Dambuster of the Day No. 28: Wilfred Ibbotson

Wilfred Ibbotson. [Pic: Peter Humphries]

Sgt W Ibbotson
Rear gunner
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.

Wilfred Ibbotson was born in Netherton, near Wakefield, Yorkshire on 18 September 1913, the second son of the four children of Herbert and Anne Ibbotson. His father had been a miner, but Wilfred worked on a farm after leaving school. He married Doris Bray in 1938, and they had two daughters. When war came he was called up and served as an Army motorcycle despatch rider. In 1941 he volunteered for the RAF, and trained as a gunner.

After qualifying, he was posted to 10 Operational Training Unit at RAF Abingdon, and joined a crew piloted by Sgt Ivan Morgan. His future colleagues Charles Roberts, Lawrence Nichols and John Beesley were also in this unit at the same time, but in a different crew, that of pilot Graham Bower. In September 1942, while still training, Ibbotson flew on two operations. He was then part of a detachment sent to augment Coastal Command resources at RAF St Eval and flew on six daylight anti-submarine sweeps.

In December, he moved on to 1660 Conversion Unit at Swinderby, and it would seem that it was here that he joined Young’s future crew, at that stage still skippered by Graham Bower. After Bower’s departure on sick leave, Ibbotson flew on two operations to Berlin. The first was on 16 January 1943 with Plt Off Vincent Duxbury as the pilot, and the second the following day with Plt Off Henry Southgate. (This information comes from Ibbotson’s logbook. 1660 CU’s Operations Record Book records another man as Southgate’s rear gunner.)

The Dams Raid was thus Ibbotson’s fifth operation. His body was the last of the crew of AJ-A to be washed ashore, on 30 May. Ibbotson was buried the following day alongside his comrades in Bergen General Cemetery.

More about Ibbotson online:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Wakefield Express article
Sharlston war memorial

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

Thanks to Chris Bowles for help with this article.

Further information about Wilfred Ibbotson 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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