Robert Emmett O'Connell J43904

February 23, 1913 - February 3, 1945

Robert O'Connell Robert O'Connell Robert O'Connell Robert O'Connell Robert O'Connell Robert O'Connell

Department manager for book wholesaler joined RCAF, training first at pilot, then navigator. Aboard Ventura 2066, he and crew were lost off Dartmouth during a routine convoy escort when it crashed and exploded.

Robert Emmett O’Connell was the son of John O’Connell, compositor for the Montreal Gazette, (d. 1947), and Cecilia Katherine (nee Dwyer) O’Connell (d. 1959) of Montreal. He had brothers: Bernard, John, Francis, and Leo and two sisters: Mrs. Cecilia Brooks and Mrs. Eileen Wheatley. The family was Roman Catholic.

Robert was a student at the time of his enlistment with the NPAM October 13, 1931 in Montreal and was with the 17th Hussars, Loyola OTC. He stood 5’7” tall and weighed 140 pounds. He was with the 2nd Btt’n Royal Montreal Reg’t in August 1940. He was then 5’10 ½” tall and weighed 142 pounds. He was a clerk by this time. He spoke some French.

When Robert applied to the RCAF in October 1942, he was a department manager/book manager with the American News Co. Ltd., wholesale books, in Montreal since 1934 and married to Marguerite Thelma Weiss (September 20, 1941). He liked all sports, moderately. He weighed 147 pounds and had blue eyes and dark brown hair. “1st Army Call, Bach. Lit. Loyola. Good in maths. Good education. Motive, fight for country and yen to fly. Interest in AF has dated from declaration of war. Appendectomy prevented enlisting before. Chances of success good. Neat, well-educated. Above average in intelligence. Persevering. Married. A little on the nervous side. Wife approves.”

At ITS, he received a low mark in navigation due to sickness. He obtained 81% at EFTS. “Good navigator material. Looks younger than actual age. Works hard.”

At EFTS: “A good student who is interested in his work. Obtained 77% in mid-term tests.”

Robert trained as a pilot at No. 11 EFTS Cap de la Madeleine, Quebec in July 1943. “This student does not learn as a pupil pilot should. It appears he pays little attention to instruction. His coordination in turns is very bad. Landings are poor. Undershoots approaches consistently. Skids and slips in turns at low airspeed. Recommended as Air Navigator (B).” Robert was sent to No. 5 Manning Depot, Lachine, Quebec to be remustered.

From September 20 to November 12, 1943, Robert was at No. 6 B&G School. “Above average in his ground work and air work. He is quite keen, reliable and hard working.” At No. 10 AOS, from November 13, 1943 to April 6, 1944, he earned marks in the mid-70% range. He was considered to be moderately suitable as an instructor. “An average navigator and student. Position in class: 15/24. Recommended for immediate commissioning. An extremely hard worker, getting what he gets that way. Mature and displays good judgment.”

At GRS from May 6 to June 16, 1944: “This officer is a neat and conscientious worker. He is somewhat lacking in confidence and once this is overcome, and with more supervision and practice, he should develop into a good navigator. Assessed as average.” He was 19th out of 24 in his class.

F/O O'CONNELL was also station at RCAF Station, Pennfield Ridge from 07 July 1944 to 28 October 1944.

Robert was taken on strength with 145 Squadron, Dartmouth, NS at the end of 1944. In November 1944: “Keen conscientious student. Tries hard but air work should be watched at first.” January 4, 1945: “An average navigator two months out of O.T.U who is doing a good job with this squadron. Recommend for retention and promotion to higher rank.” He was at the station hospital November 24 – December 12, 1944.

Carole Anne O’Connell was born in Montreal on January 12, 1945.

On February 3, 1945, Ventura 2266, 145 BR Squadron was on a routine flight over the Atlantic from Dartmouth and was thought to have crashed at sea. CREW: Sgt. James Murray McColman (R150762), Toronto, Sgt. John Milne Northgrave (R123120), Halifax, F/O Robert Emmett O’Connell (J43904), Montreal, F/O John Moody Smith (C1006), pilot, Moncton, NB.

According to the newspaper, “searchers for the plane found only small pieces of the wreckage. Unofficial reports said the aircraft was lost as the result of action against a German submarine.”

In a memo dated June 5, 1945: “In perusing the Court of Inquiry which was convened at RCAF Station Dartmouth on February 5th which states that after several assemblies it adjourned at 1530 hours February 9, 1945. It is observed that various parts of the aircraft were recovered, including a baptism certificate for Pilot Officer O’Connell’s daughter; also included evidence given by Naval personnel who witnessed the crash of the aircraft and included in the summary of the case by members of the Court, it is stated that it must be assumed that the above-mentioned personnel were instantly killed.”

All men’s names appear on the Ottawa Memorial. Mrs. Cecilia O’Connell wrote to W/C Gunn: “I thank you for your kind letter and your sympathy expressed. I was pleased to know that the boys who gave their lives in the War were being remembered. I shall be very proud to have my son’s name on the Ottawa Memorial in Ottawa. Will you be kind enough to advise me to the time and location of the completed Memorial, as I would like to see it.”

The full Court of Inquiry can be found on Microfiche T12343, Image 246, as well as additional photos. Transcription can be found on James Murray McColman’s page.