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
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.)
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.
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
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.