AJ-A memorial unveiling confirmed for Friday 18 May at 11am

News just in from the appeal for a memorial near the spot on the Dutch coast where Melvin Young’s AJ-A was shot down returning from the Dams Raid, early in the morning of Monday 17 May 1943.

Local organiser Jan van Dalen has announced that the appeal has now raised over €4600, and that a local stonemason has been commissioned. The unveiling of the memorial will take place at 11.00 am local time on Friday 18 May 2018, at Castricum aan Zee. The ceremony is near the beach entrance and relatives of the crew, donors, members of 617 Squadron Association and members of the public are all welcome at the unveiling.

The crew are buried in the nearby Bergen General Cemetery for any attendees who want to go on to the cemetery to pay their respects.

Pic: Wikimedia

 

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Jackson’s new WW1 film means further delay for Dambusters remake

Peter Jackson was in London this week promoting his new cinema project, using all his studio’s technical skills to bring new life to jerky film footage shot during the First World War. The Imperial War Museum apparently holds many hours of this material: it is being enhanced by Jackson and his team, and combined with audio interviews recorded in later years to make a full length feature film.

Everyone would agree that this is a very worthy venture, and that it will also showcase the cinematic techniques for which the Jackson team is justifiably famous. However, anyone with an interest in a certain other project which is supposed to be in his studio’s pipeline will feel more than a little deflated that this would now appear to be his priority. We are, of course, talking about the remake of the 1955 film The Dam Busters, which has now been on the cards for almost 15 (yes 15!) years.

This thought occurred to Zoah Hedges-Stocks, a journalist on the Daily Telegraph, who has noted the box office success achieved by a couple of recent Second World War-themed films:

“With both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour nominated for Oscars and making millions at the box office, cinema-goers appear to have rediscovered the power of a good Second World War movie,” her article begins. “But another big-budget, awards-worthy tale of wartime bravery was supposed to have been released before them both – Peter Jackson’s remake of the 1955 classic The Dam Busters.”

Hedges-Stocks goes on to explore the twists and turns taken by the remake in a 3,ooo word article which is an excellent summary of the sad story. It contains copious quotations from your always-humble correspondent, but that is not the only reason why it should be commended. As well as pointing out the continued public appetite for Second World War stories, she has placed the original film in its historical context.

Predictably, Jackson’s studio did not reply to the Telegraph’s email queries. One day, perhaps, they will tell us all what the hell is going on.

[NB: You may have to register with the Telegraph to read Hedges-Stocks’s article in full. However, you get one free Premium article a week, so bookmark this one for the future, if you’ve already used up your quota. It will be worth it, honest!]

Guy Gibson’s Ghost and the Sunday Express

Sunday Express extracts from the Enemy Coast Ahead manuscript, published on 3 December, 10 December, 17 December, 24 December and 31 December 1944.

In the early spring of 1944 Wg Cdr Guy Gibson VC DSO & Bar DFC & Bar was working in an office at the Air Ministry in London, ostensibly in a job in the Directorate for the Prevention of Accidents. But his real work was to write a book about Bomber Command, told through his own experiences as a pilot who had been actively involved from the first day of the war up to the Dams Raid.

Gibson worked on the book, given the title Enemy Coast Ahead, for most of the next few months, finishing a draft some time in the summer of 1944. Some of the text was copied almost word for word from a couple of long articles published in December 1943 in the American magazine Atlantic Monthly and the Sunday Express. These were almost certainly written by ghost writers – the American text by a certain Flt Lt Roald Dahl, who was then based in the British Embassy in Washington DC, and the UK text by an unknown PR officer in the Air Ministry in London.

All the time he was writing, Gibson chafed at being confined to a ground job, and pushed his superiors to allow him back in the air. Eventually they relented and he flew his first operation for over a year on 19 July 1944, in a Lancaster from 630 Squadron, based at East Kirkby, on an operation attacking the V1 flying bomb site near Criel in France. Three more operations would follow in August and September, before he took off from Woodhall Spa on what would be his final trip on 19 September.

A few weeks previously, he had finished work on the final typescript of Enemy Coast Ahead going through the corrections and amendments proposed by various people in the Air Ministry and writing a series of handwritten notes which were pinned to the final version.

After his death, the manuscript was sent to the publishers, Michael Joseph, where it went through a further editorial process. But while this was going on, in December 1944, a series of six articles based on the draft appeared in the Sunday Express, all credited to Gibson. Even though many people now knew of his death, it had not been officially announced. Nowhere in the text is his status as ‘missing’ mentioned,  so the general public must have thought that there was nothing amiss.

Five of the six articles can be seen by anyone with a subscription to the UK Press Online site (also available in some libraries). They are shown above in thumbnail version. The final one – which appeared on Sunday 7 January 1944 – appears to be missing from the archive.

The following day, Monday 8 January, Gibson’s death was officially announced, and many tributes and obituaries would follow. But it is ironic that over the previous six weeks the Sunday Express articles had carried on being published, almost as though they were genuinely ghost-written.
[Source: Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin, 1995.]