This photograph, taken in August 1943, shows six members of Joe McCarthy’s Dams Raid crew fraternising with recently arrived USAAF personnel.
The printed caption on the reverse reads: “Passed By Censor No. 279211. Allied Airmen Get Together At U.S. 8th Air Force Bomber Station. Newly-arrived American airmen in the European Theatre of Operations are visited at their bomber stations by members of the R.A.F. who have had considerable experience of operational flying. In the course of friendly conversations they learn a great deal of useful knowledge. The Commander of one U.S. Bomber Station has declared that, thanks to these informal knowledge, his men are three months ahead of schedule in the field of experience. Associated Press Photo Shows:- Standing under the tail of a Martin B-26 Marauder Bomber, a group of R.A.F. and U.S.A.A.F. airmen get together at an 8th Air Force Bomber Station ‘somewhere in England’. They are (left to right): Lt. John Helton, of Clifton, Texas, Sgt. Ronald Batson, of Ferry Hill, Durham, Capt. W.M. Brier, of Anniston, Ala.; F/Sgt. Leonard Eaton, of Manchester; P/O. Don MacLean, of Toronto; Sgt. Len Johnson, of Newark; Lt. John Bull Stirling, of Annapolis; Flight Lieut. Joe McCarty, of Long Island, N.Y. (The D.S.O., D.F.C. Dambuster); Lt. Laurence McNally, of Bridgford, Conn.; Capt. Grover Wilcox, of Anahuac, Texas; and Sgt. Bill Radcliffe, New Westminster, D.C.” [All spelling and punctuation as in original.] [Pic: American Air Museum in Britain/IWM.]
Sgt R Batson
Lancaster serial number: ED825/G
Call sign: AJ-T
Second wave. First aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully but failed to breach dam. Returned to base.
Ronald Batson was born on 5 December 1920 in Ferryhill, Co Durham, the older son of Joseph and Elizabeth Batson. He was a grocer’s assistant before enlisting in the RAF in March 1941.
After qualifying as an air gunner, he was posted to 106 Squadron Conversion Flight in early September 1942. He quickly teamed up with Joe McCarthy whose logbook confirms that Batson and Bill Radcliffe first flew with him on the same day, 11 September 1942, in a Manchester on a training flight. Their first operation was on 5 October. Batson was the only one of McCarthy’s crew to fly on every single operation in 97 Squadron with his skipper. By late March 1943, they had amassed 31 trips.
On the Dams Raid, Batson was in the front turret of AJ-T. On the way back from the Sorpe, he spotted a goods train and asked McCarthy’s permission to attack it. The crew hadn’t realised, however, that this wasn’t an ordinary goods train but an armoured flak train, whose gunners responded with vigour. It was probably a shell from this which punctured a front tyre, and caused a problem a few hours later when landing at Scampton.
Batson went on to fly with McCarthy throughout the rest of his tour, and was recommended for a DFM in February 1944. The award was approved in June, with the citation reading:
BATSON, Ronald. 1045069 Flight Sergeant, No 617 Sqn.
Sorties 37. Flying Hours 264.30. Air Gunner.
“Flight Sergeant Batson has completed 37 operational sorties as Mid-upper gunner and has been operating continuously since October 1942. He has flown against many of the most heavily defended targets in Germany including Berlin, the Ruhr, Hamburg and Cologne and took part in the low-level attack on the Sorpe Dam. His enthusiasm and fighting spirit have invariably been of the highest order and he has proved his ability to face the heaviest opposition with complete calm and resolution. It is considered that the exemplary manner in which this NCO has executed his duties with the result that his captain has been able to place complete confidence in him merits the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.”
12 February 1944
Remarks by Station Commander – “This air gunner has been engaged in operational flying for well over a year. His enthusiasm for operations has never flagged and he has set a fine example to all other air gunners. Strongly recommended.”
By the time the McCarthy crew came off operations in July 1944, Batson had reached the rank of Warrant Officer and had completed more than 60 sorties. He was posted to a training unit for the remainder of the war.
Ronald Batson had one brother, Douglas, who also volunteered for the RAF. He was killed in a freak accident on 23 August 1944, when a USAAF B24 Liberator bomber crashed into a cafe in Freckleton, Lancashire. He is buried in Duncombe Cemetery, Ferryhill, Co Durham. How ironic that one brother flew on more than 60 operations over occupied territory and survived, while the other died while eating in a Lancashire snack bar.
After the war Ronald Batson returned to Durham for a while, and worked for the Banda duplicating machine business. He later moved to Fleetwood in Lancashire. He was married twice, and moved back to Leeholme, Co Durham, with his second wife Muriel in the 1990s. He died there on 25 November 2006.
Thanks to the Batson family and Kevin Bending for help with this article.
Survived war. Died 25 November 2006.
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Dave Birrell, Big Joe McCarthy, Wingleader Publishing, 2012
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, The Last British Dambuster, Ebury Press, 2014
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.
Further information about Ron Batson 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.
I found this excellent blog when trawling the internet for any information regarding Ron Batson. I met Ron in Fleetwood Lancs where he had lived for about twenty years and he, was ill and returning to the North east where he had originally came from. I have collected British war medals for fifty years and was very lucky to purchase Ron’s. He said he was not interested in the Dambuster industry and would not allow me to photograph him. When he left Fleetwood he never returned any calls or replied to any mail, and I knew he was very ill and have seen his date of death in this very interesting site.
In reply to Ron Batson …….. I know he had prostate cancer after I attained his death certificate as my late
Mother Catherine Webb was once his fiancée for eleven years l know he had also a sister ( I have letters some
He left my mother) He was by all accounts a very private man hence not wanting to devulge any photo …. hope this fills you in Brian Hunter
Thank you for this – I have just sent the link to my mum, who was his niece. He was my Great Uncle, so it really good to read more information.
Dan Brewer ….. A couple of years ago l was asking for information regarding your uncle Ron via the daily mail ….. I knew your uncle had also had a sister Vera as she also had a daughter are you related to them
If your grandmother was Vera l do have a letter she sent my mother ( lovely)
My mother died a year ago finally knowing Ron was at peace …… l managed to get his death certificate filling in the blank spaces
Any info that you could give me would be gratefully received
Hi Amanda – Vera was my grandmother, her daughter being my mum (so Ron’s niece).
My mum was very close to Ron, so would have some detail of various things.
Are you related too then?
I’m sure she’d love to see the letter you have – not sure how we’d go about getting in contact outside this without posting email addresses to be honest.
Amanda, I’m Veronica Watson – Dan’s mum, and Ronnie’s niece (I never called him Ron, nor did I ever call him uncle! He didn’t want me to). I so wish that I had managed to get on to this site and give you more information about him before your mother died. But at least you were able to tell her something before she passed away.
Ronnie was the best uncle anyone could have, and throughout his life he and I had a very special relationship. He was always on my side, always looking out for me. He hated it if I was unhappy and would go out of his way to help cheer me up. He was a stalwart member of our family, and was always on hand to help out or give support through difficult times we all experienced.
He was a very private person, and it was almost impossible to get him to talk about the war. Nonetheless, I did manage to learn quite a bit about the Dambusters raid and I have a copy of Guy Gibson’s book ‘Enemy Coast Ahead’.
If you are interested in learning more about him I would be happy to make contact – perhaps by email. I would also love to learn more about the letters you have, especially the one(s) you have from my mother.
Amanda and Veronica
I am replying to you both with this post. It seems by the comments above that you are happy for me to put you in touch with each other, so I will do do so by email. I would also like to find out more about the Batson family so I would be very grateful if you could copy me into the correspondence. Best wishes, Charles
My name is Geoff wall i am a local historian at Ferryhill. Ron has pride of place in the history and museum of Ferryhill. I have enquired about a Blue plaque but have to wait till 2026.