Shere Fraser, daughter of John Fraser, and Ken Heather, nephew of Ken Earnshaw, embrace after the Earnshaw family photograph album is returned. [Pic: Shere Fraser]
A battered wartime photograph album containing 290 prints was returned to its rightful owners on Saturday. The ceremony took place at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta and brought together the families of two Canadian crewmates, John Fraser and Ken Earnshaw, who had served together for several months in the RAF’s 50 Squadron before being transferred to a new outfit, 617 Squadron, to undertake the Dams Raid in May 1943. Their aircraft had been shot down as it attacked the Möhne Dam: Earnshaw died as it crashed, but Fraser was able to bale out, and became a prisoner of war.
In the late 1990s, both families had separately sent material, including the airmens’ RCAF logbooks, to London-based researcher Alex Bateman to help him in his work. However, he had failed to return the material when asked, and then claimed that the items had been stolen from his home. After a long campaign by John Fraser’s daughter, Shere Fraser, Bateman had been prosecuted for the theft of the Fraser logbook, and he is now serving a two year prison sentence. Earnshaw’s logbook is still missing.
The album and loose photos, contained in a Metropolitan Police evidence bag. [Pic: Shere Fraser]
During a search of Bateman’s home, the police found Ken Earnshaw’s photograph album hidden in a wardrobe. It was confiscated, and entrusted to Shere Fraser to bring back to Canada to hand over to the Earnshaw family.
Also present were relatives from two other Dambuster families – Rob Taerum, nephew of Harlo Taerum, navigator in AJ-G, and Joe McCarthy Jr, son of Joe McCarthy, pilot of AJ-T. Afterwards, the engines on the Museum’s Avro Lancaster bomber were fired up in their honour.
L-R: Rob Taerum, Shere Fraser, Jim Heather, Joe McCarthy. [Pic: Jim Heather]
Shere Fraser in her home in Washington State. Pic: Calgary Herald
There is much local interest in Alberta about the return of a photo album to the family of the Canadian Dambuster to whom it belonged, according to this report in the Calgary Herald.
As we said in the previous post, the album was the property of Canadian navigator Ken Earnshaw, who was killed on the Dams Raid in May 1943. It was found by police in 2015 in the London home of Alex Bateman, who was sent to prison in February for the theft of the RCAF logbook of Earnshaw’s comrade John Fraser. It is believed that Bateman also stole Earnshaw’s logbook but no prosecution was brought on this matter.
The police entrusted the photo album to Fraser’s daughter Shere, who was present at the sentencing hearing in London. She brought it back to Canada and will hand it over it to Earnshaw’s nephew Jim Heather on Saturday 22 April. The event will take place at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta.
Thanks to Jim Heather.
John Fraser and Ken Earnshaw are respectively second and third from the left in the back row in this picture, taken when they served together in 50 Squadron.
Back, L-R: W Mooney, J W Fraser, K Earnshaw, N L Schofield, B Jagger.
Front, L-R: J O Christie, R A Baker. [Pic: Fraser family]
On Saturday 22 April a special presentation will be made at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta. Shere Fraser Lowe, daughter of Flt Sgt John Fraser who was shot down over the Möhne Dam and became a Prisoner of War, will present a very special photo album to Jim Heather. Jim is the nephew of Flg Off Ken Earnshaw who was the navigator on the same aircraft as Fraser. Earnshaw was killed when the Lancaster crashed. The photo album, together with Fraser’s logbook and other Dambuster-related documents, had been stolen from the families in the 1990s.
The Earnshaw album was recovered by the Metropolitan Police from the house in London of the researcher Alex Bateman, who was recently jailed for two years after being found guilty of the theft of John Fraser’s logbook. (See here for coverage of the trial and verdict.) After the trial, the police gave the Earnshaw album to Shere Fraser Lowe, entrusting her with bringing the album back to Canada and returning it to the Earnshaw family.
Despite being found guilty, Bateman continues to maintain his innocence, and refuses to disclose what happened to the logbook.
Also attending will be two more relatives of RCAF aircrew who took part in the Dams Raid: Joe McCarthy jr, son of Flt Lt Joe McCarthy, one of the two pilots who attacked the Sorpe Dam and Rob Taerum, the nephew of Plt Off Harlo Taerum, navigator of the lead aircraft on the Dams Raid.
After the presentation, the engines of the museum’s Lancaster will be started for the first time this season. Their roar will provide a fitting salute to the persistence and tenacity with which Shere Fraser Lowe pursued the return of her stolen artifacts.
Further details on the museum website.