Twenty-four hours later than planned, George ‘Johnny’ Johnson was a passenger in the BBMF Lancaster this morning when it flew from Coningsby at about 0800. The Lancaster’s route took them over Scampton and the Derwent Dam before landing again at Scampton about an hour later. Johnny flew in the bomb aimer’s position, just as he did when he took off from Scampton 75 years ago yesterday on the Dams Raid.
The flight was postponed from yesterday by weather conditions. The fact that Johnny was always scheduled to be a passenger was a very well-kept secret, as it was feared that if it became known he was going to be on board the traffic problems would have been even worse.
More to follow
The men who took part in the Dams Raid. (Compilation picture © Dambusters Blog)
Today is the 75th anniversary of the day Operation Chastise took place, the official title given to the Dams Raid. One hundred and thirty three men in 19 Lancasters from 617 Squadron, each loaded with a (literally) revolutionary new weapon, climbed into the sky above RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and set off towards Germany, skimming the treetops of the ground below them.
They would attack the Mohne, Eder, Sorpe and Ennepe Dams, breaching the first two and causing massive flood damage to the lands below them. Almost 1500 troops and civilians were killed by the raid, and 53 men from the eight aircraft which were shot down or crashed also died.
You can read the full story of all the 133 men who took part in the Dams Raid in my new book The Complete Dambusters, published by the History Press, out now in shops or available from online retailers.
For more information on how and where to buy the book, see the publisher’s web page here.
Rather belatedly, details have only just been sent to the blog about another blue plaque to honour a Dams Raid participant. This is the work of the Hildenborough Historical Society and it will be installed on the house in Riding Lane, Hildenborough, Kent, in which Brian Goodale lived with his family between 1919 and 1939. The plaque will be unveiled on Thursday 17 May, the anniversary of the raid, at 4pm.
On the night of the Dams Raid, Brian Goodale was the wireless operator in David Shannon’s aircraft, AJ-L. He had completed a full tour of operations in 51 Squadron and was working on instructional duties at the time he was posted to Shannon’s crew. He was a late recruit to the crew, and undertook his first training flight with his new skipper on 24 April 1943.
Tomorrow’s flight down Derbyshire’s Derwent valley by the BBMF Lancaster is likely to be called off, official BBMF sources say. However, Dambusters Blog understands that there is a possibility that the flight is simply being postponed, and may take place on Thursday 17 May – but only if weather conditions allow.
More information to follow.
PIC: Yahya El Droubie
Seventy five years and four hours after his aircraft landed at Scampton after the Dams Raid, exhausted and with his bullet trays empty, Douglas Webb, the front gunner of AJ-O is to be honoured with a blue plaque on the house where he was born, 158 Richmond Road, London E11.
The plaque will be unveiled on Thursday 17 May at 10.00am. All welcome.
The nephews of Dams Raid veterans Frank Garbas and Albert Garshowitz recreated a historic wartime photograph in Canada shortly before leaving for England for the anniversary commemorations. Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, the two young men had been childhood friends playing football and rugby for the same team. Both separately joined the RCAF shortly after the outbreak of war and then, after completing training, their paths crossed later as crews were being finalised for heavy bomber operations. Keen to renew their friendship, they joined the same crew, piloted by an Englishman, Max Stephenson.
Sadly Stephenson was killed when flying on another operation, so the crew were posted to 57 Squadron, based at RAF Scampton, with a new pilot, Flt Lt Bill Astell. After flying on a number of operations together, the whole crew were posted to a new squadron which was being formed at the same station. This was 617 Squadron.
Austell and his whole crew died when their aircraft, AJ-B, flying as part of the First Wave of the Dams Raid to attack the Mohne and Eder Dams, collied with a pylon near Marbeck in Germany.
After the war, Paul Morley, nephew of Frank Garbas, and Hartley Garshowitz, nephew of Albert Garshowitx, each started their own independent research into their uncles’ roles in the Dams Raid. Realising the connection, they made contact with each other and have been friends since. They travelled together last week to attend the UK ceremonies, but before embarking they posed for a joint photograph in front of VERA, the only flying Canadian Lancaster, which is based in their home town of Hamilton.
Full story in Hamilton Spectator
[Thanks to Lisa Morley]
The vandalised memorial stone in a Doncaster park. [Pic: Heather Allsworth]
In April 1943, Canadian airman Flt Sgt John Fraser was allowed special leave for one day from training for the Dams Raid in order to get married. His wife Doris came from Doncaster, and they had met while John was stationed at nearby RAF Finningley.
More than sixty years later, in July 2003, to honour of John and Doris Fraser, Doncaster Council decided to instal a bronze plaque in a local park, next to a tree which was planted in his memory by a group of people including Doris Fraser, her daughter Shere and two of the Fraser grandchildren. Representatives of the current 617 Squadron were also present to honour one of the squadron’s founder members.
Yesterday, Shere Fraser revisited the park and found, to her horror, that the plaque had been wrenched from the memorial stone and removed, presumably for a few pounds worth of scrap metal. Local police and local press have been informed, and if anyone has any further information they are asked to contact the authorities.
Below: the plaque photographed at the time of its installation.