Dambuster of the Day No. 48: William Tytherleigh

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Four airmen in the garden of a pub, believed to be “The Parklands” in Lincoln, probably in June 1941. At the time, they were all serving in 50 Squadron, then flying Hampdens at RAF Swinderby. L-R: Sgt Walter “Wally” Layne, Sgt Albert “Woof” Welford, Sgt William “Johnnie” Tytherleigh (with pipe) and Sgt Stuart “Stew” Hobson. [Pic: David Layne]

Flg Off W J Tytherleigh DFC
Front gunner

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.

William John Tytherleigh, always known as “Johnny”, was born in Norwich on 8 November 1921. He joined the RAF in 1940, and qualified as an observer/air gunner the following spring. He was posted to 50 Squadron in the crew of Sgt Douglas Atkinson (who was also known by the nickname of Johnny). This crew completed a full tour in Hampdens between November 1941 and June 1942. Tytherleigh was commissioned in April 1942. At the end of their tour, he gave his pilot Atkinson an engraved gold propelling pencil, along with a handwritten message ‘To help say thank you Douglas for seeing me through – Johnny’. This was found by Atkinson’s son after the war.
After a spell in a training unit Tytherleigh rejoined 50 Squadron in the autumn of 1942. By then, they were flying Lancasters, and Tytherleigh was stationed in the mid upper turret.
On 2 February 1943, he joined up with Henry Maudslay, Robert Urquhart and Norman Burrows for the first time, on an operation to Cologne, and he flew a further eight times with this crew, until they were all transferred to 617 Squadron.
On the Dams Raid, he was occupying the front gun turret of AJ-Z, which would have meant he was very close to the explosion when its Upkeep mine went off as it hit the parapet of the Eder Dam. As their damaged aircraft stuttered homewards, it flew too close to a flak battery on the outskirts of Emmerich, and they were shot down.
When they got to the crash site, the Germans could not identify the individual remains of William Tytherleigh, Michael Fuller and Robert Urquhart, and they were buried together in a single grave. After the war, they were all reinterred in Reichswald Forest war cemetery.
Like Urquhart, Tytherleigh had been recommended for a DFC at the time of his transfer from 50 Squadron. He had completed 42 operations. However, just as happened with his colleague, the recommendation got ‘lost’ for over two years, and it was not announced until June 1945..

More about Tytherleigh online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry
Titherly family name website
Articles in Brighton Argus and Daily Telegraph from 2000, about a failed attempt to auction a fake letter to the Tytherleigh family.
Tytherleigh’s first tour in Sgt Douglas Atkinson’s crew in 50 Squadron

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

Dambuster of the Day No. 47: John Fuller

P O MJD Fuller 2

Pic: Fuller family

Plt Off M J D Fuller
Bomb aimer

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.

Michael John David Fuller, known as John to his family, was born on 28 April 1920 in Reigate, Surrey. After leaving school, he worked for the GPO as a telephone engineer. He joined the RAF in May 1940, but didn’t begin operational training until February 1942. He then qualified as a bomb aimer.
After a short spell in 106 Squadron he was posted to 50 Squadron, and first flew with Henry Maudslay and his new crew on 13 February 1943. He flew on a handful of other operations before the whole crew were posted over to 617 Squadron. By this time, he had been commissioned.
The bomb aimer’s job on the attack on the Eder Dam must have been ferociously difficult. The pilot had only a few seconds to level out and in that time, the bomb aimer would have had to judge exactly when to release the mine. David Shannon and Henry Maudslay made several attempts each, and it was on his third run that Fuller released AJ-Z’s mine. Some reports say that something was seen hanging down below the aircraft, perhaps caused by hitting trees on the run in. Perhaps this hampered the mechanism because the mine was dropped too late, hit the parapet and exploded almost under the aircraft.
Although the crew limped as far as Emmerich, they met their end there at the hands of a flak battery, about 50 minutes after the attack on the Eder.
Michael Fuller and his other comrades were buried first in Dusseldorf North cemetery, and then reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest war cemetery.

More about Fuller online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry

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

Dambuster of the Day No. 46: Alden Cottam

cottam pa98-716_141

Pic: Alberta on Record

Wt Off A P Cottam
Wireless operator

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.

Alden Cottam was born in the small town of Jasper in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, on 29 August 1912. He joined the RCAF in February 1941 and qualified as a wireless operator/air gunner.
After arriving in England he was posted to a training unit, 1654 Conversion Unit. In October 1942, he was sent from there to 50 Squadron at RAF Swinderby. He flew on a number of operations with Sgt A L Kitching as pilot, and then joined Henry Maudslay’s crew for an operation to Essen on 21 January 1943. He was posted to 617 Squadron in 25 March as part of Maudslay’s crew.
He died along with the rest of this crew when they were shot down near Emmerich, limping back in an aircraft damaged during the attack on the Eder Dam.
Alden Cottam is now buried alongside his comrades in Reichswald Cemetery.

[Thanks to Alan Wells for particular help with this piece, and for all the Maudslay crew.]

 More about Cottam online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Listing at Alberta on Record
Listing at Canadian Virtual War memorial
Article in Canadian newspaper about visit to his grave

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