Three more 617 Squadron veterans die

There is a sadly dwindling band of Second World War veterans who served with 617 Squadron after the Dams Raid. Some of them (such as John Leavitt) received obituaries in the national press on their death, but others, perhaps less heralded in their lifetimes, get scant mention. Including Leavitt, three of these veterans died recently.
The second was Phil Martin who served as a pilot in 1944-45. Because he was also Australian he was sometimes confused with his more famous namesake. He took part in the first of the 1944 raids on the Tirpitz – the one in October which damaged but did not sink it – as well as a number of other operations. He was remembered in an obituary in the West Australian, which I can’t find online, so is reproduced in part below:
Martin… started his war service flying Avro Lancaster bombers with the Royal Air Force 61 Squadron, where he was awarded his first Distinguished Flying Cross for completing 30 missions. The average life span for a bomber crew was just six missions.
Based on his great flying skills he and his crew were invited to join the famous 617 Dambusters Squadron. Martin won his second DFC destroying the Kembs Barrage dam on the Rhine River with 617 Squadron. On that raid Martin’s crew watched in horror as the Lancaster in front exploded in a fireball after being hit by anti-aircraft fire. Pressing on, Martin’s bomb aimer Donald Day dropped a 9980kg Grand Slam or earthquake bomb before Martin nursed his crippled Lancaster back to England.
Weeks later, Martin’s crew headed for Tromso in Norway to bomb the German battleship Tirpitz. Martin was also involved in the D-Day landings, bombing German beachhead gun installations.
Another airman who also took part in the first Tirpitz raid was Sgt Leonard Rooke, flight engineer in Mac Hamilton’s crew. He died recently in Cornwall, and an obituary appeared in the Cornish Guardian. It also doesn’t seem to be available online, so I have reproduced part of it here.
Sgt Rooke joined the crew of Flying Officer ‘Mac’ Hamilton in 1943 at 1654 Conversion Unit, Wigsley in Nottinghamshire. His logbook records postings to 617 Squadron – the Dambusters; involvement in Operation Taxable, a ploy to confuse German radar on the eve of the D-day invasion by dropping metal foil in the area; and the deployment of Barnes Wallis’ Tallboy ‘earthquake’ bombs.
Leonard came under enemy fire many times and behaved with steadfast courage. On one occasion, he tended a badly injured crew member as his damaged aircraft limped back across the Channel to make an emergency landing in Kent.
Thanks to his calm presence of mind, although the injuries were very serious, the crew member’s legs were saved.
They were obviously all remarkable men, and their lives deserve to be honoured.

6 thoughts on “Three more 617 Squadron veterans die

  1. Simon January 30, 2010 / 1:17 pm

    I have always been awed by the courage of 617 squadrons’ efforts. The skill, daring, nerve and courage of those men and women is almost beyond comprehension today. I count myself incredibly fortunate to have met ‘Micky’ Martin as a child in the 70’s, in the Middle East, an evening so incredibly etched into my mind (he said he’d sleep in the bath if that was the only place available!). What an inspiration. My best wishes and heartfelt regards to all 617 squadron aned their loved ones and families. Good luck to all of you!

  2. Matt Hopper February 25, 2010 / 7:49 am

    Phil Martin was my grandad, and his passing means he is sorely missed by my family. His endeavours were always wonderful to hear about, and his exploits during the war were truly something to be in awe of.

    He will be missed, and we can only hope to live up to his values.

  3. paul walker June 24, 2010 / 11:18 am

    i think my late George(johnny)walker was in 617 squadron i would like to find out more info

    • mandy w November 18, 2010 / 10:03 pm

      Paul Walker – Not sure if the same Walker, but my second cousin was Walker (but they called him Roy). He died in one of the raids. His father was Billy and mother, Beatrice. If this is the same Walker, get in touch.

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