Dambuster John Pulford’s crash site remembered

Guy Gibson’s relationship with the crew who flew with him on the Dams Raid is one of the interesting sub-plots of the whole Dambusters story. In contrast to the scene in the 1955 film where his old crew discuss his posting to a new squadron on his own and then unanimously decide to go with him, only one, wireless operator Robert Hutchison, had actually flown with Gibson in 106 Squadron. Hutchison is thought to have recommended navigator Harlo Taerum, who in turn recommended bomb aimer Fred (Spam) Spafford. Both of these had been in 50 Squadron, as had rear gunner Richard Trevor-Roper. These four were all officers, which meant that Gibson would see something of them socially at Scampton, but the final pair, front gunner George Deering and flight engineer John Pulford were both NCOs.
This may be why Gibson had a rather low opinion of both. In his biography of Gibson, Richard Morris writes how in the first draft of Enemy Coast Ahead he described Deering as:

‘pretty dumb’ (tactfully changed to ‘pretty green’ in the published version) ‘and not too good at his guns and it was a bit of a risk taking him’. This was rubbish, as Deering had flown thirty-five operations.

Morris goes on to cite Gibson’s opinion of Pulford, who he described as a ‘sincere and plodding’ Londoner:

Gibson had a low opinion of Pulford, thinking him dull and incapable of independent thought. This may say more about Gibson than Pulford, for Gibson never listened to him long enough to notice that he came from Yorkshire rather than London. In the cockpit of Gibson’s Lancaster there was a distinct air of master and servant. In the fuselage as a whole his crew represented Britain’s class structure in microcosm and the pattern of the Empire beyond. (Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin, 1995, p.152.)

Whatever their relationship, the crew were not together for very long, flying just the one operation as a complete crew, the Dams Raid itself. Hutchison, Taerum, Spafford and Deering transferred to George Holden’s crew when he took over command of 617 Squadron, and died with him on the Dortmund Ems Raid on 16 September 1943.

None of the other three survived the war. Trevor-Roper and Gibson died later in 1944, both on operations with other squadrons, but Pulford was still in 617 Squadron when he flew on the operation to bomb the Antheor viaduct in southern France in February 1944. His pilot, Bill Suggitt, landed the aircraft successfully at Ford in Sussex, which they had used as a staging post, but in the short hop home from Ford to Woodhall Spa, they crashed into a hill on the Sussex Downs, near the village of Upwaltham.

For some years local people have been collecting for a proper memorial to Suggitt’s crew, and it was unveiled on 22 August:

Today, 65 years on, the crew of DV382 KC J-Jug will be honoured in a tiny parish church just below the crash site at Upwaltham, West Sussex, after the hamlet of 25 inhabitants raised £10,500 for a memorial.
Relatives of the British, Canadian and Australian victims will attend, along with air attaches from all three nations and 617 Squadron’s current commanding officer.
The white Italian stone ‘Four Nations Memorial’ also remembers seven Americans whose Dakota aircraft crashed across the valley a year later in February 1945.
A Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will complete three circuits overhead at the ceremony, which will also be attended by relatives of the farm workers who were honoured by King George VI for braving flames and exploding ammunition to try to rescue the Lancaster crew.

Today, 65 years on, the crew of DV382 KC J-Jug will be honoured in a tiny parish church just below the crash site at Upwaltham, West Sussex, after the hamlet of 25 inhabitants raised £10,500 for a memorial.
Relatives of the British, Canadian and Australian victims will attend, along with air attaches from all three nations and 617 Squadron’s current commanding officer.
The white Italian stone ‘Four Nations Memorial’ also remembers seven Americans whose Dakota aircraft crashed across the valley a year later in February 1945.
A Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will complete three circuits overhead at the ceremony, which will also be attended by relatives of the farm workers who were honoured by King George VI for braving flames and exploding ammunition to try to rescue the Lancaster crew.

There is a nice tribute page to the crew on the Roll of Honour website. John Pulford’s body was recovered and he was buried in Hull.

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New German film shows Eder Dam after raid

Thomas Schindler, a correspondent from a German TV station, has sent me this link to the recent broadcast of some hitherto unseen film of the aftermath of the destruction of the Eder Dam on 17 May 1943. During the war, secret filming by German citizens was forbidden, with the threat of the death penalty for anyone caught. However a soldier naval officer on leave shot this film, and it has recently been given to the TV station.
My German isn’t up to much, so if anyone can translate what the interviewees say and the voiceover material  I’d be very grateful. Please leave a comment below or send me an email.

UPDATE: Dave, a poster on the Lancaster-Archive Forum, has kindly provided the gist of a translation:

Hermann Hauschild was a naval officer from Bergheim home on leave when he secretly filmed the aftermath of the attack on the Eder dam on May 17th 1943. Secretly, because if caught, the death penalty would apply. He specified that the film may only be made public after his death. The ruins shown are of Affolden, where both the church and the school were destroyed and 10 people died.The RAF asked for a copy after the war, but otherwise the film was almost forgotten. Karl Schaefer was asked to repair the camera and was given the film as payment. The camera still works well after 80 years, and the film is regarded by the family as an heirloom. Hermann Hauschild died twenty years ago.

Jackson shows Dambusters clips to press

More news from the Great One on the remake of the Dambusters film. At a recent briefing for the press, Peter Jackson told the assembled hacks that the movie was likely to be shot in 3D, and also showed some clips. However, he’s still working on the script, so shooting may still be a way off…

He also showed us short bits from the remake of The Dam Busters he’s working on. The original film came out in 1955, and takes place in a WWII setting. It’s based on the true story of the RAF’s 617th Squadron that would bomb Germany’s dams in an effort to hinder the Reich’s war machine. Jackson is just waiting to finish another draft of the script before that moves forward. He’s thinking about shooting it in 3-D, which is why he’s been playing with the technology.

The phrase “617th Squadron” is a bit of a giveaway that this appeared on a US-based website!

Time Magazine: report on Dams Raid from May 1943

An interesting report from May 1943 on the Dams Raid from Time Magazine’s online archive. It contains a number of inaccuracies, due to the restrictions imposed by the censor, but nevertheless has a certain breathy contemporaneity:

It was a matter of seconds now. The bomb bay doors were open; the flak had begun, pin points of yellow blossoming slowly upward, then sliding by with a rush into the sky above. Now the planes were roaring 50 feet above the water; now the target was dead ahead. Now the bombardiers pushed their buttons, and now the big, dark mines, each weighing 1,500 pounds, tumbled from the planes. Some landed with a splash in the water; some hit the dams fair & square. When the roar of their explosions had subsided, the sustained, deeper roar of pent-up waters, suddenly released, struck terror into the hearts of those below.

It was a matter of seconds now. The bomb bay doors were open; the flak had begun, pin points of yellow blossoming slowly upward, then sliding by with a rush into the sky above. Now the planes were roaring 50 feet above the water; now the target was dead ahead. Now the bombardiers pushed their buttons, and now the big, dark mines, each weighing 1,500 pounds, tumbled from the planes. Some landed with a splash in the water; some hit the dams fair & square. When the roar of their explosions had subsided, the sustained, deeper roar of pent-up waters, suddenly released, struck terror into the hearts of those below.

Hat tip to poster Brndirt at World War 2 Talk

I bet he drinks…

The chief of the agency responsible for one of the most famous ever TV ads has revealed that its punchline started life as one for milk.
‘The “I bet he drinks a lot of milk” slogan we pitched to Milk morphed into the famous Carling line. “Dambusters” was the lucky bounce; the BACC objected to risking upsetting the pilots’ widows, it was saved by the 617 Squadron Society giving us their permission.’
The silly thing is, the ad would have worked just as well for milk, as it actually says nothing at all about lager, other than implying that you gain some sort of superhuman power as a result of consuming it. (Or, perhaps this is true? Thankyou squire, mine’s a pint.)

The chief of the agency responsible for one of the most famous ever TV ads has revealed that its punchline started life as one for milk.

‘The “I bet he drinks a lot of milk” slogan we pitched to Milk morphed into the famous Carling line. “Dambusters” was the lucky bounce; the BACC objected to risking upsetting the pilots’ widows, it was saved by the 617 Squadron Society giving us their permission.’

The silly thing is, the ad would have worked just as well for milk, as it actually says nothing at all about lager, other than implying that you gain some sort of superhuman power as a result of consuming it. (Or, perhaps this is true? Thankyou squire, mine’s a pint.)

David and Ann Shannon’s headstones

Although David Shannon was an Australian, he stayed on in England after the war, joining Shell as an executive. He spent some time in both Colombia and Kenya before returning to the UK. He died on 8 April 1993, shortly before the planned 50th anniversary reunion of those who took part in the Dams Raid.
Shannon’s romance with Ann Fowler, a WAAF officer serving with 617 Squadron, and their subsequent marriage is a recurring theme in Paul Brickhill’s book, The Dam Busters. Ann Shannon died a couple of years before her husband and they are both commemorated with stones in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels in Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire. The size of the stones would indicate that they were both probably cremated.
Shannon’s obituary in The Times can be read here.
Pictures kindly sent to me by reader Paul Hilton.

Clifton-hampden-Shannon1clifton-hampden-shannon2

AV Roe and 100 years of British flying

In the rush of dealing with a major computer problem and getting away on holiday (in which I completed the Coast to Coast walk, 192 miles from St Bees Head to Robin Hood Bay — more on this later) I failed to notice that the centenary of the first British powered flight had taken place. This was undertaken by none other than Alliott Verdon Roe in a triplane of his own design, on Walthamstow Marshes in London, on 13 July 1909. The wonderful Diamond Geezer has reported on this event in his own indomitable way, and provided his usual eclectic list of links to further information about the famous aviation pioneer. From this I learnt that Roe himself developed some rather unsavoury political views, and was a supporter of Oswald Moseley, who was of course interned during the Second World War.
Ironic, then, that the company Roe founded would go on to make the War’s most famous British heavy bomber, the Avro Lancaster, and play a huge part in defeating the fascist war machine.

In the rush of dealing with a major computer problem and getting away on holiday (in which I completed the Coast to Coast walk, 192 miles from St Bees Head to Robin Hood Bay — more on this later) I failed to notice that the centenary of the first British powered flight had taken place. This was undertaken by none other than Alliott Verdon Roe in a triplane of his own design, on Walthamstow Marshes in London, on 13 July 1909. The wonderful Diamond Geezer has reported on this event in his own indomitable way, and provided his usual eclectic list of links to further information about the famous aviation pioneer. From this I learnt that Roe himself developed some rather unsavoury political views, and was a supporter of Oswald Mosley, who was of course interned during the Second World War.

Ironic, then, that the company Roe founded would go on to make the War’s most famous British heavy bomber, the Avro Lancaster, and play a huge part in defeating the fascist war machine.