Flt Lt R D Trevor-Roper DFM
Lancaster serial number: ED932/G
Call sign: AJ-G
First wave: First aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine exploded short of the dam.
With more than 50 operations, Richard Trevor-Roper was probably the most experienced air gunner to take part in the Dams Raid, and was the Gunnery Leader. He was also the acknowledged leader of the squadron’s hellraisers, bringing to Scampton a reputation honed in many an earlier squadron mess.
Trevor-Roper was born on the Isle of Wight on 19 May 1915. After leaving Wellington College he spent two years in the Royal Artillery. At the outset of war he joined the RAF, and trained as a wireless operator/gunner.
In 1941, he had one complete tour in 50 Squadron, received a DFM, and was also commissioned. After an inter-tour break at a training unit, he went back to 50 Squadron and had almost completed another tour, flying mainly with Sqn Ldr Birch, when he was brought into 617 Squadron. Gibson obviously recognised Trevor-Roper as a soulmate, describing him in Enemy Coast Ahead as one of the ‘real squadron characters’, although noticing, in a thoughtful moment, that he was quiet on the flight out to the dams, perhaps because his wife was about to produce their first baby.
After the raid, for which he received the DFC, Trevor-Roper came into his own, leading the pack in the drunken escapades which followed, principally the excursion to London in June for the investiture and the dinner at the Hungaria restaurant that followed. Cards were played, hipflasks were produced, and trousers removed, not always voluntarily. The squadron adjutant, Harry Humphries, was a particular target, and various escapades are reported in his book, Living with Heroes. (The same stories appear again, in a more sanitised version, in Paul Brickhill’s The Dam Busters.)
Eventually 617 Squadron went back on operations, but Trevor-Roper didn’t join the core of the Gibson crew which transferred to the new CO, George Holden. Instead, he went to 97 Squadron, based at Bourn, joining a very experienced crew captained by Flt Lt Rowlands. His luck ran out on Bomber Command’s worst night of the whole war, on 30/31 March 1944, when 95 bombers were lost from a total of 795 which set out to attack Nuremberg.
He is buried in Durnbach War Cemetery.
More about Trevor Roper online:
Isle of Wight war memorial (includes death notice from The Times)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission listing
Decoration awarded for Operation Chastise: DFC
KIA 31 March 1944
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.