John Andrew Heenan

Sergeant, service number  15378

Royal Airforce, 70 Squadron

Died 29 December  1944 

John Andrew was the navigator on board a Wellington that took off from Tortorella in Italy in December 1944. Its mission was to  out a supply drop  at Crnomelj, in what was then Yugoslavia (now Slovenia). Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return.The aircraft had apparently crashed near Campobasso, Italy.

All crew members were killed:
Captain Raymond Richard Lindsay Hawke , Pilot
Sgt Donald Thayre, Air Bomber
Sgt  Raymond Leslie Cundy, W.Op./Air Gunner
Sgt  James Bernard Mulholland, Air Gnr
Sgt John Andrew Heenan, navigator

All are buried in the Cassino War Cemetery, Italy.

No.70 Squadron served as a heavy bomber squadron. It had been stationed in North Africa when war began but in December 1943 it relocated to Italy. Stationed at the Tortorella airbase in the Foggia area of Italy, 70 Squadron shared a base with the 37 Squadron and the USAAF 15th Airforce 99th Bomb Group.

From here. the Americans conducted daytime raids while the two British squadrons conducted night attacks, often on the same target. From January 1944 the crews at Tortorella targets were mainly transport related – docks, marshalling yards, bridges – and oil refineries, ports and tankers in an area from North Italy to  Bulgaria, Rumania, Yugoslavia and Hungary.

One of their key objectives was to slow the flow of Rumanian oil to Germany by attacking railway facilities and naval craft along rivers.

We don’t know exactly when John Andrew Heenan joined the squadron or in which missions he flew but Tortorella was a very busy airbase so it’s highly likely he was involved in a number of those raids.

John Andrew Heenan’s family

All we know about John Andrew Heenan is that he was  aged about 20 at the time of his death. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission  records, he was the son of Daniel and Anne Heenan of Rising Brook. Stafford.

Records of civil registration of marriages shows that Daniel Heenan and Anne Norton were married in Manchester in 1923. The following year they had a son John A Heenan, whose birth was registered in Cardiff. The couple went on to have a further child – a daughter called Marian born in 1928. This birth was also registered in Cardiff.

By 1939 however the family had moved to Stafford to Number 1 Kingsley Road, which is on the edge of Rising Brook in Stafford.  Daniel, then aged 44 was working as a driver for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. The records of the two children who would then have been aged 15 and 11, are marked as private.

Anne died in 1963 and her husband in 1967, both clearly still resident in the Stafford area. Their daughter Marion married in 1947.

Sources

  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission [https://www.cwgc.org]
  • http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/
  • Civil registration of births England and Wales: John A Heenan, registered Cardiff, Q2 1924, Vol 11a page 659, General Register Office
    Accessed via Find My Past.co.uk
  • Civil registration of births England and Wales: Marian A Heenan, registered Cardiff, Q3 1928, Vol 11a page 582, General Register Office Accessed via Find My Past.co.uk
  • Civil registration of marriages England and Wales, Daniel Heenan/Anne Nolan, registered Manchester Q2 1982 Vol8d page 375
  • General Register Office Accessed via Find My Past.co.uk
  • National Register of England and Wales, 1939, Stafford RG 101/5426J, The National Archives, accessed via ancestry.co.uk