Dambuster of the Day No. 37: Robert Henderson

IWM MH33960 Henderson SumpterTowering 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
Flight engineer

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 (‘Bob’) Henderson was a Scot, born in Ayr. He joined the RAFVR in 1937, and served in ground crew when the war started. Like many another flight engineer, he was quick to take the opportunity to fly when the new trade was introduced in 1941-2. He joined 207 Squadron in April 1942, and flew on 16 operations. He moved on to 57 Squadron at Scampton in October.
Hearing about the new squadron, and anxious to get involved Henderson and bomb aimer Len Sumpter approached David Shannon when they found that the pilot they had been crewed up with had been grounded for medical reasons.
Shannon and navigator Danny Walker had transferred into 617 Squadron from Pathfinder training, and needed people to fill all the other crew places. It may have been a scratch crew, but it quickly jelled, under its charismatic young captain.
After the raid, Shannon’s crew carried on flying together for the best part of a year. Henderson notched up a further 19 operations with Shannon and, when Shannon was taken off active flying, a further six with Flt Lt Kearns. He finished his tour in mid 1944, was commissioned and awarded the DFM. He was transferred to a training unit for the remainder of the war.
Henderson stayed on in the RAF after the war, serving at stations all over the UK and in Rhodesia, Malta and Cyprus. He died in Cyprus in 1961.

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]

2 thoughts on “Dambuster of the Day No. 37: Robert Henderson

  1. Fred Wild June 11, 2013 / 2:28 am

    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

  2. lookingatcyprus May 16, 2019 / 6:26 pm

    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.

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