Dambuster fakes back on the market

A recent post on the Historic Aviation forum alerted me to the fact that the trade in fake Dambuster material is still going on. The item was posted by someone called Whitley Project who was rightly sceptical:

A friend of mine says he has been offered Guy Gibson’s mess tankard/mug – apparently with his name on it. He then went on to tell me he has also been offered Guy Gibson’s dogs bowl, which apparently has the dogs name on it too. This made my antennae twitch somewhat, but he is adamant these are genuine items coming from a reputable source. He told me they originated from the defunct Dambuster’s Museum at RAF Scampton.

The first item sounds very like the tankard on this list which we published in 2015. These were the items sold to a collector by a company in Louth, Lincolnshire, called Military Trader UK which is run by Mr Tony Flitter and his son Mr Nigel Flitter. The company has a website called http://www.militarytrader.co.uk and is a regular seller on Ebay.

The collector purchased a number of items from Military Trader UK which purported to be objects owned or used by various members of 617 Squadron during the war. Sadly, it turned out that although these were genuine wartime items, they had been “enhanced” in various ways, with handwriting or typed labels which supposedly added provenance.

After being threatened with litigation, Military Trader UK eventually returned the collector’s money, and paid his legal and professional fees. This came to a total of about £17,000. The list of items included:

  • Guy Gibson’s Cap ​​​
  • Jack Buckley’s Cap ​​​
  • Guy Gibson’s Tankard ​​​
  • RAF Strata Scope ​​​
  • RAF Scampton Microphone ​​
  • Brian Goodale’s Cap ​​​
  • Guy Gibson’s Escape Axe​​
  • Guy Gibson’s Mag Glass​​​
  • RAF 617 Bomb Counter ​​
  • RAF 617 Signalling Lamp ​​
  • RAF Scampton Phone ​​
  • RAF 617 Headphones ​​
  • Flying Boots apparently belonging to Ivan Whittaker ​
  • RAF Veteran Tie ​​​
  • Jack Buckley’s Bible ​​​
  • RAF Visibility Meter ​​
  • RAF Playing Cards ​​​
  • Numerous pieces of wreckage & artifacts
  • AM Visibility Meter ​​​
  • RAF Flag ​​​​
  • Tunic apparently belonging to Sidney Hobday ​​
  • Guy Gibson’s Pilot Book ​​

The reappearance of a “Guy Gibson tankard” suggests that some of these items may be back on the market. Once more, we issue the warning for anyone considering purchasing an item which claims to have a connection to a man who was involved in the Dams Raid: “buyer beware”.

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Live today: Australian Parliament to discuss Les Knight heroism

Les Knight’s grave, marked by a wartime wooden cross.

Very short notice, I know. However, readers might like to follow this live link to the Australian parliament live feed, where MP Andrew Wilkie will be addressing the chamber at 10.45 am (UK time/11.45 CET) and telling it how the small Dutch village of Den Ham has never forgotten Les Knight’s heroism by saving it from disaster in September 1943.

En route to a low level attack on the Dortmund Ems canal, on the night of 16 September 1943, Knight’s aircraft hit trees and was severely damaged. He  battled for many minutes to keep it aloft while the seven members of his crew all baled out and landed safely. He then piloted the stricken Lancaster away from the village of Den Ham and tried to land in a field. Unfortunately, he hit a hidden ditch and was killed on impact. He was buried by the grateful villagers in the local cemetery.

This coming September, Knight’s grave will be the focal point for a weekend of ceremonies to mark the 75th anniversary of his heroism, and his family and families of many of the crew he saved that night are expected to attend. It is also expected that there will be a delegation of Australian government officials, which is why Andrew Wilkie MP is speaking today. More on this to follow later this week.

 

Johnson unveils Dambusters Reunited exhibition

Guest post: all text and photographs by Edwina Towson

Last Sunday the “Dambusters Reunited” exhibition of portraits painted by Dan Llewelyn Hall was formally opened.  It is made up of images of the 133 aircrew of 617 squadron who flew on the Dams Raid on the night of 16/17 May 1943. The exhibition is now on view at the RAF Club at 128 Piccadilly, London W1J 7PY and runs until 31 May.

The compact portraits populated the room in the way that they had only ever done in life together on three occasions, the last being the pre-raid briefing when, finally, their target was revealed. Dan Llywelyn Hall had worked to restore these men to their group status but as individuals, spending time looking at a photograph of each and absorbing any biographical details, anecdotes and family reminiscences that could be gleaned at 75 years distance to determine the character in the features of each face.

The 75 years distance was briefly closed for us in the gallery when a special guest, George “Johnny” Johnson, came back into the presence of the gathered portraits, bringing with him so many memories of his own of the dams raid and of the planning and training for it.

He took his seat at the end of the exhibition space, next to a larger portrait of his current self which Dan Llywelyn Hall had painted, in addition to the smaller one of young Sergeant Johnson, bomb-aimer of the crew of Lancaster AJ-T, taking its place in the sets on the long side walls, which were arranged in sevens, seven being a Lancaster’s crewsworth.

Johnny Johnson and Dan Llywelyn Hall

With some prompting questions from the artist, the 96 year old airman talked a bit about the raid in 1943 and described how the specialist bomb sight (which he holds in the large portrait) was something that had needed re-making to be useful. He also talked about the excitement of flying on 17 May this year in the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster over the Derwent Dam. He remarked that, this time, he had been given a chair to use in the bomb-aimer’s station, which was a lot more comfortable than lying flat in the blister, as he had needed to when directing the pilot into position over the target.

Later, the artist invited the poet Oliver James Lomax to read some of his poems, starting with one called “Dambuster” which appears in the commemorative book recording the exhibition.

Oliver James Lomax reads his poem

Representatives of associated charities had been invited to speak on their particular interest and, generously, Johnny Johnson encouraged us all to give for the charitable causes by signing copies of the large portrait and of the books connected with the exhibition.

Rewarded by Dan Llywelyn Hall with a bottle of Welsh whisky from the Penderyn distillery and holding a glass of red wine for immediate consumption, Johnny Johnson took to his feet and stood in front of the main portrait as the people gathered in the gallery applauded his spirit and his evident determination to keep the 617 narrative in the public eye.

Afterwards, he slowly walked round the portraits, looking hard into the other 132 faces and seeing there things which the rest of us, spared the searing of that Dambuster night, can only guess at.

 

Eder Dam ceremony brings nations together

A remarkable event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Dams Raid took place at the Eder Dam in Germany on 17 May. It was organised by the local Dambusters Museum Germany, directed by Herr Oliver Köhler.

Representatives of the services from the wartime Allied countries saluting during the ceremony.

Minister of Justice, Ms Eva-Kühne Hörmann, representing the regional government of Hesse.

Group Captain Smith speaking on behalf of the British Embassy.

Herr Stegner, representative of local Liberal Party, Waldeck.

Rev Downes, military chaplain, British army.

Band of the Royal Artillery, British army.

Plaque placed on the Eder Dam.

Herr Oliver Köhler, Director, Dambuster Museum, Germany.

All pictures © Wim Govaerts. 

 

Plaques for three Dambusters unveiled

The BBMF Lancaster PA474 flew over Bill Townsend’s childhood home in Chepstow. [Pic: George Foster]

Crowds turned out in three separate parts of the UK last week as the childhood homes of three men who flew on the Dams Raid were honoured with plaques to mark the 75th anniversary of the raid.

Chepstow, Gwent: Flt Sgt Bill Townsend DFM (Pilot: AJ-O)

Pics: George Foster

Hildenborough, Kent: Flg Off Brian Goodale DFC (Wireless operator, AJ-L)

Centre of picture, Mrs Vera Goodale, widow of Brian Goodale. She is flanked by Howard and Joy Dowling of Hildenborough History Society. [Pic: Simon Goodale]

Leytonstone, London E11: Sgt Douglas Webb (Front gunner, AJ-O)

Pic: Yahya El-Droubie

Families gather to open new AJ-A memorial

Members of the families of the crew of AJ-A join with Jan and Macy van Dalen and John Bell of the 617 Squadron Association after the unveiling of the memorial at Castricum aan Zee on the Dutch coast. This was the aircraft piloted by Sqn Ldr Melvin Young on the night of the Dams Raid. It was the fourth to attack the Mohne Dam and caused the initial breach which led to its collapse.

The monument was unveiled by Belinda Brown, cousin of front gunner Gordon Yeo, the youngest member of the crew and Geoffrey Sturr, nephew of Melvin Young, the pilot.

Two Dambuster daughters. Left, Jill Owen (née Nichols), daughter of Sgt Laurie Nichols, and Angela McDonnold (née MacCausland) daughter of Flg Off Vincent MacCausland.

The Young and Ibbotson families in the cemetery in the nearby town of Bergen where the crew is buried.

Len and Sandra Brown, representing the family of Charles Roberts.

The family of Gordon Yeo.

Angela McDonnold (née MacCausland)

Photos: 617 Squadron Netherlands Aircrew Memorial Foundation/Dambusters Blog