Almost 70 years after the Dams Raid, the Burpee family in Canada have now put some of their correspondence into the public domain. The first of these was sent to Lewis Burpee’s parents by his wife Lillian on 13 February 1943, while Lewis and his crew were still serving in 106 Squadron. Lillian, who was pregnant, was living in Newark while Lewis was serving at RAF Syerston. Note the chunks cut out by the censor!
On the Dams Raid, Burpee and his crew were part of the mobile reserve, five aircraft which left Scampton after midnight, They were to be given instructions as to which dam to attack when the results from the first and second waves had been assessed. In fact, he was shot down less than 2 hours after his take off and crashed on the edge of the heavily protected airfield at Gilze-Rijen in Holland.
This letter from Guy Gibson was sent to Mrs Burpee on 20 May 1943. It follows the standard format for letters of this kind, offering the chance that he had been captured, but pointing out that it was seen to crash, which led them to fear the worst.
This is followed by a letter to Burpee’s parents from an RCAF Chaplain. He refers to Lillian wanting to get posted back to Canada before her baby was born.
The final letter, sent in July, from the RCAF concerns Lewis’s “personal effects” and asks whether Lillian wants them forwarded directly to Canada, as by then it seems her trip back had been finalised.
As a Dambusters fan – mainly being as my Birth day is the anniversary of the first bouncing bomb being dropped and my initials being AJS – the information about “my plane” so to speak, is fascinating! I also learned to fly with the ATC at RAF Syerston and later find that one of the propellor blades from AJ-S is now at Newark air museum. Spooky at times, but great history!