Sgt J Guterman DFM
Lancaster serial number: ED910/G
Call sign: AJ-C
Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.
Jack Guterman was born in Guildford, Surrey, on 1 August 1920, the older of the two children of Jack and Jane Guterman. His father came from a Jewish family who had fled Poland in the 1890s, while his mother was of Irish descent. His father, an accountant, had served on the Western Front in the First World War. Guterman went to Sandfield Primary School and on to Guildford Royal Grammar School in 1931. He left school in 1937 and went to work in his father’s accountancy practice.
When the war came, he volunteered for the RAF and was selected for training as an air observer. He went on to qualify as a wireless operator/air gunner, and finished his training in the autumn of 1941.
He was posted to 207 Squadron in February 1942, and started operational flying in June 1942. Along with navigator Plt Off Jack Barrett he joined the crew of Flt Sgt Anthony Walters, and they flew on their first “Gardening” operation to the Deodars area on 3 June 1942. The pair flew on some 19 operations together until September, when Walters was transferred out. Guterman and Barrett were then posted to a conversion unit.
In November, they arrived back on 207 Squadron, now in a new crew skippered by Bill Ottley. Flight engineer Ron Marsden, bomb aimer Tommy Johnston and gunners Fred Tees and Harry Strange were also all posted to 207 Squadron at about the same time. This was the same crew who would fly on the Dams Raid six months later. The crew went on to fly on some 20 more operations between December 1942 and March 1943.
Guterman’s last operation in 207 Squadron was on 8 March 1943, on a trip to Nuremburg. With this he finished his tour and could have opted to go to a training unit for at least six months. He was also recommended for a DFM, in which the citation mentioned:
In both capacities [as air gunner and wireless operator], he has consistently shown the greatest enthusiasm, determination and efficiency. In the capacity of air gunner, Sergeant Guterman displays a fine fighting spirit, welcoming every opportunity to use his guns against the enemy. On one occasions when returning from Kassel, he successfully attacked light gun and searchlight positions from a low level. His courage, reliability and perseverance have made this airman a most valuable member of aircrew.
Unfortunately the award did not come through before the Dams Raid, and the medal was presented to his family after the war.
As AJ-C’s wireless operator, Guterman received the message from Group HQ to attack the Lister Dam at 0231 on the morning of 17 May 1943. A second message, sent a minute later, ordering them to go to the Sorpe instead was never acknowledged. By then the aircraft had been hit by flak, and was about to crash in flames.
Guterman was a sensitive young man, who had great potential as an artist, and hung his own oil paintings and drawings on the walls of the various huts he lived in during his RAF career. He also loved literature and music, and collected records and books. He wrote regularly to his family with vivid descriptions of the countryside over which he had flown and concerts he had heard on the radio. In January 1943, while still in 207 Squadron he wrote to his sister:
My hands are dirty from lighting the fire which is now red and roaring; the night is cold with snow outside and millions of stars flashing madly in a deep sky, so we need some sort of camp-fire to keep us warm and cosy (horrid word!) The stars which tonight seem larger and more scintillating than I have seen before, remind me of van Gogh who was so affected by the night sky full of mad fierce globes of light as he saw and painted them.
You must have missed hearing the broadcast performance of Berlioz’s “Childhood of Christ” on Wednesday. A great pity because it contains some exquisite stuff and for anyone who is of the opinion that Berlioz was somewhat of a charlatan it is proof of his supreme craftsmanship and versatility. The whole crew installed itself in 408 (our mission) comfortably and listened to the performance without a murmur. It’s ages since I have enjoyed any work so much under such admirable conditions.
Jack Guterman and his comrades were originally buried by the Germans in Hamm, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
Thanks to Kevin Bending and the Guterman family for help with this article.
More about Guterman online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
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.