Pic: Bomber Command Museum of Canada
Wrt Off J L Arthur
Lancaster serial number: ED865/G
Call sign: AJ-S
Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.
James Lamb Arthur was born in Toronto, Canada, on 3 July 1917, the second of the four children of Rev Alfred and Dora Arthur. His father was an Anglican clergyman with a parish in the city.
Arthur was educated at Dennis Avenue School and York Memorial College, where he did well in maths. When he left school he went to work in the Bank of Toronto. He had a great interest in flying, and his youngest sister can still recall the excitement of seeing him, his brother and their father flying overhead in a small aircraft, and using a bedsheet to wave to them. He also had a great love of classical music and took his younger sisters to concerts.
He enlisted in the RCAF in 1941. After first being selected for pilot training he was then remustered as an observer, and qualified in May 1942. After arriving in the UK he then went on to qualify as a bomb aimer on heavy bombers.
Arthur was posted to 106 Squadron to begin operations in February 1943, but it wasn’t until 12 March that he flew on his first operation. Lew Burpee’s bomb aimer George Goodings had come to the end of his tour, so the chance of joining an experienced crew with two other Canadians probably looked like a good choice. Their trip took them to Essen, which they bombed successfully from 19,000ft. They reported very heavy flak and “scores of searchlights”.
Arthur’s first operation turned out to be the last that Burpee and his crew would fly in 106 Squadron, and it was therefore the only time that the complete Dams Raid crew would fly together before the raid itself. Fewer than three weeks later they were at RAF Scampton, training for the secret mission which would prove fatal for them.
In training, the focus quickly fell on the inexperienced bomb aimer, who may well have been the only one to fly on the Dams Raid with just one operation under his belt. Nevertheless the AJ-S crew came through the training successfully and took their place in the mobile reserve for the operation.
Sadly, AJ-S was shot down some two hours after take-off, and everybody on board was killed instantly. 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.
Thanks to Frances Houlston and Clive Smith for help with his article.
More about Arthur online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Aircrew Remembered page about Burpee crew
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.
Further information about James Arthur 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 think James Arthur was posted to 106 Squadron in Feb 1943, rather than 1942.
Clive — You are of course right! Thanks!
My Mother’s favourite cousin, Jamie. Still fondly remembered.
James is related to the Lidster family through the Lamb family through Louisa Lamb whose daughter was my grandmother. My grandmother (Louisa Scott) lost a brother in WW1 and a son in WW2 (navigator/bomb aimer in a Wellington, June 23, 1943). Very sad times.