Dambusters at the bar

Les Munro Dambusters Inn IMG_9916

Les Munro autographing the pictureboard at the Dambusters Inn, Scampton, May 2013. [Pic: Heather Allsworth/Nigel Favill]

A grand display of pictures of all the 133 aircrew from the Dams Raid can now be seen in the comfort of the Dambusters Inn in Scampton village, a few miles from the airfield which was the base for the raid itself. It represents a lot of hard work by Heather Allsworth and Nigel Favill, who live locally.
It is arranged in three sections, as can be seen in the photograph above taken during a visit by Les Munro. On the left are the crews who did not return, including the three men taken POW. In the middle above a painting by Keith Aspinall is Guy Gibson and his crew. On the right hand side are the crews who returned, together with the medals they were awarded for the raid.
Heather and Nigel should be congratulated for putting together this now complete collection. It’s open for all to see during pub licensing hours. A pint for me, and a glass of white wine for the lady.

Dambuster of the Day No. 45: Robert Urquhart

p_dr_urquhart

Pic: Bomber Command Museum of Canada

Flg Off R A Urquhart DFC
Navigator

Lancaster serial number: ED937/G
Call sign: AJ-Z

First wave. Second aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine overshot. Aircraft damaged, and shot down on return flight.

Robert Alexander Urquhart was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada on 2 August 1919, one of the four children of Alexander and Susie Urquhart. His father worked as a clerk. Urquhart himself was educated at local schools and then worked as an apprentice jeweller and a stock manager before the war. He applied to the RCAF in May 1940 and joined up in January 1941. He was initially selected for pilot training and finally qualified as a navigator with a commission in January 1942.

He arrived in England in March 1942, and underwent further training. At one point he flew with Joe McCarthy, later a 617 Squadron colleague. He joined 50 Squadron in August 1942 and undertook fifteen operations with Sqn Ldr Moore as pilot. On 17 December 1942 he joined another crew, piloted by Sqn Ldr Birch, in a raid on Soltau. Richard Trevor-Roper was Birch’s regular rear gunner and flew on this operation.

In the New Year, he teamed up with Henry Maudslay almost immediately after Maudslay resumed operational flying in 50 Squadron in January 1943. Maudslay and Uquhart’s first operation together was to Essen on 21 January 1943, and they flew another eleven operations together until the whole crew was posted into 617 Squadron on 25 March 1943.

On 4 April Maudslay, Urquhart and three others flew to Farnborough and stayed there several days while two Aldis lamps were fitted to enable the pilot to maintain the correct height for the attack on the dams. The navigator was given the important task of looking through the blister and checking that their beams were touching. On their return to Scampton, Maudslay and Urquhart made test runs across the airfield and then later the same evening at Skegness and in the Wash, demonstrating they could successfully keep to the required height.

By the time of the Dams Raid, Urquhart had amassed twenty-eight operations and had been cited for a DFC for his operational flying in 50 Squadron. The citation read:

Since joining this squadron, Flying Officer Urquhart has flown on many operations. At all times his navigation has been of the highest order and the successes he achieved are due in no small measure to his skill. This officer took part in the daylight raids on Le Creusot and Milan and at other times on many heavily defended German targets. On one occasion during a low level raid on a target in North West Germany he was wounded by anti-aircraft fire but continued to navigate with accuracy. By his skill and determination Flying Officer Urquhart has set a high standard among his fellow navigators.

In fact the recommendation had been made originally on 20 March 1943 by the Commanding Officer of 50 Squadron, and endorsed by Air Vice Marshal Cochrane on 4 May 1943. Unfortunately the paperwork got ‘lost’ in the corridors of officialdom until the closing stages of the war. The Canadian Minister of National Defence for Air wrote to the Urquhart family on 30 July 1945, apologising for the delay in the award and enclosing his ‘Operational Tour Wings’ and certificate. His DFC was eventually sent by registered mail on 7 November 1949, along with the Canadian War Memorial Cross.

When they got to AJ-Z’s crash site, the Germans could not identify the individual remains of Urquhart, Tytherleigh and Fuller, and they were buried together in a collective grave in Düsseldorf North Cemetery. After the war, the whole crew was reinterred in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

[Thanks to Simon Muggleton for help with this post.]

More about Urquhart online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry
Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Bomber Command Museum of Canada
Entry at airforce.ca website, including DFC citation (scroll down)
Auction details of his medals and logbook (includes short biography)

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Robert Owen, Steve Darlow, Sean Feast and Arthur Thorning, Dam Busters: Failed to Return, Fighting High 2013
Robert Owen, Henry Maudslay, Fighting High 2014
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

Further information about Robert Urquhart 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.

BBC Dambusters Pictureboard completed!

Pictureboard complete small

Great news from the BBC. Photographs of all 133 aircrew who took part in the Dams Raid have now been obtained for the News Online pictureboard which was launched on the 70th anniversary last May. A big hat-tip to the BBC’s Greig Watson and his team, who took on the work. Several pictures were added in the first flush of publicity after the anniversary, but the last five subjects were surprisingly elusive.
Then your humble scribe had a bright idea, and tracked down the identity card pictures of all of them in the unpublished papers of the late Harry Humphries, 617 Squadron’s first adjutant. Thanks are due to his son, Peter Humphries, for making them available both to this blog and the BBC.
Many thanks also to all the families, individual researchers, libraries and archives who have provided photographs. A full list is on the BBC website.
There is more information on how the pictures were tracked down in this article from BBC Lincolnshire.

Dambuster of the Day No. 44: Jack Marriott

Pic: Marriott family

Sgt J Marriott DFM
Flight engineer

Lancaster serial number: ED937/G
Call sign: AJ-Z

First wave. Second aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine overshot. Aircraft damaged, and shot down on return flight.

Jack Marriott was born on 19 January 1920 in the small village of New Smithy in the Derbyshire Peak District, and went to the local village school at Chinley. He was a factory worker in a local bleach works before the war. At its outbreak, he joined the RAF and worked as ground crew.

As soon as the opportunity arose for experienced mechanics to retrain as heavy bomber flight engineers Marriott volunteered and after training was posted to 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe on 25 August 1942. There he quickly gained a good reputation and was seen as setting a very high standard. He had amassed twenty three operations in the crew of Flg Off Drew Wyness before joining Henry Maudslay’s crew on an operation to Hamburg on 4 March. They flew together on three further operations before they were posted to 617 Squadron on 25 March 1942.

When Marriott left 50 Squadron, his CO recommended him for a DFM citing his ‘efficiency and enthusiasm for operational flying and his determination in helping to hit the targets’ as meriting the award. Sadly, it was only confirmed in July 1943, after his death, but was reported in the local press.

Marriott is buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

More about Marriott online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry
Chinley School photo from the 1920s

KIA 17.05.43

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

Further information about Jack Marriott 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.

Dambuster of the Day No. 43: Henry Maudslay

Maudslay crop

Sqn Ldr H E Maudslay DFC
Pilot

Lancaster serial number: ED937/G
Call sign: AJ-Z

First wave. Second aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine overshot. Aircraft damaged, and shot down on return flight.

Henry Eric Maudslay was born in Leamington Spa on 21 July 1921, the third child of Reginald and Gwendolen Maudslay. His family came from a background in industry: his great-great-grandfather, also Henry Maudslay, was a nineteenth-century inventor, important enough in the history of the British Industrial Revolution to be commemorated on a postage stamp in 2009. Following on the family tradition, his father had founded the Standard Motor Company in the early part of the twentieth century.

Henry-Maudslay-Machine-Making

Like many boys from his background, Maudslay was sent away to board at a preparatory school at a young age. He went to Beaudesert School in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire in 1930 and from there to Eton in 1935. His father died shortly before he left Beaudesert. Maudslay excelled at both athletics and rowing at Eton, winning both the mile race and steeplechase several years in succession and rowing in the college’s First VIII.

The war started as he entered his final year at school. Maudslay had been determined to join the RAF for a while, and had planned to sit the exam to enter RAF Cranwell as an officer cadet. However, the war put paid to that, and in May 1940 he volunteered directly. He was called up in July 1940, and sent to Canada for his pilot training. He returned to England in February 1941, and was given his first operational posting with 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington, flying Hampdens. There he flew on twenty-nine operations, and won the DFC for a single-handed attack on two enemy cargo vessels.

In December 1941 he was attached with other members of 44 Squadron to Boscombe Down to carry out service trials and work with the new Avro Lancaster. He carried on in various training roles until he returned to operations with 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe on New Year’s Day 1943, flying Lancasters. All six of the crew he eventually brought with him to 617 Squadron flew with him at some time in the thirteen operations he undertook over the next three months, although they only appear to have all flown together as a complete crew four times.

Maudslay was promoted to Squadron Leader and became B Flight Commander of the new 617 Squadron. As Guy Gibson was often absent on important meetings, a lot of the organisation of training fell to him and Melvin Young, the other flight commander. Shortly before the Dams Raid Henry Maudslay witnessed his friend Bill Astell’s will. The Australian pilot Norman Barlow was the other witness. All three would be lost on the raid.

Maudslay made three attempts on the very difficult Eder Dam. The last was at 0145 when his Upkeep mine was dropped too late and exploded on hitting the parapet of the dam without bouncing. This may have damaged his aircraft. Gibson asked if he was OK, and Maudslay’s faint reply was ‘I think so, stand by’. Maudslay nursed his damaged aircraft slowly back towards the Dutch border, but his luck ran out near Emmerich at 0243, when he was shot down. AJ-Z crashed in a field in the Osterholt area.

Henry Maudslay and his crew were buried in the military cemetery in Düsseldorf North Cemetery and were reinterred in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery after the war.

One of the flak gunners who shot down the Maudslay crew was Johannes Doerwald, seen below meeting this blog’s author in June 2013.
CF+JDoernwald lores

More about Maudslay online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry
Detailed biography at Barford Community website

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Robert Owen, Henry Maudslay, Fighting High 2014
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

Further information about Henry Maudslay 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.

Dambuster of the Day No. 42: Jack Buckley

IWM HU91948

Group picture taken outside Officers’ Mess at Scampton, 17 May 1943. Jack Buckley is third from the right in the front row, standing between David Shannon and Les Knight. [Pic IWM HU91948]

Flg Off J Buckley
Rear gunner

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.

Jack Buckley was one of the most experienced air gunners in 617 Squadron, and one of only eight already commissioned by the time of the Dams Raid. The only son of Hubert and Lucy Buckley, he was born in Bradford on 1 May 1919. He attended Salt’s High School in Saltaire, and then worked in the wool trade. He joined the RAF at the outset of war and after training went first to 225 Squadron, and then later to 75 (NZ) Squadron. In the latter, he flew thirty-five operations, mainly with Plt Off Fisher as pilot. He was commissioned in June 1942, and then transferred to a training unit.

Buckley became an important part of the squadron’s social activities. Len Sumpter remembered him as owning a racing car, and also usually having a pint in his hand. This reputation looks to have been cemented by the famous ‘morning after’ picture, taken on the steps of the Officers’ Mess on 17 May 1943. Buckley is obviously laughing out loud – perhaps affected by a combination of quite a lot of booze and no sleep.

He was awarded the DFC in July 1943 and flew on several more operations with Shannon. In the summer of 1944, he went back to training and remained there to the end of the war.

After the war, he resumed his career in the wool trade, and died in Bradford on 6 May 1990.

 Survived war. Deceased.

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

Further information about Jack Buckley 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.

Dambuster of the Day No. 41: Brian Jagger

p_fraser2

Brian Jagger in the back row of a group in his 50 Squadron days. The picture is taken from the collection of the family of John Fraser, and his name was written in by Fraser’s wife, Doris. [Pic: Fraser family]

Sgt B Jagger
Front gunner

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.

Brian Jagger came from an artistic family from Yorkshire. His father, David Jagger, was a well-known portrait painter. His uncle, Charles Sargeant Jagger, was a sculptor and artist, and was responsible for many memorials to the dead of the First World War. His aunt, Edith Jagger, was also an artist. All three had trained at the Sheffield Technical School of Art.

Jagger was born on 9 November 1921, in Chelsea, the only child of David Jagger and his wife Catherine, and joined the RAF in 1941. He qualified as an air gunner in the summer of 1942, and was posted to 50 Squadron. Most of his operations were flown in a crew piloted by Sgt Norman Schofield, a Canadian, in a crew which also included two other Canadians who would fly on the Dams Raid in John Hopgood’s crew, John Fraser and Ken Earnshaw.

After the Dams Raid, Jagger flew on several other operations with the Shannon crew, and was commissioned in October 1943. He was also awarded the DFM for his time in 50 Squadron, in a citation which also mentioned his role in the Dams Raid:

This NCO has carried out 24 operational sorties with great enthusiasm and efficiency. His sorties have been against targets such as Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Cologne and Hamburg and he has made three trips to targets in Italy. On 16th/17th May, 1943, he flew as front gunner in an aircraft detailed to attack the Möhne Dam and his use of his guns was of great assistance to the success of the operation.

Jagger was transferred to a training unit in the spring of 1944, and was killed in a flying accident at RAF Binbrook on 30 April 1944, in a 49 Squadron Lancaster. The aircraft was taking part in a Fighter Affiliation Exercise, testing a new Automatic Gun Laying Turret. During the flight, which involved strenuous evasion manoeuvres, the dinghy was accidentally inflated and wrapped itself around the tailplane causing the aircraft to crash. (The accidental release of a Lancaster dinghy while in flight was a known fault. A crew had been killed in a similar incident at RAF Syerston in October 1942, and the family of one of the deceased was told that the problem would be rectified to prevent it occurring again.)

Jagger Officer portrait

One of David Jagger’s best-known paintings was painted in 1941, and is titled ‘Portrait of an officer of the RAF during World War II’. The subject, however, is wearing a greatcoat with sergeant’s stripes. The greatcoat is open and on the jacket underneath can be seen a set of pilot’s wings. It came up for auction at Christie’s in 2008, but was not sold. Although the title says the subject is an officer he is quite clearly wearing sergeant’s stripes and bears a strong resemblance to Brian. Confirmation that it is him is provided by David Jagger’s recently discovered notes, in which the picture is simply listed as ‘Brian’.

Brian Jagger is buried in Cambridge City Cemetery.

Thanks to Timothy Dickson for help with this article.

More about Jagger online:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry
David Jagger’s Wikipedia entry

KIA 30.4.44

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

Further information about Brian Jagger 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.

Dambuster of the Day No. 40: Leonard Sumpter

 

Sumpter McCarthy screen

Dambusters Len Sumpter (left) and Joe McCarthy (right), outside the Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa. Probably taken early in 1944.  The Petwood was then in use as the Officers Mess for squadrons based at RAF Woodhall Spa. Pic: Leonard Cheshire Disability Archive

Flt Sgt L J Sumpter
Bomb aimer

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.

Leonard Joseph Sumpter was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, on 20 September 1911, the son of Joseph and Mary Ann Sumpter. He had already served two stints in the Grenadier Guards before transferring to the RAF in 1941. He had joined the army as a boy soldier in 1928 and left again in 1931. He rejoined his old regiment at the outbreak of war but then in 1941 he persuaded his superiors to let him transfer to the RAF. After training in England and Canada, he was posted to 57 Squadron at Scampton in September 1942 and flew as the bomb aimer on thirteen operations with Flt Lt G.W. Curry. Curry was then grounded with ear trouble, and his crew were told they had to break up.

However, he and his colleague, flight engineer Bob Henderson, heard a rumour that a new squadron was being formed elsewhere at Scampton, and went looking for David Shannon, who was apparently on the lookout for a bomb aimer and an engineer. They both impressed the young pilot, and joined his crew.

After the Dams Raid, for which he received the DFM for his accurate attack on the Eder Dam, Sumpter continued flying in Shannon’s crew, as 617 Squadron undertook a series of operations. He was commissioned in June 1943.

In 1944 Mosquitoes were introduced into 617 Squadron to mark targets, and Sumpter became Shannon’s observer. He received the DFC in June 1944. Shannon was finally taken off operations, but Sumpter reverted to Lancasters for a short time as part of Flt Lt I.M. Marshall’s crew. Altogether, by the end of the war he had flown thirty-five operations. He flew on 617 Squadron’s last wartime operation, an attack on Berchtesgarten on 25 April 1943.

He was demobbed from the RAF after the war, but rejoined in 1946 in the Physical Fitness branch, and served until 1950. He had a son, Leonard, with his first wife Marjorie MacLean whom he had met in Prince Edward Island in Canada while training, and a daughter, Jacqueline, with his second wife Hilda Rose, who was from England.

After the war, Sumpter was a regular participant in 617 Squadron reunions and activities, and his audio recollections at the Imperial War Museum have been regularly trawled by historians. He was generous with his time to many people, as this extract from a letter sent to a schoolboy in the 1970s shown below demonstrates.

Sumpter letter

Pic: Bonhams

Len Sumpter died on 30 November 1993 in Luton, a few months after his skipper.

More about Sumpter online:
Several more pictures of Sumpter at the Leonard Cheshire Disability Archive
Sumpter’s medals, sold at auction in 2003 (also contains a biography)

Survived war. Deceased.

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

Further information about Len Sumpter 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.