Dambuster of the Day No. 124: Charles Franklin

13_-_franklin_cPic: 49 Squadron Association.

Sgt C E Franklin DFM
Bomb aimer

Lancaster serial number: ED886/G

Call sign: AJ-O

Third wave. Only aircraft to attack Ennepe Dam. Mine dropped successfully, but failed to breach dam.

Charles Ernest Franklin was born in West Ham, London on 12 November 1915, one of the seven children of Albert and May Franklin.

He joined the RAF in 1940, and qualified as an observer. In April 1942, he was posted to 49 Squadron. Altogether, he flew on 28 operations in this squadron, some of the time with Bill Townsend but also with other pilots. Unusually, he was recommended for the DFM before he had finished his first tour, with the citation noting his “marked singleness of purpose in his determination only to bomb the correct target, involving has it frequently has done several runs to identify it positively before releasing his bombs.” The award of the medal came through two days after the Dams Raid itself.

In March 1943, Franklin was offered the chance to transfer to 617 Squadron with the rest of Townsend’s crew. He took his place in the bomb aimer’s compartment on the raid, but had to wait until the crew reached the Ennepe Dam sometime after 0300. His job was made much more difficult as a result of the violent shudder caused by the rotating mine, with the result that it took him three dummy runs before he got the line and distance correct. His fourth attempt was successful, and the Upkeep was dropped at 0337. The dam, however, was not breached.

Despite this, Franklin was commended for his efforts and received a Bar to his just-acquired DFM for his work on the night. Only 60 Bars to the DFM were awarded during the whole war, and Franklin’s was the only one given to a 617 Squadron airman. He travelled to Buckingham Palace to receive it, and was photographed outside with Bill Townsend and four of the rest of the crew.

The Dams Raid was Franklin’s first and last operation in 617 Squadron. In July he was posted on a bomb aimer’s instructors course and then at the end of August 1943, he went to a conversion unit as an instructor. During this time, he was commissioned.

He returned to operations in July 1944 with 83 Squadron. He flew on a handful of operations with Flt Lt J Meggeson, but was then taken sick and did not complete this tour.

After the war, Franklin moved to Birmingham and set up a successful catering business with his parents. There was a flurry of publicity about him in 1955 when his name was omitted from the initial guest list for the Royal Premiere of the film The Dam Busters, but this was rectified in time and he was able to attend. He died on 25 January 1975, and his funeral was attended by a number of his ex-crewmates. It was widely covered in the press, and a series of photographs taken for the Daily Mirror can be seen in agency archives.

More about Franklin online:
Picture of Bill Townsend, George Chalmers and Doug Webb at Franklin’s funeral, February 1975
Auction details for his medals in September 2000 (contains a biography)

Survived war. Died 25 January 1975.

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 Charles Franklin 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.

7 thoughts on “Dambuster of the Day No. 124: Charles Franklin

  1. Nigel Favill August 10, 2015 / 3:56 pm

    Another great write up Charles , would I be correct in saying that Charles and his wife got an invite to the repeat premier on May 17th and not the premier on the 16th .

    • charlesfoster August 13, 2015 / 10:52 am

      Nigel — I don’t know which of the two Premieres Charles Franklin was invited to. And, as far as I know, he was not married. — Charles

  2. Peter Lawrence November 6, 2015 / 8:55 am

    as a young lad I met Charles, He worked for my Father at Belgrave grinding in Birmingham. He was a quite man who rarely talked about the war. He lived in a bedsit near our home. Charles was a heavy drinker and I remember my Father asking my to check on him as he had not turned up for work. His electric shaver had blown up on his face. Charles never had any visitors and seemed a very lonely man.
    In respect of his commitment to our country I remember him and honour him and all others each remembrance day.

  3. John Mcloughlin September 24, 2022 / 7:10 pm

    My late father knew Charles a regular in the Robin Hood pub B’ham. It seemed many didn’t pay much attention to his mentioning his part in the raid until after his death. I suppose back in the 60-70s there were plenty of walter mittys claiming to have been SAS etc during the war, and sadly he may have been considered one by some. My father told me that 617 did a fly past at his funeral, but I’m not sure if this is correct.

    • charlesfoster September 24, 2022 / 8:47 pm

      John — thanks for this comment.
      Certainly some of his ex-crewmates came to his funeral to pay their respects. I’m not sure at this distance about a flypast. CF

  4. John Mcloughlin September 26, 2022 / 10:13 pm

    Charles, I may well be wrong about a flypast as I was 13yrs in 1975 and possibly got mixed up with my fathers version of events and what I imagined 617 turning up meant?
    I do however, clearly recall my dad saying Charles had once been belittled in the bar by someone about the raid among a group of patrons and had shrugged it off and had never brought it up in conversation again. That’s what I was told to me back then after his death.
    As ex forces myself I sort of understand this stance by Charles as there are so many armchair warriors in pubs the length of the country who know far better than those who have the genuine dit to spin!

    • charlesfoster September 26, 2022 / 11:25 pm

      That’s dreadful, John. As it says in the article, Charles Franklin was one of just sixty men from the Second World War who won a DFM and Bar. I suspect but don’t know for certain that he led a rather lonely life after the war.
      The link below the article still works and shows some of the pictures that appeared in the Daily Mirror at his funeral when three of his crew mates turned up to pay their respects. If you find out more about him please let me know. Best wishes Charles

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