Flg Off Robert Urquhart’s Logbook

pic: Bomber Command Museum of Canada

Over on the Key Publishing Aviation Forum member Simon Spitfire has posted images of Flg Off Robert Urquhart’s logbook, which I reproduce below. (If I have infringed anyone’s copyright, please inform me.)

Urquhart was the navigator in Henry Maudslay’s AJ-Z, which was shot down on the way home, after being damaged in the attack on the Eder Dam. He was Canadian, and had a DFC for completing a tour of operations in 50 Squadron.

Dams Raid: first hand accounts by David Shannon and Tony Burcher

These first hand accounts of the Dams Raid were posted on an Australian aviation art forum in 2008 by someone called Stephen Diver. They come from letters sent to the Diver family by David Shannon (pilot AJ-L) and Tony Burcher (rear gunner in AJ-M, piloted by John Hopgood). You will have to scroll down some way to read them all (and make sense of some pretty terrible typing and spelling!) but they make interesting reading.
Perhaps the most fascinating is Tony Burcher’s account of what his pilot John Hopgood said as he realised that his aircraft was badly damaged:

Then John said
“Right well what do you think?” Should we go on? I intend to go on because we have only got a few minutes left. We’ve come this far.
“There’s no good taking this thing back with us. The aircraft is completely manageable. I can handle it ok. Any objections?”
I remember hearing Charlie [Brennan] (who as F/E would have been standing right beside John at this time) interrupt him by saying
“Well what about your face? Its bleeding like..”
and John interrupting him mid word by saying
“just hold a handkerchief over it”.
So I imagine for the remainder of the raids time Charlie would have been standing next to John in an attempt to try and stem the bleeding and keep his eye sight clear.
I have no idea as to the nature of the wound and can only assume it to have been a head wound of some nature.
Based on Charlies reactions,and he was normally a calm chap, I can only assume Johns wounds to have been severe in nature. I think anyone else would have probably turned around at that point and headed for home but not John.
That was the type of man he was.

Sobering stuff.

[Hat tip Night Warrior on Lancaster Archive Forum]

One for the diary

Coming to a TV screen near you sometime in the autumn is a new production from BBC North and BBC Lincolnshire. This features actor Martin Shaw, sometime screen heartthrob Raymond Doyle, as he pilots a light aircraft over the route to the dams and tries out the technology used 67 years ago. It focuses mainly on how well the wooden bombsight and other instruments used at the time stand up today. We are promised new evidence ‘which reveals secrets which have remained hidden for the last 67 years’. It will be interesting to find out what this is!
Full transmission details will be posted shortly.
Video trailer for the programme here.

67 years on

This year, 2010, 16 May will fall on a Sunday. On another Sunday 16 May, in 1943, 133 aircrew in 19 Lancaster aircraft took off from RAF Scampton on what would prove to be the RAF’s most famous bombing operation of the Second World War, the attack on the dams of the Ruhr. Two of the targets were breached and many millions of gallons of water were discharged, causing mayhem in the area and disrupting the German war machine for many months.
However, the cost in lives was very high. On the ground, 1,341 people died – troops defending the dams, civilians living nearby, prisoners working in forced labour camps. Of the aircraft that took part, eight did not return and 53 of their crews died. The other three were captured.
On this 67th anniversary of the raid, we show pictures of the gravestones of six of the pilots and links to pictures of their crews.
Thanks to Lyndon Harper for the use of his pictures.
Flt Lt Bill Astell, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Flt Lt Norm Barlow, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Plt Off Lewis Burpee, buried Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery
Flt Lt John Hopgood, buried Rheinberg War Cemetery
Sqn Ldr Henry Maudslay, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Plt Off Warner Ottley, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
The other members of these crews can be seen in a post on the WW2Talk Forum, as below:
I do not, at present, have access to any pictures of the graves of Sqn Ldr Melvin Young and his crew, who are all buried together in Bergen General Cemetery in Holland. Anyone who can help me with pictures is asked to contact me.
Plt Off Vernon Byers’s aircraft was shot down in the Waddenzee area off the coast of Holland. Of this crew, the only body recovered was that of the rear gunner, Sgt James McDowell, and he is buried in Harlingen General Cemetery in Holland. I would also welcome any pictures of his grave.

BBMF to honour AVRO at Chadderton on Sunday

This coming Sunday, 16 May, marks the 67th anniversary of the Dams Raid. I will be posting more material about this later this week but thought people in the North West might like to know about the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s plans for the day.
The BBMF Lancaster, ‘Phantom of the Ruhr’, has been out of action for the last few days with a faulty fuel cock. Luckily, a replacement has been found (which must have been quite a task for an aircraft in its seventh decade!) and it is undergoing an airtest today.
If all is well, the Lancaster will be marking the centenary of the foundation of the AV Roe company by flying over the site of the factory where it was designed and where more than 7,000 were built during the war – Chadderton, near Oldham. You’ll get a great view at Manchester Airport, where it will dip to an altitude of 100ft.
Great chance to get some good pics – please send me any you take and I may publish them on this blog.
(Special note for real Lancaster buffs – PA474 was actually built by Vickers Armstrong in Chester!)

Tonight at 8

Just a quick note to say that UK residents with access to Channel Five can see the documentary ‘Last of the Dambusters: Revealed’ again tonight at 8pm. It features one of the (now only four) surviving Dambusters, George ‘Johnny’ Johnson and his trip to France as a team of aircraft excavators dig up the Lancaster in which he flew on the Dams Raid. Later, he travels to the Sorpe Dam to see how the area has changed in the 65 years since the raid. He also meets people from the surrounding villages.
I’ve blogged about this programme before, when it was first shown in 2008 and when it was posted on Youtube.