McCann, Thomas Andrew (No. 116980)

McCann, Thomas Andrew (Tom)

Pilot Officer

No. 116980, 134 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed in action on Monday 27 July 1942 (aged 23)

Buried:

El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt (Grave X. E. 17)

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

RAF Book of Remembrance in St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast

Bangor and District War Memorial

Bangor Grammar School

Family grave headstone in Bangor Cemetery

BIOGRAPHY

Thomas Andrew (Tom) McCann was born on 9 May 1919 at 6 Orborne Terrace, Lisburn Road, Belfast and he was the eldest son of Thomas Andrew Mitchell McCann, an income tax collector, and Florence McCann (nee Sheppard) who later lived at Mydrum, 16 Waverley Drive, Ballyholme, Bangor.  They were married on 23 June 1918 in Knockbreda Parish Church of Ireland Church and they had at least five children:

Thomas Andrew (born 9 May 1919 at 6 Orborne Terrace, Lisburn Road, Belfast)

John (born 6 July 1920)

Joan

Maureen Audrey (born 25 March 1926, baptised in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church 25 April 1926)

Michael (born October 1933)

Tom was 14 when his mother Florence died on 23 October 1933 (aged 36) and on 18 December 1934 his father married Etta Clara Morgan; they had no children.  Thomas Andrew Mitchell McCann died on 14 November 1975 and his second wife, Etta Clara McCann, died on 8 March 1984.

Tom McCann went to Bangor Grammar School in September 1931 at the age of twelve.  He was there for three years and in his final year, at the age of 15, he was the youngest boy ever to win the mile race at the school.  After leaving school he worked for Belfast Harbour Commissioners.  He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in January 1939 and was called up at the outbreak of war.

Tom McCann and Barbara Bradshaw were married on 8 January 1941 in Groomsport Parish Church of Ireland Church and Tom’s brother John, who served as a Junior Engineer in the Merchant Navy, was his best man.  Barbara’s sister Violet was her bridesmaid and the Revd George Freeman, Rector of Groomsport, performed the ceremony.  Barbara’s father, Thomas D.O. Bradshaw, was deceased and she was given away by a close family friend – Mr T. Mahood, Manager of the Portaferry Branch of the Belfast Banking Company.  The couple spent their honeymoon in Portrush and, after Tom returned to duty in England, Barbara lived in the Bradshaw family home at 6 Dufferin Villas, Bangor – which is where she and Tom had held their wedding reception.

Tom and Barbara’s daughter, Felicity Barbara McCann, was born on 17 December 1941 and she was baptised in the Church of Ireland Church of St. Columbanus at Ballyholme on 2 April 1942 – some three months before her father was killed in action.

During the Second World War Tom McCann saw front line service in several places.  In 1940, during the Battle of Britain, he flew with 601 (City of London) Squadron.  In September 1941 he was in 134 Squadron which, along with 84 Squadron, formed 151 Wing that was sent to Murmansk.  There he provided air support and instruction for Russian pilots and ground crew to enable them to fly and maintain the Hurricanes which they had brought with them from Britain. The book Hurricanes over Murmansk by John Golley describes this expedition. Tom McCann returned to England in December 1941.  In 1942 Tom McCann was commissioned Pilot Officer and in April 1942 he was sent to Egypt.

Pilot Officer Tom McCann (No. 116980) was killed near Alexandria in Egypt on 27 July 1942 and was buried in El Alamein War Cemetery.  There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:

WITH GREAT COURAGE

AND FORTITUDE

HE FOUGHT AGAINST

THE ENEMIES OF LIBERTY

Pilot Officer Tom McCann (No. 116980) was 23 when he was killed in the Middle East and he is commemorated in the RAF Book of Remembrance in St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast; on Bangor and District War Memorial; in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Comgall’s); in Bangor Grammar School and on the family grave headstone in Bangor Cemetery.