Dambuster of the Day No. 95: Leonard Eaton

Eaton

Flt Sgt L Eaton
Wireless operator

Lancaster serial number: ED825/G

Call sign: AJ-T

Second wave. First aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully but failed to breach dam. Returned to base.

Leonard Eaton, aged 37, was the oldest man to take part in the Dams Raid. He was born in Manchester on 16 March 1906, one of the seven children of Thomas and Edith Eaton. He followed his father’s trade as a bookbinder after leaving school. He enlisted in the RAF in 1940. He was eventually sent for training as a wireless operator/air gunner and was posted to a conversion unit in the late summer of 1942. There he became one of the first people to crew up with Joe McCarthy, flying for the first time with McCarthy, Bill Radcliffe and Ron Batson on 13 September 1942.
The crew joined 97 Squadron, and Eaton flew on 17 operations during their tour, missing two periods of about a month, presumably through illness. The crew then transferred to 617 Squadron.
When they eventually took off on the Dams Raid, Eaton had a problem with the radio equipment in the spare aircraft AJ-T, and lost communication with Group HQ. Aware that this should mean that he abort the trip, McCarthy told him he didn’t hear what he said, and ploughed on. Eaton must have got the set working again, as later on they were able to communicate their progress, and he was able to hear the code word for the breach of the Möhne Dam being transmitted as AJ-T lined up to attack the Sorpe.
Following the raid he completed a further 34 trips with McCarthy, until the whole crew were taken off operations in July 1944.  He was promoted to Warrant Officer in June 1944, and awarded the DFM.
In August 1944, he was posted to a training unit and commissioned. He left the RAF in 1945 and took up employment as an agent for a clothing firm. He carried on this work until his retirement.
Len Eaton died in Manchester on 22 March 1974 and was cremated at Manchester Crematorium.

Survived war. Died 22 March 1974.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Dave Birrell, Big Joe McCarthy, Wingleader Publishing, 2012
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, The Last British Dambuster, Ebury Press, 2014

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

Dambuster of the Day No. 94: Donald MacLean

Portrait,   F/Sgt. D.A. MacLean, D.F.M.

Don MacLean in an official photograph, probably taken soon after the Dams Raid, as he is still wearing his Flight Sergeant’s stripes and crown. [Pic: RCAF]

Flt Sgt D A MacLean
Navigator

Lancaster serial number: ED825/G

Call sign: AJ-T

Second wave. First aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully but failed to breach dam. Returned to base.

Donald Arthur MacLean was born in Toronto, Canada, on 2 April 1916, one of the four children of James and Edith MacLean. His father worked as a foreman at Goodyear Tires in the city. He went to Bloor Collegiate school and the University of Toronto, and then qualified as a teacher. He was a good ice hockey player, and this helped him get teaching positions in the small towns of Head Lake and Powassan in Ontario.
MacLean volunteered for the RCAF shortly after the war started. After qualifying as a navigator, he set out for England. After further training and a short spell in 44 Squadron, he arrived at 97 Squadron at the end of 1942. His first operation was with Flt Lt K G Tew, when they took part in “gardening” on 31 December 1942. MacLean then flew on a further 17 operations over the next three months, all except one with Tew as his pilot. 
He then transferred to Joe McCarthy’s crew. He may have seen this as a temporary move, since McCarthy and the others were all at the end of their first tour, but when the chance came for a move to a new squadron he went along with it. The easy rapport between McCarthy and his crew would surely have swayed his decision, along with the fact that it already held two other Canadians. Whatever the reason, with MacLean’s arrival, McCarthy’s crew was complete and wouldn’t change again for another 13 months.
MacLean’s navigation log for the Dams Raid provides an account of AJ-T’s journey, along with some fascinating details. At 0020, before the aircraft reached the target, MacLean wrote: “W.Op fixing TR9 under my table”. He recorded the time of arrival at Target Z as 0030 and at 0046 wrote “Bombs Gone”. If there were nine or ten runs in all, as Johnny Johnson recalls, then this would mean that they took not much more than 90 seconds each time to get back to the starting point.

MacLean nav log Page 3MacLean’s log doesn’t seem to record the fact that AJ-T went off course on the way home, ending up over the heavily defended town of Hamm. Fortunately McCarthy managed to find a way through and the aircraft returned unscathed. The error might have been due to the earlier change in compass deviation cards.
MacLean and Johnson were both awarded DFMs for their work on the Dams Raid. It emerged a few days later that MacLean had in fact been commissioned shortly before the raid, but didn’t receive notification until afterwards. This meant that logically, he should have received the officers’ medal, the DFC, instead. Adjutant Harry Humphries offered to try and get the draft award changed, but MacLean declined, saying: “Hell, no!”
MacLean carried on flying with Joe McCarthy throughout the rest of their tour, ending with 57 operations under his belt. He married his wife Josie, who had worked as a wireless operator at Scampton, in Lincoln Cathedral in 1944. She went out to Canada and lived with her parents-in-law until MacLean himself was able to return there later that year.
Don MacLean stayed in the RCAF after the war, and eventually retired in 1967 as a Wing Commander. He was stationed in many locations across Canada and the USA but also had a four year stint from 1957 to 1961 on the Canadian Joint Staff in London. The family, which by then included four children, lived in Croydon at that time.
After leaving the RCAF, he worked as Director of the Ontario Health Insurance Program(OHIP) in Toronto.
 He finally retired in 1981 and died in Toronto in July 1992.

Survived war. Died July 1992.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Dave Birrell, Big Joe McCarthy, Wingleader Publishing, 2012
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, The Last British Dambuster, Ebury Press, 2014

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

Dambuster of the Day No. 93: William Radcliffe

IWM TR1128Six members of the McCarthy crew, photographed in July 1943. L–R: George “Johnny” Johnson, Don MacLean, Ron Batson, Joe McCarthy, Bill Radcliffe, Len Eaton. [IWM TR1128]

Sgt W G Radcliffe
Flight Engineer

Lancaster serial number: ED825/G

Call sign: AJ-T

Second wave. First aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully but failed to breach dam. Returned to base.

William Gordon Radcliffe was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada on 24 September 1919, and was educated at New Westminster Central School and I J Fopp Technical High School.
In March 1939, suspecting that war was on its way, Radcliffe travelled to England with his friend Howard Godfrey, and volunteered to join the RAF as a ground crew mechanic. Over the next three years he developed the skills which Joe McCarthy would come to rely on later in the war.
In 1942 the RAF decided to dispense with the second pilot and institute the new position of flight engineer in its heavy bomber squadrons. Many ground crew saw this as their chance to fly, and amongst these was the young Canadian. Radcliffe was sent to the No 4 School of Technical Training at St Athans in Wales, and qualified as a flight engineer in July 1942. He was posted to 97 Squadron and flew on his first operation on 10 September 1942. A few days later, he had teamed up with Joe McCarthy and together with Ron Batson and Len Eaton became the nucleus of a crew which would stay together for almost two years.
Radcliffe was also the owner of the crew’s mascot, a small stuffed Panda Bear which he would tuck into his boot on every flight. Its features were also copied onto the nose art on several of the crew’s regular aircraft.
Their first operation as a crew was on 5 October on a trip to Aachen. Most crews were given what was thought to be a relatively easy assignment on their first operation. The McCarthy crew’s first outing most certainly was not. In a letter home, Radcliffe wrote:

You usually get a nice easy trip for the first time and we were told this one was going to be fairly easy. But it didn’t turn out that way. … [W]hen we got up to 10,000 feet we ran into an electrical storm. It sure was pretty at first seeing sparks and flashes all over the windscreen and flashes all over the wings and fuselage and the tips of the props were glowing. But then it started to ice up and then the trouble started. 
We climbed right up to 15 or 16 thousand and we were still in it. We’d pass through a cloud with a negative charge and then hit one with a positive and the result was a big blinding flash that scared the daylight out of me. We weren’t much troubled by Jerry and we made the target O.K. and just managed to bomb through a gap in the clouds but couldn’t see the results.
Coming back it got worse and we ran into a lot more ice. We must have dropped over 14,000 feet in less than nothing and the rapid change in temperature or the ice cracked the perspex windows on each side of the cabin and blew a two foot hole out of each side. Believe me then I was scared. I thought for sure we had been hit, my log and the navigator’s log, pencil and instruments etc just vanished outside. As soon as I realised what happened, I looked out and saw that we were skimming the tree tops of France. You could see the roads and houses plainly and we passed over a large town that didn’t seem to be blacked out at all.
We got everything under control again and made some height to cross the coast. When we got back to the aerodrome we couldn’t get any answer from our radio and after half an hour of circling we had to land by signals. When we got down we found the aerial inside the kite instead of outside. It must have broken off in the storm and come through the window. Believe me I was relieved to find some of the other crews were scared as much as we were. Mac is a wizard at handling the machine. If it hadn’t of been for him … I think if I had to go through these storm on every trip I’d be grey before I’m 24.
[Dave Birrell, Big Joe McCarthy, p.55]

Fortunately not every operation was as eventful as this, and Radcliffe went on to complete his full tour with McCarthy by March 1943. The whole crew was then transferred to the new 617 Squadron for “just one more trip”.
After all the training came the raid itself. Because of the late change of aircraft, the McCarthy crew were more than half an hour late leaving the ground. Radcliffe’s skills as a flight engineer were put to the test as they pulled out all the stops to make up time, something McCarthy would later acknowledge, and they were only nine minutes late reaching the Sorpe Dam. 
On their return journey, Radcliffe’s experience told again:

We decided that we’d map-read through the Zieder Zee and go home the way we came in. We scooted up the Zieder Zee. My engineer had flown with me on many, many trips. He and I always used to argue about speed and he’d say “No we’ve got to save gas, we’ve got to save gas.” He’d never give me my speed. But this night, coming out I was saying “Cut those motors back, you’re going to burn them out.” He had them set right up to the max and we were really tooting along. He had it all set like that until we got out into the middle of the North Sea.
[Dave Birrell, Big Joe McCarthy, p.123]

Radcliffe went on to fly with McCarthy throughout the rest of their second tour. He was commissioned in November 1943, and awarded the DFC in June 1944. After coming off operations, he served in training units for the remainder of the war, returning to Canada in February 1945.
After the war he became a Customs and Excise Officer, and was also attached to the recruiting branch of the RCAF Reserve.
 Bill Radcliffe died on 5 July 1952 when his car failed to go round a bend in the road, went into the Fraser River where he drowned. It was thought he had had a blackout. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered by his colleagues in the RCAF Reserve over his favourite mountain, Burnaby Mountain in Canada (also known as Eagle Mountain).
He had married Joyce Palfreyman, an English WAAF, and they had three children. Following his death, Joyce returned to the UK with the children to be nearer her own family.

Footnote: It is interesting to note that there were two Canadian-born flight engineers on the Dams Raid. Both joined the RAF as ground staff before the war, and became flight engineers when the positions became available in 1942. The other was Sgt Charles Brennan in John Hopgood’s crew who was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1916. His family emigrated back to the UK in 1928.
Thanks to Dorothy Bailey for help with this article.

Survived war. Died 5 July 1952.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Dave Birrell, Big Joe McCarthy, Wingleader Publishing, 2012
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, The Last British Dambuster, Ebury Press, 2014

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

Dambuster of the Day No. 92: Joseph McCarthy

IWM CH9925

Joe McCarthy talks to the King, Scampton, 27 May 1943. Note McCarthy’s dual “Canada USA” shoulder flash. [Pic: IWM CH9925]

Flt Lt J C McCarthy DFC
Pilot

Lancaster serial number: ED825/G

Call sign: AJ-T

Second wave. First aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully but failed to breach dam. Returned to base.

Joseph Charles McCarthy was born on 31 August 1919 in St James on Long Island, New York, USA, the older of the two sons of Cornelius and Eve McCarthy. His father worked as a clerk. Shortly after Joe was born, the family moved to the Bronx in New York City, where Cornelius worked as a book-keeper in a shipyard. Later he became a firefighter.
Joe’s mother died when he was eleven and his grandmother took over the running of the household. Although they lived in the Bronx, they had a summer home on Long Island and it was there he became a champion swimmer and baseball player, and worked as a life guard at various beaches including Coney Island. In his late teens, he and his friend Don Curtin became interested in flying and took lessons at Roosevelt Field on Long Island, then the busiest airfield in the USA.
When the war started, Joe made several attempts to join the US Air Corps but was rebuffed because he didn’t have a college degree. By May 1941, he was getting frustrated and so he and Don decided to take an overnight bus up to Ottawa in Canada. Having located the RCAF recruiting office, they were first told to come back in six weeks.


‘Don and I responded that we didn’t have the money to return again so if the airforce wanted us they had better decide that day.’ With that the officer in charge looked the two young, strong, healthy Americans over, realised that they were ideal prospects, and said ‘Okay.’ Enlistment papers were filled out, medical examinations were passed, and Joe and Don were enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force Special Reserve. (Dave Birrell, Big Joe McCarthy, Wingleader 2013, p.19.)

The pair became two of the almost 9,000 American citizens who eventually joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. By the end of 1941, they were both qualified pilots and, with new wings stitched proudly on their uniforms, were on board a ship bound for Liverpool.
More training was to follow in a variety of different establishments. By 31 July 1942, both Curtin and McCarthy were at 14 Operational Training Unit, training on Hampdens, when they were both called on to participate in one of the large raids which followed the series of Thousand Bomber Raids. 630 aircraft were mobilised from many different squadrons and OTUs for a raid on Dusseldorf. 
McCarthy’s operational debut passed off without incident, but Curtin had a more eventful trip, evading two separate fighter attacks and then hit by anti-aircraft fire. He landed in a field in Devon and dragged his wounded crew from the aircraft. For this action, he received an immediate DFC, a very rare occurence of such an award being made for a first operation.
In September 1942, both were posted to 97 Squadron’s conversion flight for their training on Lancasters. Flight engineer Bill Radcliffe, a Canadian, wireless operator Len Eaton and air gunner Ron Batson, both British, all joined the squadron at about the same time and became regular members of Joe McCarthy’s crew. These four would stay together for the next 21 months, coming off operations at the same time in July 1944.
The conversion course finished, and McCarthy and his crew were initially posted to 106 Squadron at Coningsby, along with Don Curtin and his crew. At the last minute, McCarthy was sent instead to 97 Squadron at Woodhall Spa, as one of the replacements for a series of heavy losses it had undergone. 97 Squadron had recently been designated as a Pathfinder squadron, marking targets for the rest of Bomber Command’s main force.
The other three members of McCarthy’s crew at this time were navigator Flt Sgt W Brayford, bomb aimer Sgt Alan Westwell and rear gunner Sgt Ralph Muskett.
McCarthy made the usual “Second Dickey” trip on an operation to Krefeld on 2 October 1942, flying as co-pilot with Flg Off C D Keir. Three days later, the crew undertook their first full operation together, in an attack by 257 aircraft on the town of Aachen. Weather conditions were very poor, and McCarthy and his crew suffered severe problems with icing which left the cockpit side windows with large holes.
McCarthy went on to complete several more operations by early December. At that point, there was a change in his crew. The navigator, Sgt Brayford, left and Sgt Westwell, the bomb aimer who was also a trained navigator, moved into his job. The replacement bomb aimer was Sgt George “Johnny” Johnson, who had been on the squadron for a few months but had no regular crew. He had flown on a number of operations as a gunner. His first trip with McCarthy was on a raid on Munich on 22 December 1942.
In January, the crew flew on an operation to Duisburg using Lancaster ED340 for the first time. They would use this aircraft for most of the rest of their tour, and named it “Uncle Chuck Chuck” after a small toy panda which Bill Radcliffe always carried. They had the name and a picture of the panda painted on its nose, and would have similar pictures painted on most of the aircraft they used regularly during the rest of the war.
Later in January, rear gunner Sgt Muskett left the crew, after suffering bad reactions during corkscrews and other necessary evasive actions. His replacement was Flg Off Dave Rodger, another Canadian. 
On 25 February, McCarthy set off on his 24th operation, an attack by 337 aircraft on Nuremberg. Also on this raid was Don Curtin, in a detachment from 106 Squadron, but unfortunately he was shot down near Furth. When word reached 97 Squadron, someone in authority decided not to tell McCarthy until he had completed his tour. Less than three weeks later, on 12 March, navigator Sgt Westwell finished his tour after a trip to Essen and was replaced by the crew’s third Canadian, Flt Sgt Don MacLean.
By 22 March 1943 McCarthy had completed a tour of 33 operations. He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant, and recommended for a DFC. By then, he had also been told about Don Curtin. The pair had discussed their future, possibly thinking of joining the USAAF. But without his friend, McCarthy was considering his position. Then he had a phone call from Guy Gibson to ask him personally to join the new squadron he was setting up for a special secret operation. Gibson had known McCarthy from his time at 97 Squadron conversion flight the previous September and had also been Don Curtin’s CO in 106 Squadron. McCarthy recounted later:

He asked me if I’d like to join a special squadron for one mission. He also asked if I could bring my own crew along… He couldn’t tell me what we were going to do, where we were going to go, or anything… He said “If you can’t bring the whole crew take as many as you can. We’ll probably find some for you, but we would prefer your own.”
I explained it to my crew and I got a lot of flak back, quick, “Why? What are we going to do?” Same thing I asked and I just had to tell them I didn’t know but it was going to be just one trip. I don’t know whether I, at that moment, had any decision from them that they would accompany me. But in two days, I arrived at the Officers Mess and I was looking around and I found all my crew there with a brief but proud little grin, and they were all ready and waiting to go again. So I had the original crew all the way through. 
The next thing we knew we were at Scampton. Gibby didn’t fool around.
Dave Birrell, Big Joe McCarthy, 2012, p87

When the crew arrived at Scampton, they hit a problem. Orders had been issued that since training for the special operation was to begin straightaway, all leave was cancelled. McCarthy and his crew had been due to go on a week’s leave, and bomb aimer Johnny Johnson had arranged to get married during this time, on Saturday 3 April. When he told McCarthy he reacted quickly, gathering the entire crew together and marching them into Gibson’s office. Johnson recalled:

Joe laid it on the line.
“The thing is, sir,” he said, very forcibly, “we’ve all just finished our tour and we are all entitled to a week’s leave. My bomb aimer is due to be married on the third of April and let me tell you he is going to get married on the third of April!”
There was a short pause while the others, no doubt, wished they were anywhere else except standing in the office of Wg Cdr Guy Gibson DSO, DFC and Bar, who had a fearsome reputation as a strict disciplinarian and had been known by the crews of 106 Squadron as “The Arch-Bastard”. 
He looked us up and down and said, “Very well. You can have four days. Dismissed.”
Thank you Joe!I left for Torquay immediately, before our new CO could change his mind.
George “Johnny” Johnson, The Last British Dambuster, Ebury Press 2013, p133

In fact, Gibson was probably relieved. He would have known at this stage that he didn’t yet have enough aircraft for his new squadron to train on, so a crew going on leave for four days was hardly going to upset the schedule too much. 
On their return, the training began in earnest. It involved low flying for days at a time, something they all found exhilarating. At one point McCarthy was flying at about 100 feet above the ground when another Lancaster flew below him. He was livid, as he wasn’t prepared for this and could only think of what might have happened. Everyone he asked denied responsibility, although later Les Munro confessed it was him. (Johnson, p146)
Five days before the raid, Gibson wrote up a provisional order of battle on an early draft of the operational order. Nine aircraft were listed in the First Wave, scheduled to attack the Möhne and Eder Dams, and they included both Joe McCarthy and Les Munro. Then, during the long meeting which took place the day before the operation, the pair were moved to the Second Wave, attacking the Sorpe Dam. This was not a reflection of the bombing abilities of either crew but rather a late acknowledgement that the Sorpe should be seen as a higher priority.
With hindsight, the lack of a detailed strategy for attacking the Sorpe can be seen as a major failure by Barnes Wallis and the operation’s planners. Tests had shown that the ‘bouncing bomb’ had a good chance of working when delivered at right angles to a concrete walled dam, like the Möhne and Eder. But no one had been able to think of an effective way of delivering the same exploding depth charge against an embankment type dam with its sloping wall, built of earth and concrete.
So it was that, on the day of the raid, the five crews of the Second Wave were suddenly told that the type of attack they had been training for would not be used. Instead, they were to fly along the dam wall at low height and release the mine in such a way that it would roll down the wall and explode when it reached the correct depth. 
Joe McCarthy was given the responsibility of leading the Second Wave, controlling it using the newly installed VHF radios. The five aircraft would not fly in formation but would take off at one minute intervals, starting at 2127, and ahead of the Second Wave. Because they were to take a longer route, this would mean that they would cross the Dutch coast at the same time as the First Wave, but further north.
The crew headed out to their designated aircraft, ED923 code name AJ-Q, which they had nicknamed “Queenie Chuck Chuck”. Unfortunately, while the engines were being run up one on the starboard side developed a coolant leak and it was obvious that it could not be used. Determined not to miss the action, McCarthy ordered his crew out and set off for the spare Lancaster AJ-T, which had only arrived on the base six hours previously. A series of mishaps then occurred. As they threw all the essential equipment out of the windows, McCarthy’s parachute caught on a hook and blossomed all over him on the ground. They reached AJ-T, only to find it didn’t have its important compass deviation card on board. McCarthy charged off himself in a truck to the flight office to get the card. His approach resembled a “runaway tank”, recalled adjutant Harry Humphries later. A search for the card followed, while Humphries did his best to calm the big American down. It was found quite quickly and McCarthy headed back to AJ-T, where Dave Rodger had spent several minutes getting ground crew to remove the Perspex sliding panel in his rear turret.
AJ-T eventually took to the air some 33 minutes later than their scheduled departure time, after the nine aircraft in the First Wave had departed. Bill Radcliffe’s engineering skills were tested as AJ-T flew as fast as possible to make up time, and they had made up 16 minutes by the time they reached the Dutch coast.
The Second Wave was already in severe trouble, a fact unknown to their designated leader flying behind them. Byers had been shot down and Munro and Rice had been forced to abandon the operation. Barlow had got through, but would crash in flames less than an hour later. McCarthy ploughed on, although by the time he was in ememy territory, he had lost radio contact with base, the GEE navigation system had failed and a light had come on in the nose compartment, which made them a much easier target for the night fighters they could see above them. The light problem was easily fixed with a blow from Radcliffe’s crash axe, and later Len Eaton managed to reestablish radio contact.
When they reached the Sorpe, they realised that none of the other crews had made it. Surveying the scene, McCarthy realised how difficult the attack was going to be, even though there were no flak batteries present to defend the dam. The approach involved flying over the small town of Langscheid, which had a prominent church steeple, and then dropping very low so that the mine could be dropped in the exact centre of the dam. After several attempts, McCarthy realised that he could use the steeple as a marker and eventually, on the tenth approach, he managed to make a near perfect run, getting down to about 30 feet. Johnson released the weapon, and shouted “Bomb gone”. “Thank God” came the reply from Dave Rodger in the rear turret, pretty fed up with the continuous buffeting he was getting from the steep climb necessary at the end of the run.
McCarthy set course for home, but went via the Möhne, having heard over the radio that it had been breached. They saw a clear breach in the wall and noted that the level was already well down. On the return flight they went badly off course and flew over the heavily defended town of Hamm, a place they had been warned to avoid. Realising that the compass was not reading accurately they managed to navigate by sight across the reast of enemy territory, narrowly avoiding being shot down on several occasions. As they came in to land at Scampton, they realised that one of the undercarriage tyres had been shot through, but McCarthy still landed safely.
McCarthy and some of his crew participated in the party which followed their debrief, although it was tinged with sadness as it became clear how many crews had been lost. One of the highlights of the weeks that followed was the royal visit on 27 May, with McCarthy photographed as he talked to the Queen, towering over her and with his “Canada USA” shoulder flash clearly visible. He met her again at Buckingham Palace on 21 June when he received his DSO. He is supposed to “have turned pink and stammered out answers” as she questioned him about his home life in New York. (Brickhill, The Dam Busters, p.111)
McCarthy stayed on in 617 Squadron without a break for another 13 months after the investiture, flying on 34 more operations altogether. His Dams Raid crew stayed with him all this time, with the exception of Johnny Johnson, who left in April 1944 shortly before his first child was born. McCarthy insisted he move on, knowing that he had done a full second tour, and telling him his duties were to his burgeoning family.
After the war, McCarthy went back to Canada and in 1946 married the American girlfriend Alice he had met while training in 1941. In order to stay in the RCAF he took Canadian nationality. He finally retired in 1968, and moved back to the USA, to live in Virginia. Over his career he flew nearly 70 different types of aircraft.
Joe McCarthy died on 6 September 1998.

More about McCarthy online:
Wikipedia entry
Obituary in The Independent
Obituary in the New York Times

Survived war. Died 06.09.1998

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Dave Birrell, Big Joe McCarthy, Wingleader Publishing, 2012
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, The Last British Dambuster, Ebury Press, 2014

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

Dambuster of the Day No. 91: Stephen Burns

Burns 240913

Sgt S Burns
Rear gunner

Lancaster serial number: ED936/G

Call sign: AJ-H

Second wave. Aircraft badly damaged and mine lost, flying low over sea on outward flight. Returned to base.

Stephen Burns was born in Dudley, Worcestershire in 1921, the oldest of the four children of John and Sarah (Sally) Burns. John Burns had served in the Gordon Highlanders during the First World War, and they moved back to his home town of Manchester for a while during Stephen’s childhood. As a reservist, his father was called up at the outset of war, and served in the Royal Engineers.
Stephen Burns was working in an armaments factory in Dudley when the war started. Although he was in a reserved occupation and therefore not eligible for call up, he volunteered for the RAF in 1941, and after a period working as ground crew trained as an air gunner. 
After qualifying, he was posted to 57 Squadron in November 1942. There he met up with navigator Richard Macfarlane, wireless operator Bruce Gowrie, bomb aimer John Thrasher, flight engineer Edward Smith and air gunner William Maynard. who had been posted in together on 9 December 1942. The crew were without a pilot until Geoff Rice arrived in February.
The crew then flew on nine operations before being posted together from 57 Squadron to the new squadron being formed at the same base to undertake training for a special mission.
On the Dams Raid, Burns suffered the ignominy of being soaked by a combination of sea water and Elsan contents when AJ-H flew too low and hit the sea, and its Upkeep mine was torn away. The damage was caused by the tail wheel being forced up into the fuselage. 
Geoff Rice recalled his understandable reaction, shouting over the intercom: ‘Christ, it’s wet back here!’ Worse nearly followed since, as the aircraft climbed, all the water flooded into the rear turret threatening to drown its occupant. Burns had to smash the Perspex window so that it could drain out.
Burns flew with Rice and the rest of his crew on the handful of successful operations tjhey undertook between the Dams Raid and December 1943, and was promoted to Flight Sergeant. However, the crew’s luck ran out on 20 December when they were hit by flak 14,000 feet above Merbes-Le Chateau in Belgium. Although Rice gave the order to bale out, there wasn’t time and the aircraft exploded. Rice seems to have been thrown clear by the explosion, and somehow landed in a wood but the bodies of the remaining six crew members were found in the wreckage, and they were buried in Gosselies Communal Cemetery, near Hainaut, Belgium.
Burns had been due to be best man at the wedding of another gunner on this operation, who visited the family afterwards and told them what he had witnessed. After the war, Stephen’s brother John visited the grave, and was given a pair of gloves belonging to Stephen, which had apparently been retrieved from the wreckage by local villagers. They had taken articles from all the bodies so that if relatives came visiting, they could be given some small memento of their loved one.

[Thanks to the St John’s Church Preservation Group for their help with this article.]

More about Burns online:
Entry on Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Page about Rice crew burial site, Gosselies cemetery

KIA 20.12.1943.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
John Sweetman, David Coward and Gary Johnstone, The Dambusters, Time Warner 2003
Chris Smith, Tales from a Churchyard, Volume 1, St John’s, Church Hill, Dudley.

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

Dambuster of the Day No. 90: William Maynard

Maynard 240913

Sgt T W Maynard
Front gunner

Lancaster serial number: ED936/G

Call sign: AJ-H

Second wave. Aircraft badly damaged and mine lost, flying low over sea on outward flight. Returned to base.

Thomas William Maynard was born in Wandsworth, London in 1923, the son of Sydney and Janet Maynard. He was known to his family as Bill.
He joined the RAF in December 1941, and was selected for training as a wireless operator/air gunner. After qualifying, he met up with navigator Richard Macfarlane, wireless operator Bruce Gowrie, bomb aimer John Thrasher and flight engineer Edward Smith at a final conversion unit in October 1942. All five were posted to 57 Squadron at Scampton on 9 December 1942. Rear gunner Stephen Burns had joined the squadron a short while earlier, but the crew were without a pilot until Geoff Rice arrived in February.
The crew then flew on nine operations before being posted together from 57 Squadron to the new squadron being formed at the same base to undertake training for a special mission.
Like all the squadron’s mid upper gunners, Bill Maynard was switched to the front turret of the specially modified Lancasters for the Dams Raid.
Maynard flew with Rice and the rest of his crew on the handful of successful operations between the Dams Raid and December 1943, and was promoted to Flight Sergeant. However, the crew’s luck ran out on 20 December when they were hit by flak 14,000 feet above Merbes-Le Chateau in Belgium. Although Rice gave the order to bale out, there wasn’t time and the aircraft exploded. Rice seems to have been thrown clear by the explosion, and somehow landed in a wood but the bodies of the remaining six crew members were found in the wreckage.
Bill Maynard and his five colleagues were buried in Gosselies Communal Cemetery, near Hainaut, Belgium.

More about Maynard online:
Entry on Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Page about Rice crew burial site, Gosselies cemetery

KIA 20.12.1943.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
John Sweetman, David Coward and Gary Johnstone, The Dambusters, Time Warner 2003

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

‘Gibson’s cap’ and other Dambuster fakes exposed

Gibson in cap

The case below was reported on various websites just before and after Christmas. I refrained from posting about it until now because I didn’t want its important story to get confused with the recent auction of some genuine memorabilia connected with my family, which included the Dams Raid wooden bomb sight.
This story concerns a collector based in Yorkshire who goes by the name of “AndyB”. He has recently been involved in litigation with a Lincolnshire company called Military Trader UK, which is run by Mr Tony Flitter and his son Mr Nigel Flitter. The company has a website called http://www.militarytrader.co.uk and is a regular seller on Ebay.
I should add here that I have no connection with AndyB.
Over the course of the last two years, AndyB purchased a number of items from Military Trader UK which purported to be objects owned or used by various members of 617 Squadron during the war. Sadly, it turned out that although these were genuine wartime items, they had been “enhanced” in various ways, with handwriting or typed labels which supposedly added provenance.
After being threatened with litigation, Military Trader UK eventually returned AndyB’s money to him, and paid his legal and professional fees. I understand that this came to a total of about £17,000.
I believe AndyB should be commended for bringing the story to public attention. Many people would be tempted to slink quietly away, satisfied that they had got their money back, and not wanting to invite people to think how gullible he might have been.
Please be careful if you are tempted to buy something that claims a connection to 617 Squadron or the Dambusters, and get independent advice. In particular, if you notice any of the items listed below back on sale anywhere, please let me know.
The words below were written by AndyB. You can see his original post at this forum.

Due to the final agreement made between myself and Military Trader UK, not including a confidentiality clause, I am now at liberty to make other collectors aware of my experience which I feel is important in order to prevent the same thing happening to them.

Military Trader UK is run by Mr Tony Flitter and Nigel Flitter trading from Unit 10 Tattershall Park, Tattershall Way, Fairfield Industrial Estate, Louth, Lincolnshire, LN11 0YZ with their website address of militarytrder.co.uk and Ebay user name of militarytrader-uk, amongst others. In summary in April 2014 I wrote to Military Trader as it had come to my attention that items purchased from them were not what they had made them out to be. Over the previous two years I had purchased from Military Trader (UK), various Dambuster related items which were as follows:

Guy Gibson’s Cap ​​​
Jack Buckley’s Cap ​​​
Guy Gibson’s Tankard ​​​
RAF Strata Scope ​​​
RAF Scampton Microphone ​​
Brian Goodale’s Cap ​​​
Guy Gibson’s Escape Axe​​
Guy Gibson’s Mag Glass​​​
RAF 617 Bomb Counter ​​
RAF 617 Signalling Lamp ​​
RAF Scampton Phone ​​
RAF 617 Headphones ​​
Flying Boots apparently belonging to Ivan Whittaker ​
RAF Veteran Tie ​​​
Jack Buckley’s Bible ​​​
RAF Visibility Meter ​​
RAF Playing Cards ​​​
Numerous pieces of wreckage & artifacts
AM Visibility Meter ​​​
RAF Flag ​​​​
Tunic apparently belonging to Sidney Hobday ​​
Guy Gibson’s Pilot Book ​​

These items were all attributed by Military Trader to 617 Squadron and their personnel and at a cost of over £13,000

Following the last item purchased I discovered that there was immense doubt that items in question are not what they were described to be.

The Sales of Goods Act 1979 makes it an implied term of the contract that the goods be as described. Items that required expert verification or authentication to determine whether they were authentic or not were dealt with in the appropriate manner and an expert witness was found whose extensive report, had this case gone to Court, would have confirmed that these items had been misdescribed and misrepresented. In relation to these aforementioned items false verbal reassurances were given directly to me by Military Trader, they described the items as something they were not, in many cases this was supported by written evidence in the form of labels, signatures and other writing.

The signatures, writing and labels had all been studied by an independent writing expert ( calligrapher ) whom I engaged to help me confirm that the handwriting and typed labels all came from the same source. It was confirmed that all of the writing is of the same hand. The consistency of this handwriting then led to the fact that the writing and signatures which Military Trader purported to be original were from one source only, that being Military Trader. Therefore these written pieces and signatures which they claim corroborated and verified their items were false and could not be attributed to the persons or establishment as Military Trader claimed. Furthermore the professional examination of handwriting also extended to the Gibson’s Pilots book which had also been confirmed as containing writing by the same hand and therefore could not possibly have belonged to Gibson.

Consequently, with reliance on written evidence, I was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that items sold by Military Trader to me were in fact not what they verbally reassured me they were, certainly did not match their written description and did not have authentic signatures.

I would have also had recourse under the Misrepresentation Act 1967 as Military Trader made false and fraudulent claims. I relied on these statements made by them in deciding whether or not to go ahead with my purchases; I had been persuaded to buy these items from them due to the representations which they made to me. Therefore pursuant to the Misrepresentation Act 1967 I would have had also had a potential claim due to Fraudulent Misrepresentation.

Under the Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 I would be described as a “Targeted Customer” by them. The false information which they gave me verbally and in writing was been deceptive. They had engaged in misleading action under Section 5 and through their deceptive descriptions and presentation of items I had been duped into entering into contracts to purchase the items in question from them.

In summary under the Sales of Goods Act 1979 due to the fact that the items have been “misdescribed” they were in breach of contract and I advised them that I was rejecting the items and requested that they refunded the total sum paid to them.

Prior to me writing to them in April 2014 I had already received a small sum from Military Trader for a refund for other items of forged provenance. During legal correspondence my solicitor pointed out that despite the basis of my claim being that Military Trader knowingly and deliberately faked the provenance of items and manufactured documentation to substantiate that false provenance, their solicitor’s letter was remarkably silent on this point, not even venturing a denial in without prejudice correspondence. This speaks for itself.

I would comment that it was not all of the items in the list above that I could prove had been fraudulently enhanced, it was in particular items supported by handwriting, labels and signatures. The enhancement of the higher priced items obviously in turn caused much doubt as to the authenticity of all of the other items. Tony and Nigel Flitter were aware of my passion in 617 Squadron and specifically the Dambusters and did target me as a customer.

In my opinion the amount of money that they charged me for these enhanced items was “ripping off” at its worst. It has taken me most of this year to be reimbursed for all of the items which I purchased from them, plus being reimbursed for all of my legal costs and the Professional Calligraphers report. This case did not go to court as Military Trader decided to settle and pay all of my costs in return for the items which I gladly returned. I had my evidence prepared and there was not even a murmur of any declaration from them as to the authenticity or genuineness of the items, the authenticity of which the Calligrapher’s report dismissed due to the fake handwriting and other significant issues.

It has been noticed that there have been items for sale on Ebay which are items not relating to 617 Squadron which have also been proven by the Professional Calligrapher to have the same handwriting on the items. This handwriting is done by Military Trader and is not the authentic handwriting which a genuine item would have on it.

Notwithstanding the hundreds of items, which are sold by Military Trader via their website and also via Ebay under militarytrader-uk and other associated accounts, which are genuine it is an utter shame that Tony and Nigel Flitter need to resort to enhancing items in order to purport them to be something that they are certainly not, thereby enabling them to command a much higher price for these said items.

The moral of this story is if you are in any doubt of the authenticity of an item purchased it would be advisable to consult an independent military specialist. If that item is then found to be not what it is purported to be please report it to Lincolnshire Trading Standards or Lincolnshire CID who will add it to their investigation. We have to keep items such as these out of the market place as it is harmful to genuine pieces and is just simply irritating for collectors, whether they be serious collectors, just starting out or have a slight interest.

Please be aware of these items coming back onto the market and if you come across them with the same description or anything which is similarly doubtful report it and help put a stop to fraudulent trading.