Flight Lieutenant Lindsay Northcote Beavis CANN (136936) DFC
156 (Pathfinder) Squadron Royal Air Force

Date of birth: 10th May 1921
Date of death: 17th December 1944

Killed in action aged 23
Buried Clichy Northern Cemetery Plot 16 Row 12 Collective Grave19
He was born Wantage on the 10th of May 1921, the son of the Reverend Basil Claude Cann, Vicar of Ridgewell, and Elsie (nee Goodwin) Cann of Ridgewell Vicarage, Halstead, Essex and later of Timperley in Cheshire.

He was educated at St John's School, Leatherhead from 1934 to July 1936 where he was in North House before going on to the King's School Canterbury from September 1936 to March 1938, where he was in Meister Omers.

He enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve where he rose to the rank of Sergeant before being commissioned as a Pilot Officer on the 17th of November 1942. He was promoted to Flying Officer on the 17th of May 1943 and to Flight Lieutenant on the 17th of November 1944.

He was posted to 156 (Pathfinder) Squadron who operated Lancaster aircraft from RAF Upwood and flew 18 operations with them between the 26th of August 1944 and his death.

On the 6th of October 1944 he and his crew took off at 15.17 hours in Lancaster ND 939 from Upwood for a raid on the oil refinery in the town of Sterkrade. They were over the target at 17.12 hours at a height of 19,000 feet when the aircraft was hit by predictive flak. Cann was hit in the left shoulder and in his right arm, which began to bleed profusely. Despite his wounds he insisted in continuing the bombing run until the bombs were released. He then called on his one of his crew to help him and to bandage his wounds. Due to the damage to the aircraft two crew members, Flight Sergeant N. E. Ostrom and Sergeant C Shaw baled out and become prisoners of war. Sergeant Raymond Fisher, however, made his way forward to his pilot and applied field dressings to his shoulder and a tourniquet to his right arm. By this time Cann was feeling faint from loss of blood and Fisher, with the assistance of the Flight Engineer, pulled him from the pilot's seat and took control of the aircraft himself. The Lancaster was now down to 11,000 feet and Cann was in the navigator's seat giving Fisher instructions. Fisher flew the aircraft to within a few miles of the base and Cann took control again at 2,000 feet and executed a "pefect" landing.

For their actions that day Cann was awarded an immediate Distinguished Flying Cross with Fisher being awarded a Distinguished Flying Medal and a battlefield commission.

The citation for their medals appeared in the London Gazette of the 1st of December 1944:-

"Flying Officer Lindsay Northcote Beavis CANN 136936, R.A.F.V.R., 156 Sqn.
1602488 Sergeant Raymond Victor FISHER, R.A.F.V.R., 156 Sqn.
This officer and airman were pilot and navigator of an aircraft detailed for an attack on an oil refinery at Sterkrade one day in October, 1944. In the run-in the aircraft was heavily engaged by anti-aircraft fire. A shell exploded near the bomber and fragments smashed through the pilot's windscreen. Flying Officer Cann was struck in the arm and shoulder. Although bleeding profusely he continued his run. Not until the target had been bombed did he seek assistance. Sergeant Fisher promptly dressed his captain's wounds and applied a tourniquet to his arm. He then removed his almost fainting comrade from the pilot's seat, took over the controls and afterwards flew the aircraft back to this country. When nearing base, Flying Officer Cann, although very weak from the loss of blood, took over the controls and executed a perfect landing on the airfield. This officer set a fine example of courage and fortitude. Sergeant Fisher also proved himself to be a valiant and resourceful member of aircraft crew and proved a tower of strength in a difficult situation."

On the 17th of December he was at the controls of Lancaster Mk III PB675 GT-C which took off at 4.05pm from RAF Upwood for a raid on the town of Ulm.

This was the first time the RAF had attacked Ulm which was the home of the Margirius-Deutz and Kassbohrer lorry factories and a number of other industrial targets. A force of 317 Lancasters and 13 Mosquitos were despatched and during a 25 minute attack they dropped 1,449 tons of bombs across both the industrial area and the railway yards. The lorry factories were hit along with 29 other industrial buildings. The Gallwitz Barracks and several military hospitals were among 14 Wehrmacht buildings destroyed. The raid destroyed around 80% of the target area. Two Lancasters failed to return from the raid of which one was Lindsay Cann's.

Eyewitnesses at the village of Cernay near Champigneul-Champagne, some fifteen kilometres to the west of Chalons-sur-Marne, described seeing the aircraft fly very low over the village and seeing it circle three times, getting lower and lower, before crashing. The damage to the aircraft was such that none of the crew could be identified individually.

The crew was:-

Flying Officer Raymond Victor Fisher DFM (Navigator)
Flight Lieutenant Lindsay Northcote Beavis Cann DFC (Pilot)
Flying Officer Bernard John Wisby (Flight Engineer)
Flying Officer Joseph William Hennessy (Navigator)
Warrant Officer Joseph Lyons (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Derek Stanley Lowe (Mid Upper Gunner)
Flight Sergeant Joseph Lauret Roland Remillard RCAF (Rear Gunner)
Theirs was one of two Lancasters which failed to return from the operation.

The crew was buried at Champigneul-Champagne but were later reinterred at their present site.

A fellow member of 156 Squadron, Ralph Paech kept a diary which describes the trip across Germany and refers to the loss of Cann's aircraft that night.

"This was a long and boring night stooge well across southern Germany. The weather was shocking and we were above thick cloud throughout the entire journey. Our objective was to destroy the rail-yards and the docking facilities on the River Danube, because large amounts of supplies are being handled here and sent on to the German Armies, which are opposing the French Army near Saarbrucken. As no ground was visible, all marking was the Wanganui sky markers and although the markers were close together, owing to the winds being opposite to what the bombing data was worked out on, H2's photographs proved that all the bombs fell short of the town, and just ploughed up the mountains. Two aircraft are missing from the operation and it seems that they must have collided when descending through thick cloud over the Channel, because we saw no fighters anywhere and there was no defence. One crew was from here with F/O Cann as Skipper, and they always flew our aircraft when we were not using it. P/0 Fisher the Nav was a good pal of mine and he was commissioned same day as I was and had just been awarded the DFM".

In November 2007 the St Andrew's Citizen published the following article:-

"As armistice day approaches one local man uncovered a remarkable tale of wartime bravery and comradeship. Gordon Ball, Chairman of Cameron Community Council vowed to find out all he could about the pilot who saved the life of his friend Squadron Leader Jack Harrild more than 60 years ago when he heard his friend's story.

During the Second World War Mr. Harrild (87) who lives in Strathkinness with his wife Joan, was posted to the Pathfinder Force 635 Squadron at Downham Market flying one of the most famous bombers of the war, the Lancaster. On his way back from a successful bombing raid over Germany on the 13th of September 1944 his aircraft was hit and left vulnerable to further attack. He and his crew faced a long and lonely trip back to British soil when he noticed an aircraft from a different squadron,156,appearing alongside. The pilot Lindsay Cann tucked himself under the badly damaged starboard engine and wing and escorted the damaged aircraft safely back to Downham Market. Jack wrote and thanked Lindsay on behalf of himself and his crew for his unselfish act in protecting them. He got a reply to the effect that it was no more than his duty and he and his crew were very touched by his letter. It was the first time anyone had bothered to thank them."

He is commemorated on the war memorials at Altrincham, at Ridgewell and on the memorial at St John's School, Leatherhead. He is not currently commemorated on the memorial at the King's School Canterbury.

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