Dambuster of the Day No. 24: Charles Roberts

Robertsportrait

Flt Sgt C W Roberts
Navigator
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.

Charles Roberts was born in 1921 in Cromer, Norfolk, and had been a trainee accountant before the war. He enrolled in the RAF in 1940, and had initially been selected for training as a pilot. He was sent out to Rhodesia for training at an Elementary Flying Training School. Like many would-be pilots, he ended up qualifying as a navigator.
Back in England he met up with his future colleagues at 1660 Conversion Unit. They came together in January 1943 but, as was common practice, had to wait until March to be given an experienced pilot, who arrived in the shape of Melvin Young. Unlike some of his colleagues, he appears never to have flown on any operations before the Dams Raid, a lack of experience he shared with Vivian Nicholson, the navigator of David Maltby’s aircraft, flying alongside him. Inexperienced he may have been, but he doesn’t appear to have made any significant errors on the flight to the Möhne Dam, as Young, Maltby and Shannon maintained formation throughout the trip.
During AJ-A’s run in to attack the dam, Roberts’s role was to stand in the cockpit looking out of the starboard blister at the reflection of the two lights set so that when they touched the aircraft was at the correct height of 60 feet above the water. He would have called ‘up’, ‘down’ or ‘steady’ during the approach as the pilot adjusted the height.
On the return journey, Roberts set the correct course for one of the three approved routes home, and it was on the last leg of this that AJ-A met its fate.
Roberts was engaged to a WAAF who worked at Scampton packing parachutes.
He is buried with the rest of the crew in Bergen General Cemetery.

More about Roberts 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, Cassell 2002

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6 thoughts on “Dambuster of the Day No. 24: Charles Roberts

  1. Scott Williams August 26, 2015 / 11:20 pm

    If anybody has any information about my great-uncle Charles Walpole Roberts, please contact me

    • David Russell August 3, 2017 / 11:55 am

      Cromer Town Council to have his name on a new war memorial next year

  2. A Cooper March 30, 2016 / 6:21 pm

    Hi he is a distant relationship of mine too. My dads cousin. Please get in contact if you want to know more .

    • David Russell August 3, 2017 / 12:00 pm

      Cromer Town Council is to have his name inscribed on its new war memorial next year. Looking for more information about him

      • viv challice May 17, 2018 / 8:43 pm

        Have just seen your post from August 2017 re Charles walpole Robertsand you were wanting information about him He was my half brother ,born to my fathers first wife Dorcas.i have so much information on Charles which i did not discover till recent years my siblings and i were unaware of anything about him until another brother did our family tree on my fathers side and that is when a lot of secrets came out so if i can help you with anything feel free to e. mail me .

    • viv challice May 17, 2018 / 8:34 pm

      Have just seen your post saying Charles Roberts is a distant relative of yours it was 2 years since you posted that but here goes Charles was my brother he was born to my fathers first wife,Dorcas i never knew him was only 18 months when he lost his life in the raid my siblings and i knew nothing about him ,our knowledge of him came about through another brother searching our family tree and a lot of secrets came out then i have done a lot of research,visited his grave stood on the walls of the dam and also met the son of the lady Charles was engaged to.i have also visited the house where Charles lived at Northrepps any information you can give me about him or his family would be gratefully received .

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