Gibson and his crew take off on the Dams Raid. Hutchison has his foot on the lowest step of the ladder. [Pic: IWM CH18005]
Flt Lt R E G Hutchison
Lancaster serial number: ED932/G
Call sign: AJ-G
First wave: First aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine exploded short of the dam.
Flt Lt Robert Hutchison was the only person who had regularly been in Guy Gibson’s crew in his previous squadron to join the CO at 617 Squadron. Gibson’s crew chopped and changed a lot during his time in charge at 106 Squadron, suggesting that a few people found him a hard taskmaster. However in August 1942, Hutchison became his wireless operator and stayed in the crew for about 16 operations until his own tour finished, in February 1943, for which he received a DFC. A couple of weeks later, Gibson too completed his tour and was expecting to go on leave. He was then asked to set up the new squadron, and shortly afterwards must have asked Hutchison to come with him.
In Enemy Coast Ahead, Gibson describes him as ‘one of those grand little Englishmen who have the guts of a horse’, and says that they had been on 40 operations together – a gross exaggeration. However, there is no doubt that Hutchison had been one of the small circle of brother officers in 106 Squadron who Gibson got on well with, and this personal friendship may be what led him to accept the offer of ‘one more’ operation in a new squadron.
Another colleague of Hutchison’s at 106 Squadron had been adjutant Harry Humphries, and their friendship continued when Humphries too was hastily summoned to the new squadron by Gibson, who had found the adjutant originally assigned not to his taste.
Robert Hutchison was born in Liverpool and went to school at the famous Liverpool Institute. Later old boys would include both Paul McCartney and George Harrison. He joined the RAF soon after the war broke out, and had arrived at 106 Squadron in Coningsby in December 1941, shortly before Gibson arrived.
As the senior wireless operator in 617 Squadron, Hutchison was the Signals Leader, responsible for co-ordinating the training of all his colleagues. Individual booths were set up in the crew room so that they could practise their drills.
After the Dams Raid, for which he received a bar to his DFC, Hutchison kicked his heels for a while. As a non-drinker, perhaps he found the round of parties a little too much, and he didn’t go to London on the special train for the investiture.
Hutchison could have gone off operations at any time, as he was well past the number required by then, but he was one of the four members of the Gibson crew who flew with new CO, George Holden, on the night he was shot down, on the Dortmund Ems canal raid. Like them, he is buried in Reichswald Forest Cemetery.
Decoration awarded for Operation Chastise: Bar to DFC
KIA 16 September 1943
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.