Der Chef blames Kommune for Dams Raid success


Sefton Delmer, propaganda genius behind Gustav Siegfried Eins [Pic: Wikipedia]

On the afternoon of 17 May 1943, a remarkable broadcast was heard on German radio sets. ‘Achtung, achtung, said the speaker. An ‘incalculable flood catastrophe … befell our homeland last night from the destruction of the Moehne and Eder valley dams.’ He went on:

‘The responsibility for the fact that the enemy could succeed in inflicting this horrible desolation with his mines and bombs, unfortunately, will still be unavoidably affected by it, the responsibility for it remains with the Kommune, for the most part with a single individual, with Joseph Terboven.
Terboven – let it not be forgotten about him – allegedly in order to preserve for the nation the works of art in his ostentatious castle in Kettwig, had all portable anti-aircraft equipment from the Moehne Valley taken away on May 12, right after the air attack on Duisburg, and set up in Kettwig to protect his castle which he considered badly threatened.
Only the heavy guns permanently emplaced at the vital Moehne Valley dam on which the system of the whole Ruhr valley depends, were left there. And four days later, last night, the enemy was right on hand and simultaneously attacked the Moehne, Sorpe and Eder Valley Dams. On the Moehne the defence was hopeless. Joseph Terboven saw to that. One lone shitpot Englishman was brought down. The enemy made four low-altitude flights practically unhindered, calmly illuminated the region with flares, and with his mines smashed a gap 100 metres long in the dam.
At the Eder Valley dam it was not much better. There the Kommune land defenders had long since carried off the greater part of the anti-aircraft and set it up at Kassel, with the fantastic explanation that the enemy wouldn’t be able to find the dam in the Eder Valley anyway. The defence of the cities is much more important on account of the morale of the people. What is left of the morale, what is left of anything at all, whether Kassel itself will be spared the devil only knows – now that the Eder dam is blasted and the unleashed floods rage down the Weser, Schwalm and Fulds Valleys, destroying men, live stock and crops for many kilometres around, tearing away bridges and (halting) the war production for months to come.
The single dam which could be properly defended because there, perhaps by pure chance, all the flak was still available, was the Sorpe valley dam. There they brought down at least seven of the attackers, and in spite of three heavy attacks only a small hole was made in the dam. Let’s hope it will hold.’

The speaker claimed to be someone called ‘Der Chef’ – the Chief. He was a patriotic German officer, broadcasting from somewhere deep inside the German Reich from a radio station called Gustav Siegfried Eins (GS1).
Der Chef saw himself as the head of an organisation of disaffected German troops. He hated the British, led by Churchill who he described as a drunken old cigar-smoking Jew, but almost as much he hated what he called the Party Kommune. This was his term for the loose organisation of low and middle-ranking Nazi bosses who were mostly concerned with their own welfare to the detriment of the war effort. They feathered their own nests, shirked their civil and military duty and profiteered from the war. According to der Chef, as long as they were comfortably housed, continued to make money, were safe from Allied bombing and were well fed, they were happy to see the German people dying in a fruitless and mismanaged war.
The broadcast on 17 May 1943 was one of many where Der Chef attacked the Kommune, and in particular a man called Josef Terboven, the President of the Rhine Province and also the Reichskommissar for Norway.
Der Chef’s radio broadcasts went out at 12 minutes before the hour, and lasted about 12 minutes each. They were repeated throughout the day at the same time.
Two voices were heard in each broadcast, an announcer and Der Chef himself. He saw himself as a trenchant, hard-hitting spokesman, fearless, determined and completely sure of the ground on which he stood. He frequently used the coarse type of language which he saw as being appreciated by the front line soldier.
The broadcasts were apparently listened to by a number of German people. Whether they believed them or not is another matter since they were, of course, propaganda, broadcast by a clandestine British station, hidden in the Bedfordshire village of Aspley Guise*. The station was the brainchild of a unit in the Political Warfare Executive led by the Daily Express journalist Sefton Delmer. Delmer went on to create a number of other clandestine radio stations later in the war.
The translated extract above and much of the other information in this article comes from Lee Richards’s website. Here is the full translated text of the 17 May broadcast.

*Fascinating Fact about the Dams Raid, number 317: Between 1880 and 1914, the Rector of Aspley Guise, the village which housed PWE’s secret radio station, was the Rev James Chadwick Maltby, grandfather of Dams Raid pilot, Flt Lt David Maltby.

Bolitho, three more Bs and an A

Lynne Wilde has kindly sent me three more photos of Richard Bolitho, rear gunner in Bill Astell’s AJ-B on the Dams Raid, and now buried alongside his comrades after their aircraft was shot down near Dorsten in Germany early in the morning of 17 May 1943.
Lynne’s father was Flt Lt Geoffrey Bate DFC. At the time these pictures were taken, in February/March 1943, he was a Sergeant air gunner in 61 Squadron, stationed at RAF Syerston. It is thought that all the other four shown here were also gunners in the same squadron. [Update, November 2013: It now seems more likely that all five were on the same Air Gunnery course in the summer of 1942, and the photographs were wrongly captioned after the war.]

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The first shows all five, and is captioned:

Syerston 1943
Bate Bracegirdle Bolitho
Adams (Chopper) Billington

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The second is captioned:

Billington Adams Bolitho
‘2 B’s and an A’

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The third is captioned:

Bolitho Adams Bracegirdle
‘Still 2 B’s and an A’

Sgt Julian Bracegirdle was killed in action in 1944, while serving with 101 Squadron. If anyone can shed a light on the full names and subsequent fates of Sgts Billington and Adams,  please get in touch.

Dams Raid peaks interest

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BBMF Lancaster over the Derwent Dam, 16 May 2013 [Pic: Andy Chubb]

An interesting insight into why the recent Dambuster anniversary flyover at the Derwent Dam was a rather low key affair has appeared in this recent blog post written by Jim Dixon. He is the Chief Executive of Peak District National Park Authority and was therefore involved in the complicated discussions which took place between his authority, the two local councils, Severn Trent Water, the RAF, the police and everyone else who seemd to express an interest.
The RAF explained to him the significance of the events around this anniversary and that the main commemorative events would be in Lincolnshire. This was partly to accommodate considerable media interest but mainly because the last Dams Raid survivors were now too frail to travel extensively on the days around the celebration.

A plan was then put in place led by Severn Trent Water with support from Derbyshire Police, Derbyshire County and High Peak Borough Councils, Mountain Rescue and the National Park rangers. Contrary to some unworthy reports in the media, there was no attempt to stop the flyover and the plans to restrict access were only a sensible precaution to prevent mayhem and allow visitors safe access. At no time were the RAF’s plans restricted.

He was right to be cautious. Having arrived early himself on the day, he found that:

The first visitors to the valley had camped overnight and our rangers had been on site at 4.00 am when more people began to arrive. All car parks and lay-bys in the valley were full by 10.00 and there was a huge amount of traffic in the Bamford and A57 areas. Our careful and cautious approach had proved to be right.

Just before it arrived in the Derwent valley itself, the BBMF Lancaster had paid another important, very personal tribute nearby to two men who died on the night of the Dams Raid. It had flown over the Peak District town of Chapel en le Frith, whose war memorial commemorates two local men – Flt Lt Bill Astell, pilot of AJ-B, and Sgt Jack Marriott, flight engineer in Henry Maudslay’s AJ-Z.
There must be something in the High Peak air (or perhaps it’s that local Buxton water). It seems to encourage some very interesting local blog writers, who have written about these two local Dams Raid participants, and also taken many photographs.
As well as the local Chapel News, there is Cllr Anthony McKeown (who has an extensive Flickr portflio of pictures), writer Uphilldowndale (‘Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England’) and, most remarkably, self-confessed ex-southern softie Carah Boden who actually lives in Bill Astell’s old house. She writes:

I feel both extraordinarily privileged and very moved. It was to this house, in this quiet Derbyshire village, that he returned having been awarded his DFC for fortitude in Libya, to rest and recuperate prior to his involvement in the Dambusters’ Raid. It was a place he loved, as confirmed to me by his sister Betty in a brief correspondence we enjoyed before her own death a few years ago. She said how happy they had all been living here and that, indeed, the only sadness was that their beloved brother died in action while they still lived here.
Edmund Bradbury, member of the British Legion and long-term resident of Chapel-en-le-Frith, worked tirelessly to bring together today’s commemoration of Bill Astell who died just 53 days after Edmund was born. The sun shone on Chapel’s market place – site, too, of the War Memorial where William Astell’s name is etched in the stone like too many other fallen comrades of the First and Second World Wars. A message was read out from Her Majesty the Queen; flags were raised and lowered; a lone trumpet played The Last Post; a minute’s silence was held and its end marked by the Revalle; hymns were sung, prayers were said and readings given; wreaths were laid and the Chapel Male Voice Choir sang the famous Dambusters’ March. BBC and ITV news were both there filming and interviewing and military and local dignitaries were joined by a good crowd of invitees and passers by.

‘We are simply guardians of stone and mortar for a moment in time, before we too have to move on,’ she concludes. ‘But in the meantime it is a privilege to be able to inhabit this place which he, too, called home.’
How true, how true.

How low can you go?


Flt Sgt Joe Kmiecik, a Second World war veteran, was a pilot in 83 Squadron in 1954, and flew one of the three RAF Lancasters used in the 1955 film The Dam Busters. His son Jan has kindly sent me another photograph, taken at Lake Windermere during the filming.
It is quite extraordinary to see how low the pilot is flying. The figure standing in the bow of the boat underneath must have been almost deafened by the experience.

Dambuster of the Day No. 38: Daniel Walker

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The sixteen Canadians who returned from the Dams Raid photographed together. Danny Walker is in the middle of the front row, third from the left. [Pic: Bomber Command Museum of Canada]

Flg Off D R Walker DFC

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.

Daniel Revie Walker known to some as Danny and others as Revie during the war. He was born in Blairmore, Alberta, Canada on 20 November 1917 and worked for the Alberta forestry service before volunteering for the RCAF in 1940. After training as a navigator, his first active posting was to 106 Squadron as it re-equipped to fly Avro Lancasters, and crewed up with David Shannon. He finished a full tour of operations in December 1942, and was awarded the DFC in January 1943. Walker was a gregarious soul, and was particularly friendly with the wireless operator in Guy Gibson’s crew, Robert Hutchison.

At the end of March 1943, Walker was serving in 22 OTU. Shannon was contacted by Gibson and told he ‘was putting things together’ for a new squadron, and would he like to join him. Shannon then assembled an almost completely new crew, with Walker the only man from his time in 106 Squadron to join him.

After the Dams Raid, Shannon and Walker spent some time on leave together near Bradford. So many were the free drinks thrust on them by both friendly members of the public and grateful barmen that Shannon said later that they were in danger of getting alcohol poisoning. Walker received a Bar to his DFC for his work on the raid itself.

In September 1943, when serious operational duties were resumed, Walker became the squadron’s Navigation Officer, succeeding Jack Leggo who had been selected for pilot training. Walker flew some seventeen more operations with Shannon before being transferred out of 617 Squadron in April 1944.

Walker went back to Canada and stayed on in the RCAF. He commanded the navigation school in Winnipeg and served with Norad at Tacoma, Washington, before retiring in 1967. He then worked as a manpower commissioner. He died on 17 November 2001 in his native city of Blairmore, Alberta.

More about Walker online:
Daily Telegraph obituary

Survived war. Deceased.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

Further information about Danny Walker 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.