Dambuster of the Day No. 23: David Horsfall


Pic: Humphries Collection

Sgt D T Horsfall
Flight engineer
Lancaster serial number: ED887/G
Call sign: AJ-A
First wave. Fourth aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine dropped accurately, causing small breach. Aircraft shot down on return flight.

David Taylor Horsfall was born in Bramley, Yorkshire on 16 April 1920, the older of the two sons of Robinson and Emma Horsfall. The family moved to Barnsley, and both he and his brother Albert went to Barnsley Grammar School. David joined the RAF in 1936 as a boy entrant at the No 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton. He served in ground crew until 1942.

He then took the opportunity to retrain as a flight engineer on heavy bombers, and met up with his future crew at 1660 Conversion Unit at RAF Swinderby in late 1942. The crew was left pilotless when its skipper Sgt Graham Bower went sick on 14 January 1943. so Horsfall’s first operation was to the difficult destination of Berlin on 16 January along with colleagues, Lawrence Nichols, Gordon Yeo and Wilfred Ibbotson, in a Lancaster piloted by Plt Off Vincent Duxbury, an instructor. He flew on a second operation to Berlin the following day, with Flg Off Harold Southgate as pilot, returning on three engines after one failed on the way home.

Melvin Young joined the Conversion Unit later, in early March and took over this new crew there. The full crew were then transferred to 57 Squadron at Scampton on 13 March. On 25 March, they were all reposted to the new 617 Squadron.

The Dams Raid was therefore Horsfall’s third operation, and one that they would all have thought had gone well, until they were caught by a burst of flak at the very last moment of real danger.
David Horsfall’s body was washed ashore on 29 May, along with his skipper. They were buried together in Bergen General Cemetery.

David Horsfall had a brother, Albert, who had been killed in 1940 serving as a navigator in 50 Squadron. The Horsfall family therefore share an unwanted sad distinction amongst Dambuster families with the Taerums and the Minchins, in that they all had two sons killed on active air force service during the war.

More about Horsfall online:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

KIA 17 May 1943.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources: Arthur Thorning, The Dambuster who Cracked the Dam, Pen and Sword 2008
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassel 2002

Further information about David Horsfall 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.

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One thought on “Dambuster of the Day No. 23: David Horsfall

  1. James Crawford. May 2, 2013 / 12:01 pm

    I Have so been engrossed in this series that It is hard to believe that most of these brave men were killed in the war! So young- and I was a baby of 1 year at the time of “the Dam Busters’. I grew up so proud of all those brave boys from U.K. (where I was born, in N.I.) Australia and Canada and the U.S, as well as other places in Europe, . Bless them all!

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