Norman Oswald George SHEEHAN DFC

SHEEHAN , Norman Oswald George

Service Number: 428853
Enlisted: 10 October 1942
Last Rank: Flight Lieutenant
Last Unit: No. 40 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Paddington, New South Wales, Australia, 12 October 1923
Home Town: North Narrabeen, Pittwater, New South Wales
Schooling: Sydney Boys High School and Sydney University, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Solicitor
Died: Acute myeloid lukemia, Cooroy, Queensland, Australia , 20 December 2009, aged 86 years
Cemetery: Privately Cremated
Ashes scattered in ocean at North Narrabeen by Members of North Narrabeen Surf Club
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World War 2 Service

10 Oct 1942: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, SN 428853
6 Sep 1943: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant, SN 428853, No. 461 Squadron (RAAF), Battle of the Atlantic - RAN and RAAF Operations
9 Jun 1944: Honoured Distinguished Flying Cross, Battle of the Atlantic - RAN and RAAF Operations, On the night of the 8/9 June 1944 he conducted the first attack on surfaced U -Boat utilising radar and radio altimeter at night from altitude of 250 feet adjacent to D-day beach Immediate Award of DFC head conducted 68 operational missions over Bay of Biscay was at age 19 years the youngest air crew captain in UK Coastal Command. Awarded 25 August 1944
14 Mar 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Lieutenant, SN 428853, No. 40 Squadron (RAAF)
Date unknown: Involvement
Date unknown: Honoured Distinguished Flying Cross

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Biography contributed by Marshall Sheehan

Norman SHEEHAN was born at the Cricketers Arms Hotel at Paddington NSW. He was the second son of George Stewart SHEEHAN and Iris Elanor Margret SHEEHAN nee Kennedy who had married at Launceston Tasmania.His maternal grand parents Oswald and Sarah Kennedy were publicans and were then resident at the Cricketeers Arms although they also had a residence at Rose Bay and at North Narrabeen 

Normans parents seperated in 1924 and he never resumed contact with his father thereafter.He and his elder brother John were raised by their maternal grandparents .

He attended primary school at North Narrabeen Public School and secondry school at Sydney Boys High School gaining entry to Sydney University to study law. He spent his school week living with his mother at Rose Bay and his weekends and holidays at the family home at North Narrabeen.He was active in the North Narrabeen Surf Club where he was Junior Surf Lifsaving Champion and played Rugby League

When aged 18 he was conscripted into the CMF with the Sydney University regiment but a compound farcture of the leg in a training accident disqualified him from military service in the army.

He volunteered for service in the RAAF and was accepted for service after taking a rigorous exercise regime set out by a medical specialist designed to convince the RAAF that his leg injury would not restrict his service activities 

On completion of basic training at Bradfield Park he was posted to No 8 E.F.T.S. at Narrandera and commenced flight training on the 17th January 1943 on Tiger Moths 

He was then on 17th March 1943 posted to No 8 S.F.T.S Bundaberg to train on the multi engined Avro Ansons There he bacame firm friends with F G (Tim ) Bunce and H M (Marsh )Godsall 

Commissioned a Pilot Officer on the successful completion of the course on the 27 June 1943 he Bunce and Godsall were posted to the UK 

Leaving from Brisbane they travelled by ship across the Pacific through the Panama Canal up the east coast of the USA to New York.

They then travelled across the Atlantic in a sprint from New York  on the RMS Queen Marywith a US Infantry Regiment for company to Greenock near Glasgow then train to Brighton.

On the 6th September 1943 Sheehan Bunce and Godsall commenced flying duties with 461 Squadron at Pembroke Dock Wales each as a third pilot on an established operational crew flying operations .

Originally 461 Squadron flew anti submarine patrols out over the Atlantic south to Spain and Portugal to the south west or south to Spain then east to France dealing with bad weather German fighters and Spanish detection operations as they went on their way .

Each patrol had a duration of 12 to 15hours 

As each of them gained operational expirence they progressed to first Pilot then to crew captain charged with the care of a Sunderland aircraft and seven other lives 

Norman Sheehan flew with Roger Newton as captain from the 8th September 1943 until 2 January 1944 when he became Skipper of his own crew in his own designated Sunderland Mk 3/5 Ml 741 squadron code 2 -P He is said to have been at that time, aged 19 years, the youngest air crew captain in UK Coastal Command

As D-day approached 461 Squadron was repurposed as a designated night attack squadron utilising the then cutting edge technology of air to surface radar, radio altimeters and the Norden bomb sights sweep U -boats from the approaches of the D-day beaches to protect the ships ferrying men and materials been transported from England to France and to protect the artificial "mulberry " harbours  constructed on the beaches 

On the 3rd June 1944 Norman Sheehan and crew were airborne over the English Channel fighting to keep their aircraft out of the water He recalled later "There was Vince (McCauley ) myself and the autopilot trying to keep us out of the waves which we were measuring at up to 150ft from crest to trough on the altimeter "He was later told that his report of those weather conditions was a factor in postponing the D-Day landings 

On the night of the 8th /9th June 1944 Norman SHEEHAN and crew were airborne out of Pembroke Dock at 8.15 pm headed for the French coast west of the Islandof Ushant and a box patrol 

A few minutes after midnight the radar detected a vessel moving in a north westerly direction at speed and the crew went to action stations as they descended toward the blip it disappeared so Norman Sheehan exceuted a climbing turn away from it and at 17 miles the blip reappeared. Sheehan then exceuted a reciporcal approach intercepting the vessel and at three miles their flares lit up a fully alerted  U-boat firing cannon at them.Flying straight into the ascending cannon fire the Sunderlands Front and Mid upper gun turrets and the nose mounted guns sippressed the U-boats gunfire and the rear gunner confirmed that it was straddled by the Sunderalnds depth charges ( the turn away from the target with an attack approach to it on the reciprocal course became a standard tatic for allied aircrew foe decades after this event )

The next day a British Sunderland ,also from Pembroke Dock, located a heavy oil slick and floating debris at the lacation of the attack incicating a sunk or severly damaged U -boat 

Norman Sheehan was advised that he had been granted an Immediate Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

Norman Sheehan did not know it at the time but the 28th August 1944 was his last operational patrol.

The next day as he relaxed in the mess C.O.Hampshire asked him to get his log book .Thinking "that a strange request "he complied and was told that he was thenceforth "Tour expired ''which he later described as a "tremendous shock "

A posting to No 4(c) OTU at Alnes Scotland followed as an operational test pilot.

7 February 1945 was his last flight in the U.K a posting back to Australia had arrived .

Train to Brighton ship across the Atlantic, back through the Panama Canal across the Pacific to Sydney 

1 July 1945 a posting to 37 Squadron Essendon flying as a second pilot on a DC-3 until 16 September 1945 then a posting to 40 Squadron at Port Moresby flying Sunderlands with old friends until the 7th March 1946 when a flight from Port Moresby to Rathmines was the end 

Then back to university age 23 years plus 68 operational patrols with 461 Squadron and 1400 hours flying Sunderlands

 

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