Two boys, friends flew to the war



Two boys, friends flew to the war


The loss of Colin Farrant and the award of a Distinguished Flying Medal to Donald Cochrane are reported in a newspaper article. They were friends who joined up together at the age of 15. Colin Farrant went missing on an operation to Essen. Donald Cochrane assisted his crew when they were attacked, helping the pilot to get the aircraft back safely.



Temporal Coverage




One newspaper cutting


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Two boys, friends, flew to the war
Sgt. Donald Cochrane, youngest airman to win the D.F.M., and (below) his friend, Colin Farrant, who is missing, believed killed

News Chronicle Reporter
BARNET (Herts), Monday.
Two boys, only a few months out of school, met in this market town one afternoon in 1941. Together they went to London to join the R.A.F. They were both 15.
At Buckingham Palace tomorrow morning one will shake hands with the King when he is invested with the D.F.M. – youngest airman to win it. The other boy is missing, believed killed during a raid on Essen.
Sgt. Donald Cochrane, D.F.M., is 25, according to Air Ministry records. Tonight, at his home here, Cochrane, a veteran flier at 19, told me the story of two 15-year-olds who were determined to fly.
“Colin Farrant and I joined the Barnet Air Defence Corps together and later became cadets in the Barnet 189 Squadron, A.T.C.,” he said.
Said they were 18
“In 1941, when we were both 15 – Colin was eight days older than I was – we decided to try to get into the Air Force. At breakfast one morning I asked my parents what they thought about it. They didn’t take it very seriously.
“That afternoon Colin and I went into London, entered the R.A.F. recruiting office, stated that we were 18, and were accepted.”
The boys trained at different places and both became wireless operators. In 1944, when 17, still under age, they began operational flying in Lancasters.
“The news that Colin was missing on operations came to me before I made my first raid,” Sgt. Cochrane said. “It was a big blow.”
Hit over Frankfurt
When he was still 17 and on his fourth bombing raid, a night fighter sprayed his Lancaster over Frankfurt. His operations log for that night reads:
“March 22, 1944. Airborne 1900 hours. ‘Q’ for Queenie. Ops. 4. Frankfurt. Shot up by night fighter over target area. Mid-upper gunner baled out. Rear gunner wounded.”
That is the extent of his report for a night’s work which made him the youngest D.F.M. The plane was nearly uncontrollable: Cochrane saved two of the crew by parting with his own oxygen apparatus and helping the pilot to bring the plane home.
“I must have been scared the whole time,” he said, “but I didn’t realise it until we got home. Then I really was scared.”
His hands had been burned extinguishing flames, but a few nights later he was on ops again.
“Young rascals”
“They were young rascals and gave us a lot of worry,” said Mrs. Cochrane tonight. “I would sit at home, thinking of what they were doing and wanting to write to the Air Ministry so that they would be discharged.
“My husband and I talked it over many times. But we let things go. It was what Don wanted, and we decided that we could not interfere.”


“Two boys, friends flew to the war ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 19, 2024,

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