Dambuster of the Day No. 18: Leonard Chambers

National Collection

The five members of the crew of AJ-P  who were awarded honours for the Dams Raid pose outside Buckingham Palace. L-R: Len Chambers, Bob Hay, Mick Martin, Tom Simpson and Jack Leggo. [Pic: Australian War Memorial]

Flg Off L Chambers
Wireless operator
Lancaster serial number: ED909/G
Call sign: AJ-P
First wave. Third aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine veered left after dropping and exploded at side of dam.

Len Chambers was born in Karamea, New Zealand on 18 February 1919. He joined the RNZAF in September 1940. After qualifying as a wireless operator/air gunner, he arrived in England where he was posted to a training unit and then 460 Squadron, an RAAF squadron. He flew on twenty operations there, before being transferred to 75 (NZ) Squadron, where he flew a further thirty-seven operations and became the Squadron Signals Leader.
When Mick Martin joined 617 Squadron he brought most of his old 50 Squadron crew with him, but was short of a wireless operator, so Chambers was brought in. He was awarded a DFC for his part in the raid.
After the raid, he flew on six further sorties before leaving 617 Squadron at the same time as Jack Leggo, in order to qualify as a pilot. However, he did not, apparently, ever fly on any operations in this role.
He returned to New Zealand in November 1944, and left the RNZAF in 1945. After the war, he worked as a carpenter and builder. He died in his native Karamea on 1 March 1985.

[Hat tips: Dave Homewood and Kevin Smith]

TwoNZers Chambers

Biography of Len Chambers from the programme for the New Zealand premiere of The Dam Busters, 1955. [Pic: Chambers family]

Chambers album WW11Dambusters

Collage of photos from a family album. [Pic: Chambers family]

Dams Film Preview

At the New Zealand premiere of The Dam Busters, 1955. L-R: Len Chambers, Lil Chambers, Betty Munro, Les Munro. [Pic: Chambers family]

Survived war. Died 1985.
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources: Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Chris Ward, Andy Lee, Andreas Wachtel, Dambusters: Definitive History, Red Kite 2003

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.

Further information about Len Chambers and the other 132 men who flew on the Dams Raid can be found in my book The Complete Dambusters, published by History Press in 2018.

16 thoughts on “Dambuster of the Day No. 18: Leonard Chambers

  1. Robert Goodwin August 27, 2013 / 3:40 pm

    Leonard was a teacher at my school in the 1960’s, sadly not many of us were aware of his part in all this. I believe he taught technical drawing, although I stand to be corrected on that. I wouldn’t have been one of his star pupils, not very neat you see, just another snot nosed kid from the slums.
    The school was St Andrew’s Boys in Small Heath right next to Birmingham City Football Club. I think he was wasted on us, it was not really the land fit for heros that the politicians spoke of.
    I didn’t particularly enjoy my time at this school since it was one of several that I passed through as we moved home frequently to keep ahead of the demolition men as they sought to “improve” Birmingham.
    I’m glad that this list has been published and finally the men who served in this heroic act can be recognised for their part in it as well as the contribution of all the others who served.

    • Rozann Sheila Reynolds ( nee Chambers) February 19, 2014 / 10:29 pm

      Sorry Robert but Len Chambers , my dad was a New Zealander and never taught in Birmingham. Cheers Sheila Reynolds (nee Chambers NZ).

      • Kelly Reedy April 19, 2017 / 9:58 am

        Hi Rozann, I too was raised in Karamea, my mum is Gillian johnson (now reedy) whom purchased their house from peter de Vries 17 years ago. Kays old house. The old caravan that your dad built was still there. Which has just made the journey over the bluff to my home in westport. I have been dreaming of restoring it and now the journey starts. I was wondering whether you or your sisters have any photos of it from when your dad used it?? You can email me at reedy_kelly@hotmail.com thanks I would appreciate any help ideas:)

  2. Randy Murray January 8, 2014 / 6:44 pm

    It was very interesting to find out that Leonard Chambers (my uncle) was one of the Dambusters from WW-II. Leonard married my dads sister (Lil) and it was only last weekend that we found all this information about my uncle. We were trying to locate their daughter, my cousin.

    • Dianna Lacey February 19, 2014 / 12:45 am

      Hi Randy my name is Dianna Lacey (nee Chambers) Len & Lil are my parents.

      • Dianna Lacey February 19, 2014 / 12:57 am

        Hi Randy my name is Dianna Lacey (nee Chambers) Len & LilChambers are my parents.

  3. Andrea Webster June 27, 2014 / 10:50 am

    Hi there. I am currently searching my biological family tree, and have found out that I am related to Len through my great grandfather; Groves Frederick Chambers. I understand Len’s parents were Groves Frederick & Amy Isabel. My grandfather Groves Edgar was from Groves Frederick’s 2nd marriage; to Elizabeth Alice.I have some birth, death & marriage certs, but I would love to know more about the family history.

    Kind regards,
    Andrea Webster.

  4. Andrea Webster June 27, 2014 / 11:17 am

    Sorry, wrong info. Seems there is a change of names, which makes everything very confusing. Can you please confirm that Leonard was born Thomas Gross, to Thomas Gross (born Frederick Groves Chambers), and Charlotte Heberley.
    Any info would be very helpful!!
    Cheers, Andrea.

  5. Rosey Olliver October 20, 2014 / 6:31 am

    Groves Frederick Chambers was married to Charlotte Heberley. Their children were Frederick Groves (married twice – unsure of first, but second wife was Elizabeth Alice Ferris), Emily, Maud (who married Harold Olliver), George, Leonard and Florence. Their son Leonard had 9 children: Leonard, Rose, Edward, Dawn Winifred, May, Ronald, Maxwell and Noel. It is grandson Leonard or Lennie that flew with the dam busters.

    • Moira Stevens April 24, 2015 / 10:41 pm

      Ronald Chambers (The famous Dambuster Len Chambers) brother lives in Tauranga NZ. He is very proud of his Brother and has many memories and stories to tell on his late brothers behalf! Unfortunately, as Len has passed away he does not get enough recognition from NZ for his incredible bravery!

      • Sheila Reynolds (neeChambers) April 25, 2015 / 3:27 pm

        Hi Moirai I am Sheila Reynolds (nee Chambers) Len is my dad. Yes we are all proud of him,and today we remember more vividly as it is Anzac Day and we always attended the service with our dad. Sad news is that our mum, Lill Chambers passed away on Easter Sunday 2015, so she never made the 100 year Anzabc Service in Karamea NZ. Take care.

    • Susan Edwards October 18, 2015 / 6:07 am

      Yes Len Chambers,the second, was the DamBuster,he was my dad. His family called him Lennie.

  6. Chris Newey June 1, 2015 / 4:26 am

    Very sorry to hear that Mrs Chambers’ passed away. Condolences to your family. Some of you may already know that the NZ Bomber Command Assn and MOTAT are assembling a special Dambusters display, so Len’s bravery and contribution will definitely be recognised. I have an interest in his time at 75 (NZ) Squadron, and his 37 or so op’s there, rising from Sergeant to Pilot Officer and Squadron Signals Leader, make for a fantastic story, even before his Dambusters exploits! Cheers, Chris

    • Susan Edwards October 18, 2015 / 6:15 am

      Would be great to hear what you have found out about dad,as he never talked to us about the war.

      I guess 4 girls did not help. Dad was a very gentle and pateint man,hard to imagine what he went through during the war.

      He was a wonderful father,taught me so much.

      Susan Edwards

      • Chris Newey October 18, 2015 / 8:14 pm

        Hi Susan, there is quite a bit of information about Len’s time at 75 (NZ) Sqdn that has been passed to some branches of the family already – if it hasn’t made its way to you yet, please email me at chris@fooddworks.co.nz. Kind regards, Chris

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