Dambuster of the Day No. 105: Frederick Tees

Fred_Tees_1943

Sgt F Tees
Rear gunner

Lancaster serial number: ED910/G

Call sign: AJ-C

Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Frederick Tees was born in Chichester, Sussex on 16 June 1922, one of the five children of Henry and Elizabeth Tees. His father was a barber and had a shop in the town. Tees went to the Central CofE School and the Lancastrian School in Chichester.
He joined the RAF in 1941 and was finally selected for air gunner training in 1942. His final training was at 1660 Conversion Unit, where he joined up with Bill Ottley and the crew who would eventually fly on the Dams Raid. They were posted together to 207 Squadron in November 1942, and took part on their first raid on 23 November. Tees and flight engineer Ron Marsden were the only two who flew on all 17 operations which Ottley undertook in 207 Squadron between then and April 1943.
Ottley, Tees and the rest of the crew were transferred to 617 Squadron shortly after their last operation in 207 Squadron, on 4 April 1943. They undertook their first training flight in the new squadron on 8 April 1943.
Although they normally flew in the rear and mid-upper turret respectively, Fred Tees and Harry Strange had occasionally swapped positions while serving in 207 Squadron. As the specially adapted Dams Raid Lancasters had no mid-upper turret, it is possible that both tried out the front turret of AJ-C during training. This may explain why some of the documents for the operation, including the Night Flying Programme typed up on the morning of Sunday 16 May, listed Tees in the front turret and Strange in the rear.

Grantham 0003 fly order cropped
Detail from the Night Flying Programme shows Fred Tees listed as flying as AJ-C’s front gunner.

When the aircraft took off from Scampton at 0009 on Monday 17 May, however, Tees was definitely in the rear turret, a decision which would save his life. Flying so low that at one point he saw a church steeple above him, Tees fired at some searchlights and gun emplacements as they crossed Holland and Germany.
As they neared Hamm, a “tremendous commotion” occurred and he realised that AJ-C had been hit on the port side. His turret was immobilised and flames began to streak past it. He heard Ottley say “I’m sorry boys, we’ve had it”, and he recalled thinking “there’s no future at baling out at nought feet with three engines on fire”.
Some minutes later, he regained consciousness on the ground. His turret had somehow been blown clear of the wreckage, perhaps as a result of a second explosion as the Upkeep mine blew up. He was badly burned, was quickly captured by the Germans, and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war.
The fact that Tees had survived did not become known for some months, and so his family were told that he was missing in action. Almost a year after the Dams Raid, on Thursday 11 May 1944, his mother, Mrs Elizabeth Tees, was killed in an accident when a USAAF B24 Liberator crashed on the laundry in Chichester where she was working. It had been damaged by flak on a bombing operation over France. After the pilot set a course for it to crash into the English Channel, the crew baled out. Unfortunately, the aircraft veered off this course and crashed on land, killing three civilians. Some sources say that Mrs Tees defied instructions and ran back into the burning building to collect her handbag. Tees apparently only found out about his mother’s death on release from his PoW camp in 1945.
Fred Tees became a barber after the war, the same trade as his father, with a business in Letchworth, Hertfordshire. He took part in a number of 617 Squadron reunions before his death in 1982. He was cremated in England, but his last wish was for his ashes to be scattered on the graves of his fallen comrades in Reichswald Forest war cemetery.

Thanks to Mick Tees for help with this article.

More about Tees online:
ITV News reports about Tees family visits to the graves of the Ottley crew
Chichester Local History booklet on the Liberator crash on Chichester, May 1944
Entry in Wikipedia

Survived war. Died 1982.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

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. 104: Harry Strange

strange_harry_

Pic: Dorothy Bill

Sgt H J Strange
Front gunner

Lancaster serial number: ED910/G

Call sign: AJ-C

Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Harry John Strange was born in London in 1923. He joined the RAF in 1941, soon after his 18th birthday, and was sent for air gunner training in 1942.
He arrived at 1660 Conversion Unit in late 1942, and would seem to have met most of his future crewmates there. Although he joined 207 Squadron from 1660 CU on the same day, 11 November 1942, as most of the rest of the Ottley crew, he flew his first two operations with Sgt G Langdon as pilot. His first operation with Ottley was on 21 December on a trip to Munich. This was the day when the Ottley Dams Raid crew all flew together operationally for the first time.
Strange flew another operation with Langdon in January 1943, but on 2 February he made a permanent move to Ottley. He went on to fly on another 12 trips with Ottley, their last being the crew’s final operation in 207 Squadron, an attack on Kiel on 4 April 1943. He seems to have flown on most of the trips as the mid upper gunner, but occasionally he swapped with Fred Tees, and flew in the rear turret.
On the Dams Raid, Strange flew as AJ-C’s front gunner, thereby sealing his fate. Along with five others in his crew, he died when the aircraft was shot down near Hamm on 17 May 1943.
Harry Strange and his comrades were originally buried in by the Germans in Hamm, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

More about Strange online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

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. 103: Thomas Johnston

johnston_102

Flt Sgt T B Johnston
Bomb aimer

Lancaster serial number: ED910/G

Call sign: AJ-C

Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Thomas Barr Johnston was born on 19 July 1921 in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, the youngest of the three children of Peter and Elizabeth Johnston. His father was a music teacher at Bellshill Academy, and the young Tommy went to school there. After leaving school he went to work in the laboratory of the local steelworks.
Like many young men of his generation, Johnston wanted to fly, and he volunteered for the RAF when the war broke out. He was sent to Canada to train, returning in 1942. He was posted to 207 Squadron in July 1942, and flew on his first operation on 21 July as bomb aimer with Flt Sgt V Duxbury, on a trip to Duisberg. He took part in three more operations with different pilots in September, and was then posted to a Conversion Unit.
It would seem that he met up with Bill Ottley, Ron Marsden, Jack Guterman and Fred Tees there, as they were all posted together to 207 Squadron from 1660 Conversion Unit on 12 November 1942. Their future crewmates Harry Strange and Jack Barrett were also posted from the same conversion unit to 207 Squadron within a few days.
Johnston went on to fly with Ottley on about 14 more operations in 207 Squadron. (The 207 Squadron Operations Record Book frequently gives him the initials K R, in an obvious confusion with Sgt K R Johnson, a flight engineer, who was present in the squadron at the same time. The confusion seems to end when K R Johnson was killed on operations on 25 February 1943. He is buried in Durnbach War Cemetery.)
Tommy Johnston was established as Ottley’s regular bomb aimer by the middle of March 1943, and is unlikely to have hesitated when offered a posting to the new 617 Squadron. There was recipe for further confusion in the new squadron, when it emerged that there already two bomb aimers with the surname Johnson. Sadly, this soon ceased to be a problem for the young Scot as the crew did not complete their first operation, the Dams Raid. Six of them died when they were shot down near Hamm on 17 May 1943. Tommy Johnston and his comrades were originally buried in by the Germans in Hamm, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

Thanks to Bill Gracie for help with this article.

More about Johnston online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

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. 102: Jack Guterman

Grantham Guterman cropPic: Lincolnshire Library Services

Sgt J Guterman DFM
Wireless operator

Lancaster serial number: ED910/G

Call sign: AJ-C

Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Jack Guterman was born in Guildford, Surrey, on 1 August 1920, the older of the two children of Jack and Jane Guterman. His father came from a Jewish family who had fled Poland in the 1890s, while his mother was of Irish descent. His father, an accountant, had served on the Western Front in the First World War. Guterman went to Sandfield Primary School and on to Guildford Royal Grammar School in 1931. He left school in 1937 and went to work in his father’s accountancy practice.
When the war came, he volunteered for the RAF and was selected for training as an air observer. He went on to qualify as a wireless operator/air gunner, and finished his training in the autumn of 1941.
He was posted to 207 Squadron in February 1942, and started operational flying in June 1942. Along with navigator Plt Off Jack Barrett he joined the crew of Flt Sgt Anthony Walters, and they flew on their first “Gardening” operation to the Deodars area on 3 June 1942. The pair flew on some 19 operations together until September, when Walters was transferred out. Guterman and Barrett were then posted to a conversion unit.
In November, they arrived back on 207 Squadron, now in a new crew skippered by Bill Ottley. Flight engineer Ron Marsden, bomb aimer Tommy Johnston and gunners Fred Tees and Harry Strange were also all posted to 207 Squadron at about the same time. This was the same crew who would fly on the Dams Raid six months later. The crew went on to fly on some 20 more operations between December 1942 and March 1943.
Guterman’s last operation in 207 Squadron was on 8 March 1943, on a trip to Nuremburg. With this he finished his tour and could have opted to go to a training unit for at least six months. He was also recommended for a DFM, in which the citation mentioned:

In both capacities [as air gunner and wireless operator], he has consistently shown the greatest enthusiasm, determination and efficiency. In the capacity of air gunner, Sergeant Guterman displays a fine fighting spirit, welcoming every opportunity to use his guns against the enemy. On one occasions when returning from Kassel, he successfully attacked light gun and searchlight positions from a low level. His courage, reliability and perseverance have made this airman a most valuable member of aircrew.

Unfortunately the award did not come through before the Dams Raid, and the medal was presented to his family after the war.
As AJ-C’s wireless operator, Guterman received the message from Group HQ to attack the Lister Dam at 0231 on the morning of 17 May 1943. A second message, sent a minute later, ordering them to go to the Sorpe instead was never acknowledged. By then the aircraft had been hit by flak, and was about to crash in flames.
Guterman was a sensitive young man, who had great potential as an artist, and hung his own oil paintings and drawings on the walls of the various huts he lived in during his RAF career. He also loved literature and music, and collected records and books. He wrote regularly to his family with vivid descriptions of the countryside over which he had flown and concerts he had heard on the radio. In January 1943, while still in 207 Squadron he wrote to his sister:

My hands are dirty from lighting the fire which is now red and roaring; the night is cold with snow outside and millions of stars flashing madly in a deep sky, so we need some sort of camp-fire to keep us warm and cosy (horrid word!) The stars which tonight seem larger and more scintillating than I have seen before, remind me of van Gogh who was so affected by the night sky full of mad fierce globes of light as he saw and painted them.
You must have missed hearing the broadcast performance of Berlioz’s “Childhood of Christ” on Wednesday. A great pity because it contains some exquisite stuff and for anyone who is of the opinion that Berlioz was somewhat of a charlatan it is proof of his supreme craftsmanship and versatility. The whole crew installed itself in 408 (our mission) comfortably and listened to the performance without a murmur. It’s ages since I have enjoyed any work so much under such admirable conditions.

Jack Guterman and his comrades were originally buried by the Germans in Hamm, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

Thanks to Kevin Bending and the Guterman family for help with this article.

More about Guterman online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

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. 101: Jack Barrett

Barrett PH

Pic: Peter Humphries

Flg Off J K Barrett DFC
Navigator

Lancaster serial number: ED910/G

Call sign: AJ-C

Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Jack Kenneth Barrett was born in Hackney, London, on 9 September 1920, the only child of David and Ethel Barrett. He joined the RAF in 1940, and was sent to South Africa for training as a navigator. On qualification, he was awarded a commission.
On arriving back in the UK, he was sent for further training and then posted to 207 Squadron in February 1942, at the same time as wireless operator Jack Guterman.
In June 1942 they both joined the crew of pilot Flt Sgt Anthony Walters, which flew on its first “Gardening” operation to the Deodars area on 3 June 1942. The pair flew on some 19 operations together until September, when Walters was transferred out. Barrett and Guterman were then posted to a conversion unit.
In November, they arrived back on 207 Squadron, now in a new crew skippered by Bill Ottley. Flight engineer Ron Marsden, bomb aimer Tommy Johnston and gunners Fred Tees and Harry Strange were also all posted to 207 Squadron at about the same time. This was the same crew who would fly on the Dams Raid six months later. The crew went on to fly on some 20 more operations between December 1942 and March 1943, although Barrett was absent for about a month, perhaps through illness.
By the end of March 1943, he had reached the end of his tour, and could have opted for a training position for a period. He was also recommended for a DFC, the citation for which read:

Flying Officer Barrett has invariably displayed a high standard of navigation during operational flights. His good work has contributed to the success of the operations in which he has participated. On one occasion, when returning from a raid on Saarbrucken, one engine failed when leaving the target area and a second failed when over the French coast. Although the situation appeared desperate for a time, Flying Officer Barrett continued to give cool and effective navigational directions which greatly assisted the captain in landing the bomber safely. Throughout his operational career, this officer has displayed exceptional skill, courage and devotion to duty.

Unfortunately the award did not come through before Jack Barrett set off on the Dams Raid shortly after midnight on the morning of 17 May 1943. Within three hours he was dead, shot down near Hamm.
Jack Barrett and his comrades were originally buried by the Germans in Hamm, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

More about Barrett online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

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. 100: Ronald Marsden

Marsden PH

Pic: Peter Humphries

Sgt R Marsden
Flight engineer

Lancaster serial number: ED910/G

Call sign: AJ-C

Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Ronald Marsden was born in Redcar, Yorkshire, in 1920, one of the five children of William and Emily Marsden. He went to school in Stockton and joined the RAF in 1935 as an apprentice at the School of Technical Training in Halton.
He then served in ground crew in a number of establishments. In 1942, a policy change meant that a new trade of flight engineers was established to fly in heavy bombers instead of second pilots, and Marsden was quick to apply for the specialist training at No 4 School of Technical Training in St Athans, Glamorgan.
He qualified as a flight engineer in September 1942, and was posted to a conversion unit to join a crew. It would seem that he met up with Bill Ottley, Thomas Johnston, Jack Guterman and Fred Tees there, as they were all posted together to 207 Squadron from 1660 Conversion Unit on 12 November 1942. Their future crewmates Harry Strange and Jack Barrett were also posted from the same conversion unit to 207 Squadron within a few days.
Marsden went on to fly with Ottley on all the 20 operations he completed in 207 Squadron, so he is unlikely to have hesitated when offered a posting to the new 617 Squadron.
Unfortunately, the crew did not complete their first operation, and six of them died when they were shot down near Hamm on 17 May 1943. Ronald Marsden and his comrades were originally buried in by the Germans in Hamm, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

More about Marsden online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

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.