Freeland, David Harrison (No. 979399)

Freeland, David Harrison (Harry)

Flight Sergeant

No. 979399, 138 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed in action on Sunday 27 September 1942 (aged 26)


Merville Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France (Plot 2 Row B Grave 15)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Holywood and District War Memorial

Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church

Sullivan Upper School, Holywood

Cousin of Sergeant Robert Keith Eston (No. 408709)


David Harrison Freeland was born on 26 February 1916 and he was the only son of David and Helen (Nellie) Freeland (nee Keith) of Jackson Hall, Ballygrainey, Craigavad.  David Freeland worked as a clerk and he and Helen Keith were married on 9 April 1913 in Duncairn Presbyterian Church, Belfast.  David Freeland from 64 Woodvale Road, Belfast was a son of Charles Freeland, an engineer.  Helen Keith from 3 Glenravel Street, Belfast was a daughter of Hutchinson Keith, a builder (deceased).  Hutchinson Keith died on 23 September 1911 (aged 69).

Helen Keith’s sister Florence married Robert James Eston on 5 July 1911 and their only son, Sergeant Robert Keith Eston, died in service on 23 November 1945.

David Harrison Freeland was educated at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood which he attended from 1926 until 1929 and then at Coleraine Academical Institution.  He played rugby at school and afterwards for the North of Ireland club.  He played tennis for the Norwood Tennis Club, Holywood and badminton for the Belfast Commercial Boat Club.  He was the founder and captain (1938 to 1940) of the 70th Belfast Company (Ballygilbert) Boys’ Brigade.

On leaving school, Harry Freeland worked for Messrs McMullan’s of Ireland Ltd., Petrol and Oil Distributors, Linenhall Street, Belfast.  He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve immediately after the outbreak of war and was called up in February 1941.

Harry Freeland and Sarah (Peggy) McDowell of Windermere, 2 Brunswick Road, Bangor were married on 15 May 1942 in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church.

During the Second World War Flight Sergeant Harry Freeland (No. 979399) served in Bomber Command and he was one of a five-man crew aboard an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mark V aircraft (Z9275) that took off from RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire on a Special Operations Executive (SOE) operation.  The purpose of SOE operations was to link up with local resistance movements.  Their aircraft crashed near Merville in France and two crew members were taken Prisoner-of-War – Sergeant J.H. Cox and Sergeant P.G. Moore.

Flight Sergeant David Harrison Freeland (No. 979399) was killed and the other two crew members who died that day were:

  • Flight Sergeant Edmund George Hayhoe (aged 19) from Harrow Weald, Middlesex
  • Flight Sergeant Frederick George Green (aged 21) from Liverpool

Flight Sergeant David Harrison Freeland (No. 979399) was 26 when he died on 27 September 1942 and there were three Killed in Action notices in the 31 October 1942 edition of the County Down Spectator.  There was one from his widow, Sergeant Peggy Freeland W.A.A.F. (they had been married for just over four months) and another from his parents.  The 70th Belfast Company (Ballygilbert) Boys’ Brigade placed a notice announcing a memorial service to be held in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church at 5.30 pm on Sunday 1 November 1942.  Boys’ Brigade Companies from Belfast (Ballygilbert), Bangor, Holywood and Ballymiscaw attended the service.

Flight Sergeant David Harrison (Harry) Freeland (No. 979399) is commemorated on Holywood and District War Memorial; in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church and in Sullivan Upper School, Holywood.  Harry’s father, David Freeland MBE, presented the Harry Freeland Perpetual Championship Trophy in Harry’s memory, to be awarded annually at Balmoral Agricultural Show for the champion bird in the poultry classes at the Show.