Dambuster of the Day No. 49: Norman Burrows

Burrows ©PH

Sgt N R Burrows
Rear 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.

Norman Rupert Burrows was born on 31 August 1914 in the Toxteth area of Liverpool, the second of the three children of Norman and Jane Burrows. His father worked as a carter. He joined the RAF in June 1941, but didn’t go to Air Gunnery School until the following year. After qualifying as an air gunner, he joined 50 Squadron based at Skellingthorpe on 30 September 1942.

He flew for the first time with Henry Maudslay on 27 January 1943, on a raid to Dusseldorf, and became his regular rear gunner, taking part in a further nine operations. On one raid, to Cologne on 2 February 1943, when they bombed from 19,000 feet conditions were so cold that his guns froze. The complete crew were transferred to 617 Squadron on 27 March 1943.

Towards the end of the pre-raid training all the Dams Raid crews practised dropping dummy Upkeep mines at Reculver, off the Kent coast. Maudslay and his crew had been allocated Lancaster AJ-X (ED933) for the raid. Burrows was in its rear turret on 12 May when Maudslay came in at an altitude so low that, when the mine was dropped, the splash of water and shingle damaged the tailplane. This must have severely shaken up the gunner.

The aircraft limped back to Scampton, but the repairs couldn’t be done in time. Fortunately another specially modified Lancaster, ED937, arrived the following day, and Maudslay was allocated it for the raid. It was given the code name AJ-Z.

After being damaged at the Eder Dam, AJ-Z got as far as Emmerich near the Dutch-German border before being shot down. The body of Burrows, separated from his comrades by the length of the fuselage, was at least identifiable on its own, and he and the rest of the crew were buried in Dusseldorf North cemetery. After the war, they were all reinterred in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

More about Burrows online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry

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 Norman Burrows 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.

12 thoughts on “Dambuster of the Day No. 49: Norman Burrows

  1. Laurie Edward. October 10, 2013 / 9:33 am

    “..Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. ..”. That forest area gets quite a lot of mentions re the unfortunate Market Garden/Arnhem land.campaign. Especially in Robin Neillands writings. Many casualties buried there I imagine.

  2. jane swintek October 4, 2014 / 10:38 am

    Norman Burrows as far as I know was engaged to my stepmother but I’m not absolutely sure. She called him Tops! I found a book he had given her in the bookshelf at home the other day. Does anyone know if this is he?

    • norman burrows dekoningh May 7, 2015 / 6:52 pm

      Jane. Norman was my uncle, and I know my dad used to talk about him and his nickname was ‘tops’ my dad said due to his height and the lack of hair he had… Also, I know he was engaged (c1942 to an Liverpool lady) – I think but not 100% the lady was called ‘Jane’ like yourself.
      Hope this helps…

      • Jane October 31, 2016 / 1:59 pm

        Rather belatedly I have just seen your email. Thank you for replying. My step mother’s name was Dorothy Spencer. She Told me his plane was blown up over the dam and So I was surprised to learn the plane had tried to reach home and that the occupants had been found and buried in a war graves cemetery. Happy for that.

      • Geoff Blenkinsop November 12, 2016 / 3:33 am

        Norman – I was excited to see your email because Norman Burrows is also my uncle. My mother was your aunt Anetta Jane Burrows. I have lost touch with my English family after moving to Canada 40 years ago and hope you will contact me. Regards – Geoff

    • Geoff Blenkinsop November 12, 2016 / 7:15 am

      Jane, Norman Burrows is my Uncle.

      Geoff Blenkinsop

      • Norman Burrows deKoningh December 19, 2016 / 7:58 pm

        Hi Geoff. sorry for the late reply, work has taken me around and away from home for the lass few months, yes please do contact me on:
        and i see what i can help you out with, i have passed a copy of your messages to my sister who know more about my father and his family and she will be very interested in fulling her family tree, so if you can forward me a email that would be much appreciated. My i send season greeting for this time of year.

  3. Jane October 31, 2016 / 1:51 pm

    Rather belatedly I’ve just read your reply. My step mother’s name was Dorothy Spencer and she lived in Banbury although she was born in Derby. She told me his plane had been blown up over the dam and never knew it had tried to reach home and that he had a final resting place and tombstone in a cemetery.

  4. M McCormack December 20, 2016 / 5:35 pm

    Hi Geoff,
    Norm e-mailed about the Dambuster and yourself. I am Manon, Alf’s oldest child and I do remember you.
    Dad past away April, 2013 and up to the last few weeks before he went,he spoke strongly and passionately about Norman and Annetta.
    Please e mail mccormack.p@sky.com. How is your brother doing? Look forward to hearing from you, Manon

    HI Jane,

    I have heard that Norman was engaged but sorry do know the lady’s name.

  5. Jane Beattie December 5, 2020 / 10:21 pm

    Hello All

    This announcement was in the LIverpool Echo on 3 November 1941:


    BURROWS – BOON The engagement is announced between NORMAN (R.A.F.), eldest son of Mr and Mrs N R Burrows and MARJORIE, only daughter of Mr and Mrs E Boon, both of Mossley Hill

    Don’t know if this helps or hinders!

    • Manon December 6, 2020 / 11:08 am

      I am the eldest niece of Norman and the oldest child of Norman’s brother. I was lead to believe that
      Norman was engaged.
      My father when over to see his brother’s grave and met our mother in Holland in the 1950s.
      I believe faith has a lot to do in life as mum was from the town were Operation Market Garden to place and saw this take happen.

  6. Kelly February 3, 2021 / 2:45 am

    Like many of you I am related to norman, i am currently working on an extensive family tree, i think he is my mums cousin so my 2nd cousin although i am not 100% on that, i would love to see photos or hear stories if you wish to share.
    Kind regards kelly

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