‘Toby’ Foxlee, in a photograph from the Australian War Memorial archives. The full caption reads: ‘London, England. 1944-05-31. “With the Australians in Britain”. Flying Officer (FO) B. T. Foxlee DFC DFM, RAAF, of Ashgrove, Qld, mid-upper or front gunner of a famous bomber crew, the first all-Australian crew of the first Australian Squadron to be formed in Bomber Command. FO Foxlee came to the BBC to broadcast about his experiences in the Pacific Service programme, which included the Dam busting raids of 1943.’
Plt Off B T Foxlee DFM
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.
Bertie Towner Foxlee was always known by his nickname ‘Toby’. (His unusual second name was given to him in honour of his uncle, Edgar Towner, who won the VC in the Australian 2nd Machine Gun Battalion on the Western Front in 1918.)
Foxlee was born in Queensland, Australia on 7 March 1920, the son of Herbert and Olive Foxlee. He joined the RAAF in 1940 and trained in Australia and Canada as a wireless operator/air gunner. After further training on arrival in England, he was posted to 455 (Australia) Squadron at Swinderby, where he quickly joined up with Mick Martin and Jack Leggo. Their first operation, in a Hampden, was on 2 January 1942.
After 14 operations Martin and his crew transferred to 50 Squadron. Their first sortie, in a Manchester, was to Cologne on 30 May 1942, the first 1000 bomber raid, when they were the first ever all-Australian crew to fly a Manchester operationally. (The crew comprised Plt Offs Martin, Leggo and Burton, Sgts Smith, Paton, Simpson and Foxlee.)
By the end of June, they were flying Lancasters. Foxlee went on to complete a tour of 34 operations by 13 September, and was then transferred to a training unit. He received the DFM for his work on the first tour, and was commissioned.
In early April 1943, he joined up with Mick Martin, Jack Leggo and Tammy Simpson again, in the new 617 Squadron, practising for the Dams Raid.
Page from Toby Foxlee’s logbook, showing his entry for the Dams Raid. [Pic: Simon Foxlee]
After the raid, he carried on flying with Mick Martin on all his operations. Like his pilot, Foxlee was taken off operations after the Antheor Viaduct trip, on 13 February 1944. He received the DFC in April 1944, and spent the rest of the war instructing in a training unit.
He left the RAAF in 1948, returning to Britain to join the RAF where he worked as an air traffic controller. He married Thelma Madge Peacock in 1948 and they had five children. Foxlee finally retired from the RAF in 1957 and, after farming for a while in Kent, took the whole family to live in Australia in 1962. He came back to Britain once more in 1977, and died in Nottingham on 6 March 1985.
Survived war. Died 6 March 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
Further information about Toby Foxlee 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.