Hatton, Hill and Maltby Dambuster families paying respects

Members of three Dambuster families came together earlier this week to mark the anniversary of the deaths of their relatives. Pictured above are (far left) William Castle, nephew of Sgt William Hatton, (third from left) Rene Hopkins (sister of Sgt William Hatton) and (second from right) Valerie Ashton (daughter of Flt Sgt Victor Hill). They are gathered at the graveside of Sqn Ldr David Maltby, in St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent for the annual commemoration of the deaths of this Dams Raid crew after an aborted raid on the Dortmund Ems Canal in the early hours of 15 September 1943. David Maltby’s body was the only one recovered after their aircraft went down – those of the rest of the crew were never found, and they are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. The accident may have been caused by a collision with a Mosquito of 139 Squadron returning from a completely separate raid on Berlin, but this has never been proved.
The commemoration was organised by the East Kent branch of the RAF Aircrew Association, whose chairman, John Addley, is on the far right.

Cold wind of Wellywood may blow over Dambusters remake

There were whispers a few weeks ago that all was not well in Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films studio, but no formal statement ever emerged from the famously secretive setup. However, it now seems that at least some of these rumours were true. In a long piece in today’s Dominion Post, which is mainly concerned with how the film industry in Wellington appears to be losing business to its rival, Auckland, a couple of hundred miles further north, journalist Kimberley Rothwell confirms that Christian Rivers, although still contracted to direct the remake of The Dam Busters, has sold his Wellington house and headed off to the USA.
A dozen or so years ago, Wellington was booming, says Rothwell:
In 1999, production started on The Lord of the Rings, and the label “Wellywood” was born.
The massive two-year production drew Hollywood right to Wellington’s door and brought hundreds of millions of dollars – some put the estimate at $1 billion – into the local economy.
But at the same time, advertising agencies moved a lot of their TV work to Auckland, and production houses such as Silverscreen and Flying Fish, powerhouse producers of TV commercials, closed their Wellington offices.
The slump hasn’t all been caused by Jackson or Wingnut, or their well-documented problems getting The Hobbit into production. A massive project about the life of Christ, called Kingdom Come, has been put on hold for the moment as its production company South Vineyard tries to avoid collapse. All this means that local freelances are struggling, although they are hoping that things will look up in the future. Jackson himself gets kudos for being incredibly ‘loyal and dedicated’ to his crew members but the simple fact is that there doesn’t seem to be the work there at the moment.
The irony is that Wellington’s biggest film model building and digital company, Weta, is ‘humming’, but with post-production work. The Dominion Post couldn’t find a single shoot currently going on in the Wellington area.
To those of us outside New Zealand, this might seem a parochial matter. The country’s total population, after all, is under four million, less than a third of that of greater Los Angeles, the most important city in the English language film industry. If work on the Dambusters remake was transferred to Auckland it would hardly cause a flicker on the radar of the average enthusiast.
But to those on the ground – the technicians, scene painters, caterers, drivers and all the rest of the cast of thousands whose names scroll down the screen as you rush out of the cinema to get to the bar more quickly – it means a lot. These are their jobs after all, daily work which pays their mortgages and supermarket bills. If the cold wind of recession bites further into the Wellington economy there will be fewer presents round the Christmas tree this year. Even if the temperature is a comfy 20 degrees.

Bomb dropped. Wizard!*

This great model is the work of 7-year-old Reece Baker, who is apparently a big Dambusters fan. So, a big ‘Hi Reece’ from all the readers of this blog. It looks as though you will have a terrific future career in model making. (At the rate at which the remake of A Certain Movie is currently proceeding, it could be that a move to New Zealand and a job in the Weta Workshops will be yours for the taking when you are 18!)
* This is what navigator Vivian Nicholson wrote in his log after AJ-J, piloted by my uncle David Maltby, released the spinning mine which caused the final breach in the Möhne Dam.

If you’ve got a few bob to spare…

… you could do worse than investing in these goodies.

Being sold next week at Canterbury Auctions is this first edition of Paul Brickhill’s  magnum opus, signed by its late owner Flg Off Brian Goodale, wireless operator in David Shannon’s AJ-L on the Dams Raid, and various other luminaries. Guide price £500-£700.

Rather more expensive are three documents featuring the signature of Guy Gibson. They are on sale at Paul Fraser Collectibles for no less than £22,000. I have to say this seems an enormous price for a photograph, a page from an autograph album and an application form for a Skegness ‘entertainment’ club. In these straitened times, will anybody pay this amount? As the sale will be private, we shall probably never know.

Grantham Museum under threat

Last night, BBC political editor Nick Robinson’s report on the Ten O’Clock News took him to Grantham, where he called into the local Grantham Museum. Some footage was shown of the permanent exhibition about the town’s most famous living resident, but nothing of some of the other material on display there. This includes a unique collection of Dambuster artifacts, some sourced from the papers of the 617 Squadron’s founding Adjutant, Harry Humphries.
As Robinson mentioned during his film (which you can find on the BBC website) this museum is under threat of closure. Back in July, Lincolnshire County Council announced that it would save £90,000 by closing it and a small number of other local museums. This led to outrage in the town and a vigorous campaign has been waged locally. The museum may be saved if enough volunteers can be found to help, and enough political pressure is brought to bear on local councillors. If you live in Lincolnshire, please contact the campaign and add your voice.
In the meantime, I have been told by local sources that if the museum is closed the collection will be put into safe storage, rather than being dispersed. This is some compensation, but no substitute for keeping such interesting material accessible to local people who have, after all, paid for it.