Remembrance Day in Sardinia: commemorating Bob Hay

flr-lt-r-c-hay-dfc-wg-cdr-baz-pottsWg Cdr Baz Potts places a poppy on the grave of Flt Lt Bob Hay. [Pic: Sgt Jamie Johnson, RAF]

Not all the Dams Raid aircrew who died during the war are buried in the large war cemeteries in Germany. One who lies on his own is Flt Lt Bob Hay DFC and Bar, the bomb aimer in Mick Martin’s crew in AJ-P. He is buried in Cagliari in Sardinia, which is where Martin landed his damaged aircraft after an operation targetting the Antheor viaduct in southern France in February 1944. Hay had been killed when a cannon shell exploded in the bomb aimer’s compartment during the attack. His body was removed, and he was buried on the island the next day.
This year, Remembrance Day coincided with a NATO exercise in Sardinia, and a contingent of Commonwealth troops held their ceremony in the war cemetery in Cagliari.

dsc_5456Wreaths were laid at the central war memorial, and individual tributes were made to a number of men who are buried in the cemetery, and a poppy placed on their graves. Amongst these was Bob Hay, 617 Squadron’s Bombing Leader, who received a Bar to the DFC for his work on the Dams Raid.
Thanks to Captain Ray Leggatt RAN and Sqn Ldr Paddy Currie RAF for sending this information. Pictures by Sgt Jamie Johnson RAF.

Are you sitting comfortably?


Another item with no proven connection to Guy Gibson, 617 Squadron or RAF Scampton has emerged for sale on eBay. According to the seller, this is:

An office chair as used by Guy Gibson in his office at Scampton in World War 2 . The special design was used only by senior RAF Officers in World War 2 and in Air Ministers offices . Designed by Edward Barnsley originally for the 1936 Coronation , and referred to as ” The Coronation Chair ” .Production was very limited and not many have survived after 75 years . The chair is made from solid oak with mortice and tennon joints throughout , is very sturdy and original finish of waxed oak revived . The chair is stamped with a crown and coronation and has been professionally re upholstered in olive hide .Check on the Guy Gibson office website and The Dambusters film for provenance  .
[Spelling etc as in original]

The chair itself may well be a genuine “Coronation Chair”, and therefore worth a small amount of money. But there is no evidence at all that this was ever at RAF Scampton, let alone used by Guy Gibson or anyone else based there. The seller has tried to claims it is “as used” by Gibson – rather than saying it was definitely there – but then in the headline, states that it is a “Guy Gibson office chair”.
Their statement is based on the modern day refurbishment of the office at Scampton, which can be seen in the picture below, and which features a chair of a similar pattern. However, none of the people involved in the refurbishment have ever claimed that the furniture in the reconstructed office is definitively the same as that used in wartime.


Pic: Ross Corbett

The only picture taken of Guy Gibson in his office at Scampton was this well known photograph of him and David Maltby, taken in July 1943:

IWM TR1122

Pic: IWM TR1122

Note that in this picture Gibson is leaning slightly to his right, and his left arm may therefore be on the armrest of the chair (although it is difficult to be certain of this). If the chair had a light-coloured wooden arm, this would probably be visible. However, nothing can be seen here.
In summary, we can say again that even if the chair is a genuine 1936 pattern, it is wishful thinking that it has any connection to Gibson or RAF Scampton. Once more we must caution, buyer beware!
(If, however, you are reading this after 5pm on Monday 31 October 2016, the chair may have already have been sold.)
Thanks to Nigel Favill for information.

Dambusters remake shoved to back of the queue, again


The good news: once again, Peter Jackson has indicated that his remake of the classic 1955 film, The Dam Busters, is still an ongoing project. The bad news: it has been shunted to the back of the production queue by what sounds like another interminable series of fantasy fiction films.

WingNut Films [will] be producing a feature film based on Philip Reeve’s book Mortal Engines, to be directed by Christian Rivers. The script has been written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and myself.
Some of you may recall that Christian was going to direct the Dambusters a few years back. Since then he’s kept himself busy, making short films, and directing Second Units on The Hobbit and Pete’s Dragon.
Our involvement in Mortal Engines actually pre-dates Dambusters (which is still happening) – Christian actually worked on Mortal Engines previs [sic] way back in 2009. It’s very exciting to finally get it underway!

This is obviously great news for the writer of Mortal Engines, Philip Reeves. There are four books in this series, and adapting and filming them will keep much of the New Zealand movie industry busy for years to come. But it does mean that the chance of the Dambusters remake hitting the screens anytime in this decade becomes more and more remote.
Jackson obviously included the four words in parentheses above in his statement (‘which is still happening’) to forestall the questions he would inevitably be asked by Dambuster enthusiasts. But if it is ‘still happening’, would he like to give us an update? A comment below would be appreciated.
[Hat tip: Graeme Stevenson]
UPDATE: More about this from the Waikato Times in New Zealand.

In a pub garden: Johnnie Tytherleigh and friends


A group of four airmen visited the Parklands Hotel in Lincoln some time in the early summer of 1941, after completing their training and before joining 50 Squadron. This photograph of three of the group was probably taken by the fourth, Sgt Walter “Wally” Layne. L-R: The landlady’s daughter, Stuart Hobson, “Woof” Welford, Johnnie Tytherleigh (with pipe), Betty Cargill, the landlady of the “The Parklands”, and Wally Layne’s then fiancée Joan Maunders. Wally and Joan were later married, and their son David Layne provided the picture.

All four of the four airmen present on this day completed their tours with 50 Squadron. Layne moved on to 97 Squadron, where he was shot down on 23 September 1943, captured and taken prisoner. He survived the war.
Tytherleigh went to 617 Squadron and was lost on the Dams Raid. He was the front gunner in Henry Maudslay’s crew in AJ-Z.
Welford went to training units and then on to 57 Squadron. He later served in India before finishing the war working in air sea rescue on Walruses.
Hobson was killed on 5 April 1943 when serving with 9 Squadron. His aircraft was a Lancaster III, ED696 coded WS-T and took off from Waddington to bomb Kiel. It was shot down by a night fighter and crashed at 2350 at Grossenaspe, 10 km south of Neumunster where the crew were buried on 8 April.

David Layne has an excellent website with which covers his father’s service in the RAF, including his time as a prisoner of war. Well worth a visit.

40s holiday snaps at the Möhne Dam

postwar 1
postwar 2
postwar 3

Blog reader Hilary George has just sent me these pictures of a relative, Kathleen George, and three other British forces personnel. They were taken at the repaired Möhne Dam after the war. The tops of the towers have been removed, so this was probably taken about 1945 or maybe even as late as 1947, and before the towers were rebuilt.
The third shot shows the group sitting on the remains of the powerhouse destroyed by John Hopgood’s bomb which bounced over the dam. The outline of the repaired breach can be seen, as well as the supports and netting installed by the Germans to defend the dam after it was rebuilt in 1943.
The pictures could well have been taken during a R&R period by occupying British forces stationed in Germany after the war. The smartness of the battledress, polished shoes and relaxed expressions suggests this. Judging by the number of figures in the background, it was already quite a tourist attraction.
The George family don’t know the identity of the three men in the pictures. If you know who they are or have any further information about the pictures, please get in touch.

[Thanks to Robert Owen for help with this.]

The shape of the future: Barnes Wallis’s 1929 airship design

R100 cover loresThe name of Barnes Wallis is of course well known to students of the Dams Raid. But I bet that most people would struggle to remember many of the other projects, besides the so-called bouncing bomb, which he worked on throughout his long career as an engineer.
Back in the 1920s, Wallis headed the design team which built the R100 airship. This was a privately designed and built rigid British airship made as part of the Imperial Airship Scheme, a competition to develop a commercial airship service for use on in the British Empire.
The scheme is described on this website, dedicated to the work of Barnes Wallis:

Two airships were to be built and trialled against each other, the best elements from both being used to develop a second generation of airships. The ships were to have a speed of 70 knots and carry 100 passengers over a range of 3,000 miles. One ship was built by the Royal Airship Works at Cardington under direct Government control, and the other was built by Vickers (under their subsidiary the Airship Guarantee Company) on a wholly commercial basis, with Wallis as Chief Designer. Although built to the same specification, and hence broadly similar with a length of over 700ft and a capacity of 5,000,000 cubic feet, Wallis’s R100 and the Government R.101 were very different in the detail of their construction.
R100 was built from Duralumin (a light aluminium alloy) while most of R101’s structure was stainless steel. R101’s gasbags were held in place by a novel parachute-type harness, while Wallis developed a geodetic wire mesh for R100 to give greater gasbag volume. … most of R100’s structure was built from just 11 components (which could thus be mass-produced in their millions) and the entire structure was built from just 41 different components. Duralumin tubes of the length Wallis required were not available, so he designed a machine which would take flat Duralumin strip (which was available in long lengths), form it into a helix, and rivet the edges together to form a tube.

R100 first flew in December 1929. It made a series of trial flights and a successful return crossing of the Atlantic in July–August 1930, but following the crash of R101 in October 1930 the Imperial Airship Scheme was terminated and it was broken up for scrap. R100, which it could be argued had the more innovative design, was thus terminated even though it had a more successful life.
The brochure (from the Ray Hepner collection) whose cover is shown above would seem to have been designed about the time of R100’s first flight. The internal pages have an interesting design, which involved some hand mortising of metal type. The typeface is a large size of Garamond, with the full point hand cut so that it fits exactly above the tail of the curve of the swash capital R.

R100 inside lores

Wallis went on to use a similar geodetic wire mesh design for his later Wellington bomber, which made its maiden flight in 1936. More than 11,400 Wellingtons were built over the next decade, making it the largest production run of any British bomber in the Second World War.
Ray Hepner has also sent me some more pictures of Barnes Wallis taken at Reculver in Kent in 1976, 43 years after Wallis’s previous visit, to observe the last test drops of his Upkeep mine, the weapon used on the Dams Raid. Here are Lady Wallis and Sir Barnes, alongside Ray, who is sporting a particularly fine pair of 1970s flares.

Wallises+Hepner1976 lores

All pics © Ray Hepner Collection.  

Bateman trial fixed for January 2017


Flt Sgt John Fraser

Report from the Daily Telegraph:

A military historian denied stealing a logbook belonging to the widow of one of the heroes killed in the 1943 Dambusters mission.
Alex Bateman – a former employee at the prestigious Harrow public school [*SEE BELOW] – was writing a book on the Dambusters raid at the time, and was also working on a documentary.
The 48-year-old persuaded Doris Fraser to hand over the £20,000 piece of memorabilia, which had belonged to her late husband Flight Sergeant John Fraser, for his research.
Sergeant Fraser was one of two men to survive a plane crash during a mission with the famous 617 squadron in the Ruhr Valley in 1943.
After the war, Mrs Fraser and her children began a new life in Canada, but offered to help Bateman when she spotted a newspaper ad about his work.
Mrs Fraser posted him the log book in January 1996, and it is claimed repeatedly asked for the log book to be returned before reporting him to the police.
Bateman appeared via video link [*SEE BELOW] at Wood Green Crown Court to deny one count of theft today.
He was bailed ahead of his trial in the week beginning January 9 next year.
Prosecutor Nicholas Cribb today asked for a video link to Canada so Mrs Fraser, now 92, and her daughter Cherie, 66, [*SEE BELOW] can give evidence at trial.
Bateman, formerly of Harrow, denies one count of theft.

It is important for readers of this blog to understand that they should not make public statements which could prejudice the trial. For that reason comments on this post are disabled.

UPDATE: Further report from the Harrow Times.
* FURTHER UPDATE: There are several errors of fact in the Telegraph’s report above.

  • Alex Bateman was never an employee of Harrow School. He had worked as an archivist at Harrow High School, where he had previously been a pupil.
  • He did not appear by video link at the hearing reported above. He was present in court.
  • Mrs Fraser’s daughter in Canada is called Shere, not Cherie, and is 60.