Dambuster of the Day No. 69: Harvey Glinz

Glinz © PH lores

[Pic: Peter Humphries]

Flg Off H S Glinz
Front gunner

Lancaster serial number: ED927/G

Call sign: AJ-E

Second wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Harvey Sterling Glinz was born in Winnipeg, the capital city of the province of Manitoba, Canada on 2 March 1922. His father Ernest was a letter carrier, or postman. Glinz was educated at Lord Roberts and Kelvin Schools, and had worked as a clerk in the Hudson’s Bay company until the war intervened. 

Having volunteered for the RCAF Glinz was interviewed on 11 September 1941, and deemed to be best fitted for work as an air gunner/wireless operator. It was noted that he was “A neat clean – athletic young man – sincere – and should be worthwhile addition to aircrew.” He signed up a few weeks later and was sent off for training. 
Glinz excelled at his air gunnery training, passing out first in his class in February 1942. He then applied for a commission, which was granted after he had left Canada. He arrived in England at the end of March.
After various delays and yet more training, he was finally posted on operations to 61 Squadron in October 1942. 
His first operation was a raid on Turin on 28 November 1942, in a crew captained by Flg Off A E Foster. This would appear to have been as a replacement for Foster’s usual gunner. A week later he flew with Flt Sgt McFarlane, on an operation to Mannheim. He finally became part of the regular crew of Plt Off William Dierkes, an American who had joined the RCAF before the USA entered the war, and who would later transfer to the USAAF. 

Glinz flew on eight operations with Dierkes between December and February, but then went on sick leave. The medical report shows that he had suffered from catarrh and ear infections caused by the unaccustomed British weather, and that also he was suffering from ‘mild anxiety’. This was reported to have been caused by two crashes on landings on both his second and fourth operations (although neither of these are actually recorded in the squadron’s Operations Record Book). He was also diagnosed as being in a mild ‘anxiety state’, after being observed sitting on his own in the mess and seldom conversing with people. 
An RAF Medical Board first recommended that Glinz should see a specialist ‘neuropsychiatrist’, but then at the end of March reported that: 

He had been thinking things over and wishes to resume operational flying. He has an opportunity of being crewed up with an experienced pilot in whom he has every confidence. This crew is being posted to another unit to form a new squadron. He appreciates that his symptoms are nervous in origin but thinks that he can make the grade and complete his tour… The Board considers this Officer to be a fundamentally good type and should be given a further opportunity to prove himself at operational flying.

So, off went Glinz to 617 Squadron, along with Barlow and the rest of his ex-61 Squadron crew. There are no further medical reports in Glinz’s file, although his anxiety level may have increased for a while when the crew were involved in a bird strike on a training flight on 9 April 1943, which resulted in a collision with the top of a tall tree. The flight engineer’s and bomb aimer’s canopies were smashed and two engines badly damaged. It is not recorded whether Glinz was flying in the front rather than the mid-upper turret, but it would seem unlikely. (They were flying in one of the borrowed Lancasters which the squadron were using, as the special ones modified to carry the Dams Raid mine had not yet arrived.)

Glinz was 617 Squadron’s A Flight gunnery leader, a role which would have meant he helped organise training for other gunners. He must have been awarded this role because of his rank, rather than experience, as there were other gunners in A Flight with a full completed tour under their belts. 

By 16 May, training was completed and Glinz was in the front turret when AJ-E crossed the Rhine near Rees. A few minutes later they approached the line of HT electric wires outside Haldern, and collided with a pylon. 

The seven bodies were buried by the Germans in Dusseldorf North cemetery, but they could only positively identify Leslie Whillis, Philip Burgess, Alan Gillespie and Charlie Williams. All were reburied after the war, as part of the work undertaken by the RAF’s Missing Research and Enquiries Service. An insight into this detailed and rather gruesome task is given by a page in Glinz’s file. 

The only clue to the identity of these three were another rank’s shirt in Grave 42 and officer’s shirt in Grave 45 and dental charts in both Graves 42 and 45. As Fg Off Glinz was a Canadian, his dental charts were obtained from Ottawa. They definitely do not tally with the charts in either Grave 42 and 45, and this proves by elimination that Fg Off Glinz is in Grave 46. The fact that there was another rank’s shirt in Grave 42 and an officer’s shirt in Grave 45 makes it possible to allot an individual grave to the remaining two crew members, Sgt Liddell being in Grave 42 and Flt Lt Barlow in Grave 45. 

Treating the war dead with such respect is an honourable tradition in the military of many countries, and the work that this involved is perhaps not appreciated by us today. In a further sad postscript to the short lives of two of the crew of AJ-E, it emerged in October 1945 that Harvey Glinz and Philip Burgess’s service greatcoats had been inadvertently muddled up when being sent back to their families.

Glinz overcoat lores
[Pic: National Archives of Canada]

The Glinz family were asked to inspect the coat they had received and see whether its buttons were those of the RAF or the RCAF. Having ascertained that they were in fact RAF buttons, the two coats were then exchanged. 
Whether Glinz and Burgess were roommates at Scampton is not known, but the fact their coats were muddled up suggests they might have been.
The two young Flying Officers are now buried together, alongside their five comrades, in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

Sources for this article:
Harvey Glinz RCAF personnel file, National Archives of Canada.
61 Squadron Operations Record Book.
Many thanks to Allan Wells, Susan Paxton and Ken Joyce for their help.

More about Glinz online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Entry at Aircrew Remembered website

KIA 16.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Eric Fry, An Airman Far Away, Kangaroo Press 1993

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

“Wizard!” “Tremendous!” “It’s gone!” – Dambusters comic makes a great story

NickSpender-DamBusters 1

Nick Spender’s new comic book is a wonderful labour of love, and will certainly appeal to the kind of person who remembers rushing into the newsagents every week with thruppence for a copy of the Eagle.
This new ebook has been designed to look like a 1950s gravure-printed comic book – right down to the authentic library stamps – and beautifully recreates the artistic style of masters of the genre, such as Frank Hampson (who actually taught Spender in art college 30 years ago).
Although it evokes this historic style, the book is artfully constructed to transcend the period and tell the familiar story economically but accurately, with spot on details. Some of the frames resemble shots from the 1955 film, but the liberties with the truth taken in the cinematic release are not repeated here, which is something to be thankful for. For instance, there’s no nonsense about using angled spotlights to calibrate an aircraft’s altitude after a trip to a music hall. The real inventor, Benjamin Lockspeiser, gets the credit.
The comic book is sometimes underappreciated and dismissed as a method of imparting information. This view has been challenged by writers like Scott McCloud, whose book Understanding Comics should be read by anyone interested in modern communication methods. In McCloud’s words, comics offer tremendous resources to the writer and artist: ‘range and versatility with all the potential imagery of film and painting plus the intimacy of the written word’.
In the hands of a true creative comic book artist like Nick Spender a single frame can say as much as a page of a printed book. This is what makes this work such a great success, and why it is highly recommended.

NickSpender-DamBusters 21
It’s available as a Kindle ebook, but you really need a colour ebook reader, or an iPad, to do it justice. A printed version would be even better, and would be a terrific addition to the bookshelves of anyone with an interest in this endlessly fascinating story.

Johnny Johnson to speak in Retford

Our old friend George ‘Johnny’ Johnson is going to be busier than usual next month, because his autobiography is being published by Ebury Press, just in time for the 71st anniversary of the Dams Raid.
One of the public events to promote the book will be held near to his former home in Retford. On Friday 23 May, Johnny is giving a public talk at Retford Town Hall. He will also be answering questions from the public and signing copies.
Johnny will be joined on stage by Eric Quinney who, as a post-war pilot in 83 Squadron, flew one of the Lancasters used in the 1955 film.
The event is being organised by local bookseller Paul Trickett. Tickets for the event can be purchased and printed off here.

Appeal launched for AJ-E Dambuster memorial

AJ-E crew lores
The crew of AJ-E. Left to right: Norman Barlow, Leslie Whillis, Philip Burgess, Charles Williams, Alan Gillespie, Harvey Glinz, Jack Liddell.

Eight crews from 617 Squadron were lost on the night of the Dams Raid, 16/17 May 1943. Of these two, AJ-A piloted by Sqn Ldr Melvin Young and AJ-K piloted by Plt Off Vernon Byers were lost over the sea, but the other six crashed on dry land in Germany or the Netherlands.
Three of the crash sites are commemorated with a plaque or other memorial:

AJ-B: Flt Lt William Astell
AJ-M: Flt Lt John Hopgood
AJ-C: Plt Off Warner Ottley

An appeal has now been launched to add another memorial to this list. Lancaster ED927, call sign AJ-E, piloted by Flt Lt Norman Barlow DFC, crashed into a electricity pylon on some farmland near Haldern, at about 2350 on 16 May 1943, killing all on board. Haldern is a community in the district of Cleves, in the lower Rhine area.
The plan, to erect a memorial stone and bronze plaque on this site, is being organised by Volker Schürmann, a local historian, who is looking to raise €750 (about £620) to cover the cost. We are therefore looking for 150 donations of €5.
By way of thank you, donors will receive a colour souvenir postcard featuring pictures of the finished stone in place and portraits of all the AJ-E crew. It is hoped that we can arrange for a descendant of one of the crew to be present when the stone is unveiled, and, of course, all donors will also be warmly welcomed.

You can donate to the appeal via Paypal here:
Make a Donation Button

If you would prefer to make a donation by cheque or bank transfer, contact me and I will give you details of how you can do this.
Below is a picture of the site where the memorial will be erected.
two oaks 2 lores

Dambuster of the Day No. 68: Alan Gillespie

Gillespie ©PH lores

[Pic: Peter Humphries]

Plt Off A Gillespie DFM
Bomb aimer

Lancaster serial number: ED927/G

Call sign: AJ-E

Second wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Alan Gillespie was born on 16 November 1922 in Hesket, Westmorland. He was the second of the four children of Robert and Margaret Gillespie. His father was a railway porter. The family then moved to Long Marton, near Appleby. Alan Gillespie went to the village school in Long Marton and then Appleby Grammar School. After leaving school he worked as a clerk in a solicitor’s practice before volunteering for the RAF in 1940. He was eventually selected for aircrew and sent to Canada for training in September 1941.
After returning to the UK, he underwent further training and met up with Norman Barlow and Leslie Whillis at 16 OTU in July 1942. All three were eventually posted to 61 Squadron in September 1942, and did their first operation together over the Alps to Turin on 20 November. 

By March 1943, Barlow and Gillespie had both completed their tours. On their penultimate operation, a trip to Berlin, flight engineer Leslie Whillis had been left behind, in favour of Gp Capt Reginald Odbert, flying as second pilot. Odbert was the station commander at RAF Syerston, a popular Irish rugby international who had joined the RAF before the war and captained the RAF rugby team. He was killed in a flying accident in June 1943.

Gilliespie’s tour ended with a recommendation for a DFM. The citation read:

This Air Bomber has carried out 30 successful sorties on all the main targets in Germany and Italy, including six attacks on Essen and five on Berlin. He has frequently obtained excellent photographs, one of his best being the aiming point on Krupps. He has shown himself cool and collected under heavy fire in the target area and has set an excellent example to others in his crew and the rest of the squadron. Strongly recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.

When Barlow set about putting together a crew who would accompany him on to 617 Squadron Gillespie and Whillis, who had been with him since their training days, were obvious choices. Both were commissioned two days before the Dams Raid. Whether they had time to move from the Sergeants’ to the Officers’ Mess is not recorded. 

It was therefore as a newly fledged Pilot Officer that Alan Gillespie met his end. Flying in the nose of the Lancaster at treetop level, he may have seen the pylon they hit near Haldern a split second before impact. 

Alan Gillespie and his comrades were buried first in Dusseldorf, but after the war they were reinterred in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. The DFM he had won a few weeks before was presented to his family posthumously.

More about Gillespie online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Entry at Aircrew Remembered website

KIA 16.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Eric Fry, An Airman Far Away, Kangaroo Press 1993

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.