Album return brings Dambuster families together

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]


11 thoughts on “Album return brings Dambuster families together

  1. Tony Knight April 24, 2017 / 7:43 am

    Again my utmost admiration goes to Shere for pursuing this matter to a positive conclusion.

  2. Jim Heather April 24, 2017 / 2:38 pm

    Correction — Roger Taerum should be Rob Taerum.

    Thanks, Jim — I wrote this late at night and forgot to check! — Charles

  3. Don Lightbody April 24, 2017 / 4:39 pm

    Always gratifying to see these treasured mementos reunited with their proper owners. One can only hope that Shere Fraser will be as fortunate with her Dad’s logbook. My uncle was killed when Bill Astell’s aircraft went down on the way in. I know where his log book is, but haven’t been able to retrieve it from the person currently possessing it.

  4. Nigel Favill April 25, 2017 / 6:31 pm

    Don , how hard have you tried .. Could we help?.

    • Don Lightbody April 25, 2017 / 10:50 pm

      Nigel…thanks very much for the offer, but I’m afraid there’s not much chance. The current holder is a distant relative (and the key word here is “distant”) who considers herself the ‘official’ historian of our branch of the family. She has absolutely no intention of giving up something so valuable as my Uncle’s log book.

      • kzvxrpl April 26, 2017 / 7:10 pm

        I hope she can sleep at night!

  5. Nigel Favill April 26, 2017 / 3:23 pm

    Sorry to hear that Don , all to often this can happen with family . The information content in the log book is also valuable for historic purposes so it is a shame that cannot be shared .

  6. Nigel Favill April 26, 2017 / 3:24 pm

    Who was the crew member Don ?

    • Don Lightbody April 26, 2017 / 6:22 pm

      P/O Floyd Alvin Wile…he was Bill Astell’s navigator. He was my late mother’s brother.

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