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 Preston Cottam was born in Edmonton, the provincial capital of Alberta on 29 August 1912. His family lived in the small town of Jasper in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, some 225 miles away. The only son of the five children of Edwin and Margaret Cottam, his father worked as a hostler for the Canadian National Railway. His parents were both originally from Nova Scotia in eastern Canada.

Cottam went to the local school in Jasper and worked as a clerk and driver before the war. 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.

Cottam is buried in Reichswald Forest War 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.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

Further information about Alden Cottam 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.

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