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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. L P Russell


Leslie Plimmer Russell was born in Marton, North Island on 18th August 1916, the son of Peter Duncan Russell and Vivien Clare Russell (nee Richardson).

He was educated at the High School there. He first applied to join the RNZAF in April 1936 but was unsuccessful until late 1939, when he was accepted as a trainee air gunner.

On 15th January 1940 Russell went to the Ground Training School at Weraroa. He moved to the Air Observers School at Ohakea on 9th February for a Lewis gunnery course. Russell sailed for the UK on 23rd March in the SS Akaroa.

He joined 264 Squadron at Duxford on 4th June and continued his training.


Above: P/O MH Young, Russell.


Russell was awarded his air gunners badge on 26th July and was promoted to Sergeant the next day. On 21st August the squadron went down to Hornchurch for what proved to be its final spell of day-fighting.

On the 24th Russell and his pilot, P/O MH Young, damaged a Ju88 and on a later patrol destroyed a He111. After suffering severe losses, the squadron withdrew to Kirton-in-Lindsey to resume night patrols.

On an intruder patrol to Lille on the night of 8th May 1941 Russell, again flying with Young, shot down a Me110.

In early November 1941 Russell was posted to a Heavy Conversion Unit at Waterbeach. After crewing-up and converting to Halifaxes, he joined 35 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse in mid-December.

Russell was rear gunner of Halifax II W1101 TL-S which took off to raid Mannheim on the evening of 19th May 1942, his ninth operation. The aircraft came down in the target area, Russell and all other crew members being killed:

F/Sgt. DH Reed RNZAF
Sgt. EJ Morris
Sgt. FD Hunter RAAF
Sgt. RL Prosser
Sgt. FE Flint

All are buried in Durnbach War Cemetery.


Above image courtesy of the NZ War Graves Project.


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