Dambuster of the Day No. 108: Thomas Jaye

JayePic: Jaye family

Sgt T Jaye

Lancaster serial number: ED865/G

Call sign: AJ-S

Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Thomas Jaye was one of the two sons of James and Helena Jaye of Crook, Co.Durham. His father worked as a miner at Roddymoor Collery. He was born on 3 October 1922 and went to Wolsingham Grammar School. After leaving school he worked as an electrical engineer.

He joined the RAF in 1941 and was sent for training as a navigator to the flying school run by Pan-American in Miami, Florida.

His final stint of training, after arriving back in the UK, was at 1654 Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley in November and December 1942, where one of the instructors was Henry Maudslay. He was posted to 106 Squadron on 28 December 1942.

In his six operations in the first three weeks of January 1943, Lewis Burpee had flown with five different navigators. On the afternoon of 21 January Jaye flew with him for the first time on a Night Flying Test and they went on their first operation together that evening, a trip to Essen. Jaye was immediately established as Burpee’s regular navigator and they went on a further 16 operations before being transferred out on 29 March.

The Burpee crew were about to leave 106 Squadron when Jaye bumped into an old friend from his home village. Sgt Fred Smooker was about to begin a tour of operations as a bomb aimer in 106 Squadron, and had just arrived at Syerston:

Having settled in our barracks we all decided to go to the Sergeants’ mess for a meal and on our way we noticed numerous black, brooding, Lancasters standing silently at their dispersals, at different parts of the airfield. When we reached the Sergeants’ mess, coming down the steps from the main entrance, was a navigator, a young man of about twenty one.  I didn’t recognise him until he said to me:
“Hello, Fred, have you just arrived?”
I looked again. “Why,” I said, “Tom Jaye. We’re just going to have a meal.”
“Well, that’s a pity,” he said, “I’m just leaving,” and with that I hurried on to catch up with my crew. Tom Jaye was on his way to Scampton to join 617 Squadron.
Meeting Tom caused me to reminisce about Roddymoor, the village where we both came from, not far from Crook. His father Jimmy Jaye and my father Billy Smooker were coal miners at Roddymoor Colliery, where I would have been had I not volunteered for RAF aircrew. Tom Jaye had gone to grammar school and joined the RAF before me. I remember his mother telling me that he was based in Nottinghamshire while I was on leave, during training.
Clive Smith, Lancaster Bale Out, Tucann 2013, p62

Jaye’s first flight in 617 Squadron was on 31 March, with Burpee as pilot and he went on to complete another 21 training flights in April. In early May, the crew were given some leave and he spent some of it staying with his cousin Derek and family in Durham before continuing to see his mother at Crook. A few days later, in the early hours of Monday 17 May 1943, he was dead when AJ-S was shot down some two hours after take-off. The Germans could not individually identify the bodies of Guy Pegler, Bill Long, Tom Jaye and James Arthur, so they were buried in a communal grave in Zuylen Cemetery, Prinsenhage, next to the individual graves of Lewis Burpee, Gordon Brady and Leonard Weller. After the war the bodies of all seven were exhumed and reburied in Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery.

Like many of his colleagues, Tom Jaye had developed the habit of filling in his logbook at the end of each month, because his May 1943 flights are in someone else’s handwriting. They finish with the entry for 16 May: “Operations – Eder Dam – Missing”. The page is signed off by Mick Martin “O/C B Flight” and David Maltby “For W/C O/C 617 Sqn”.

Thanks to Clive Smith for help with this article.

More about Jaye online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Aircrew Remembered page about Burpee crew
Memorial at Wolsingham Grammar School

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sgt T Jaye logbook in RAF Museum
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.

Further information about Tom Jaye 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.

One thought on “Dambuster of the Day No. 108: Thomas Jaye

  1. Norman Nokes March 17, 2016 / 9:19 pm

    In the late 1950’s I had the great pleasure in making the acquaintance of Mary Jaye, aunt of Thomas. Hence my continuing interest . The Lanc is reported as having strayed off course leading to the destruction. Such a comment would suggest navigational error which would be incorrect. The error was compounded before takeoff. At the time it was unknown that an on shore breeze prevailed causing a deviation from the predetermined course. I understand the pilot momentarily gained altitude to make visual assessment. No adverse reflection on navigation.

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