Towering above the rest of their 617 Squadron aircrew colleagues, two stalwarts of the crew of AJ-L, Len Sumpter and Bob Henderson, in the centre of the back row. Taken in July 1943. [IWM MH99360]
Sgt R Henderson
Lancaster serial number: ED929/G
Call sign: AJ-L
First wave. First aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine dropped accurately but no breach caused. Aircraft returned safely.
Robert Jack Henderson was born in Tarbrax, Lanarkshire on 17 June 1920, the son of John and Catherine Henderson. He went to West Calder High School and worked briefly as a miner before joining the RAFVR in 1937, where he served in ground crew. He did two stints in 207 Squadron, the second just before going to No 4 School of Technical Training to train as a flight engineer. In October, after he qualified, he was posted to 57 Squadron at Scampton, where he joined the crew of Flt Lt G.W. Curry. Leonard Sumpter also joined this crew at about the same time. Henderson flew on sixteen operations with Curry between November 1942 and March 1943. Hearing about the new squadron, and anxious to get involved, Henderson and Sumpter approached David Shannon when they found that Curry had been grounded for medical reasons. Shannon recruited both of them for his Dams Raid crew.
After the raid, Shannon’s crew carried on flying together for the best part of a year. Henderson notched up a further nineteen operations with Shannon and, when Shannon was taken off active flying, six more with Flt Lt Kearns. He finished his tour in mid 1944, was awarded the DFM and commissioned. He was then transferred to a training unit for the remainder of the war. He married Doreen Bluett in 1943, and they had one child.
Although he had been demobbed, Henderson then rejoined the RAF in 1948, serving at stations all over the UK and in Rhodesia, Malta and Cyprus. He died in the town of Limassol in Cyprus on 18 February 1961 while based at RAF Akrotiri.
Survived war. Deceased.
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Bob Henderson in his 617 Squadron days. [Pic: Henderson family]
Further information about Robert Henderson 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.
The Australian ABC classic FM Radio station has just run a National competition to find the Top 100 music scores used in the movies. Listeners voted for their favourite music in any movie made. http://www.abc.net.au/classic/classic100/
The Dam Busters march by Eric Coates came in at 14. The Hobbit only managed 88. Maybe Peter Jackson reads this blog and it will get things moving a bit faster on the Dam Busters remake!,
Cheers Fred Wild
I have the privilege to tend this hero’s grave here in cyprus. I can’t post a picture but it he is well cared for.
Bob Henderson’s family would like to get in touch with you re your kind work. Will it be OK to pass on your details to them? — Charles Foster