RAF pilot killed in Kuala Lumpur recognised with Elizabeth Cross

70 years after RAF Navigator Andre Harris was killed in Kuala Lumpur, his son Bruce Harris has been presented with a trio of medals recognising his father’s service and sacrifice.

Bruce Harris
Bruce Harris receives the Elizabeth Cross from Lord Lieutenant Frank Ross

Presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Edinburgh Frank Ross and Royal Air Force Vice-Marshall Ross Paterson this week (Monday 29 April), Andre’s honours include the Elizabeth Cross and Memorial Scroll, which are awarded on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen.


Pilot Andre Harris, Navigator 2 with the 45 Squadron, was 24 years old when the aircraft he was operating crashed as it came in to land at RAF Butterworth in Kuala Lumpur. He lost his life on 11 February 1949 and is buried in Penang in Malaya.


Edinburgh’s Lord Lieutenant Frank Ross is also the city’s Veterans Champion. He said: “It is an honour to bestow Andre’s son and extended family with this tangible recognition of his bravery. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those men and women who serve in our Armed Forces today and who have done so in the past. That debt extends to the families who support them and who bear the burden whilst loved ones are deployed on operations. The Elizabeth Cross provides a lasting recognition of Andre’s National Service and the tragic loss felt by those he left behind.” 

Andre’s son, Bruce Harris, said: “This ceremony is so important to our family and I am really grateful to collect all three honours. It is touching that my Father is still recognised today for his service with the RAF. I was just a young boy when he was killed. My mother kept lots of mementoes of him, which I have always held dear… these medals will also be treasured.”


The Elizabeth Cross award was created in 2009 to provide national recognition for the families of Armed Forces personnel who have died on operations or as a result of an act of terrorism. It is granted to the families of those who died in conflicts dating back to 1948, from the Korean War, the Falklands conflict, operations in Northern Ireland and recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In a message to her Armed Forces, Her Majesty the Queen said: “This seems to me a right and proper way of showing our enduring debt to those who are killed while actively protecting what is most dear to us all. The solemn dignity which we attach to the names of those who have fallen is deeply engrained in our national character. As a people, we accord this ultimate sacrifice the highest honour and respect.”


About Andre Harris


Navigator 2 Andre Leslie James Harris was born on 28 April 1924 to Arthur James Harris and Fanny Harris. He married Elsie Maud Cotter from Liverpool and had two children, his stepson Ian and his son Andrew. Andrew was named after his father, but his father wished him to be known as Bruce.


Navigator 2 Harris enlisted into the Royal Air Force (RAF) Reserves on 2 November 1942 as an Aircraftman 2nd Class at 18 Years old. He was called up for service in the RAF on the 12 April 1943 and proceeded to join Number 4 Initial Training Wing at Bexhill on 27 November 1943, where he completed his basic training.


On 7 June 1944 Harris was assigned to Canada to complete Aircrew Training at the No1 Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, Ontario. On completion of his training he returned to the UK and was promoted to Temporary Sergeant on 3 November 1944. He was then posted to RAF Bridgnorth Training Wing on Boxing Day 1944, before being posted to Number 17 Operational Training Unit (OYU) Upwood, where Light Bomber Crews were trained.


Harris was assigned to Number 77 Squadron on 13 July 1945, which operated Dakota aircraft put of RAF Mansion in Kent. He was then promoted to Temporary Flight Sergeant on 3 November 1945. He served for a brief time with 512 Squadron at RAF Holme-in-Spalding, which operated Dakotas, before being posted to RAF Waterbeach.


On 19 June 1946 he was posted to Aircrew Holding Unit Number 30 at Full Sutton until the 12 December 1946 when he was released from RAF enlisted service. But on 2 May 1947, Harris re-enlisted into the RAF and was promoted to Navigator 2 on 7 May 1948. He was subsequently assigned to 45 Squadron and sent to Kuala Lumpur.


On 11 February 1949, Navigator 2 Harris was tragically killed at RAF Butterworth in Kuala Lumpur, when the aircraft he was operating in crashed as it came in to land. The Beaufighter RD.858 had been carrying out formation flying and single engine landings.


His funeral was held on 12 February 1949. Navigator 2 Harris was buried in Grave number 1991 in Western Road Cemetery in Penang, Malaya. He was 24 years old. Navigator 2’s family has been presented with: the Elizabeth Cross, a Memorial Scroll, the War Medal 1939-1945, and the General Service Medal 1918 with Malaya Clasp Presentation.

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