Flg Off V S MacCausland
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.
Vincent MacCausland was born in Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1913. He joined the RCAF in 1940, and after training as an observer and then a bomb aimer completed a first tour in 57 Squadron in late 1941. He received a commission and spent more than a year in a training unit. Keen to get back to a second tour, which was well overdue, he returned to 57 Squadron, which had by then moved to RAF Scampton, in March 1943.
MacCausland was not in the inexperienced crew which had come together with Melvin Young in a Conversion Unit and had also arrived in 57 Squadron at about the same time. Young’s crew transferred en bloc into the new 617 Squadron, but it was decided that his bomb aimer was not suitable for the mission being planned.
MacCausland obviously fitted the bill. With a tour under his belt and further experience training other bomb aimers he could be expected to slot in easily, and he was therefore drafted into Young’s crew on 14 April 1943.
In a letter home just after he had been posted into 617 Squadron he told his mother what had happened:
You are perhaps wondering what I am doing here. There is really no need to feel over anxious to know that I am back again for my second tour. I really was due back six months after Sept of 41 and had the privilege of joining a well experienced crew and on aircraft that one dreams about. To tell you the honest truth I would not have taken this on had I believed it was a doubtful move. I came up here a couple of days ago (Apr 14th) and we are on revision and conversion for the next month before going over with a few bundles for the squareheads I know that you will be feeling most anxious during those few months ahead but the time will soon pass and I know that God will be especially with us as were blessed in that first tour. I hope that we shall be writing at least two to three times per week and if you do the same, it will be much happier for us all.
Sadly, the blessings that were bestowed on him in his first tour would not follow him to his second. MacCausland delivered a perfectly placed mine as Young’s aircraft flew at the Möhne Dam, and it bounced several times and exploded at the base. The small breach that it caused wasn’t visible until the next aircraft, piloted by David Maltby, made its own approach. Between the two, the dam was destroyed.
Having been so instrumental in the destruction of the Möhne Dam, Young was detailed to act as Gibson’s deputy at the Eder. After it too was blown by Knight’s successful mine drop, Gibson, Shannon, Knight, Maudslay and Young set off for home. Unfortunately the latter two – the squadron’s two flight commanders – didn’t get back. AJ-A was shot down crossing the Dutch coast near IJmuiden, and crashed into the sea. The bodies of all its crew were washed ashore during the following two weeks.
MacCausland is buried with all his comrades from AJ-A in Bergen General Cemetery.
More about MacCausland online:
His letters in the Canadian Letters and Images Project
Flickr collection by Joel Joy
Article in the PEI Guardian, including interview with his sister
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