, 158 Squadron, Lissett (from the 158 Squadron Association web site)

Pilot F/O Douglas Randle DENEHY 428624 RAAF
Navigator Alfred Edward ANDERSON 437839 RAAF
Air Gunner Arlie Ernest Rex BELL 433886 RAAF
Air Bomber Frank Uriel DUTTON 433374 RAAF
Rear Air Gunner Alan Leslie HARRIS 439363 RAAF
Flight Engineer F. MAGGS 1595410 RAF
Wireless Operator Robert Joseph NEWTON 436337 RAAF

Korean War Service

Further information from Bob Hetherington was that Alan Leslie Harris also served in the Korean War. This has been confirmed via the Nominal Roll of Australian Veterans of the Korean War. However his name is recorded there as Allan Leslie Harris, i.e. with a different spelling of his first name. Further details of his Korean War service are:- Birth date – 20 January 1925; Birth place – Singleton, New South Wales; Service – Australian Army; Corps – Royal Australian Infantry Corps; Unit – 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment; Start of service – 9 November 1951; End of service – 9 November 1952; Days in service – 367; Rank – Private. Life as a Private in the Army in Korea would have been very different from his WW2 experience as Air Gunner and Flying Officer with DFC in the RAAF.

Links with M.J.Hibberd during WW2

It is probable that Alan Leslie Harris & M.J.Hibberd served together from 12/12/43 until 25/08/44. From the information above, they may have met while training at No. 3 WAGS Maryborough. However Harris did not arrive there until 14/9/43, while Hibberd had been there from 22/06/43. Both were posted to No. 1 Embarkation Depot, Ransford, Sydney on 12/12/43 and would probably have met there, if they had not met previously. Harris was subsequently posted to No. 3 Bombing and Air Gunnery School, West Sale, Victoria on 7/01/44. Hibberd's file lists his posting on the 7/01/44 to No. 1 Air Gunnery School at West Sale, Victoria (perhaps the same site?). They were both then posted to No. 2 Embarkation Depot, Bradfield Park, Sydney on 4/02/44 (during this posting the photo at Luna Park was taken); embarked from Brisbane together 1/03/44; disembarked in the UK on 7/04/44; posted to No. 11 PDRC Brighton 7/04/44; posted to No. 27 Operational Training Unit, Lichfield 6/06/44. From Lichfield, Harris was posted to No. 1663 HCU, Rufforth on 25/08/44, but Hibberd was posted to 1652 HCU on the same date. It is interesting that both Harris & Hibberd later flew as Rear Air Gunners in Halifax Bombers, Harris with 158 Squadron from Lissett, and Hibberd with 462 Squadron from Foulsham. We are not aware of any further contact between them during or after the war.

As also advised by Bob Hetherington, it was said among their training group that Flip Harris was only 16 but that he had put his age up to enlist in the RAAF. According to his RAAF Service File, his birth date was 20 January 1925 and he had enlisted on 19 June 1943, aged 18 years and 5 months. The birth date given on his Korean War service file was also 20 January 1925, so if the RAAF record of his birth date was fictitious, at least he was consistent with his story when later enlisting with the Army. To clear up this little mystery, I would welcome any contact from the family of Alan Leslie Harris via the Contact page.

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