What happened to the Dams Raid Lancasters: a definitive list

Lancaster ED825/G, one of the 23 Type 464 aircraft built for Operation Chastise. This was given the code AJ-T and was slated to be the spare. Because ED915/G AJ-Q was found to be faulty while preparing for take-off, Joe McCarthy and his crew eventually flew this aircraft on the raid, and attacked the Sorpe Dam. [Pic: IWM ATP 11384C]

Frank Pleszak has done a great service to other Dams Raid researchers by compiling a definitive list of the fate of the 23 aircraft built for Operation Chastise. These were all constructed over a period of two months in 1943 as a variation of the production run of Model BIII Lancasters taking place at the Avro headquarters factory at Chadderton, with final assembly at Woodford, both in Greater Manchester. The special model was given the name of Type 464 (Provisioning).

In total 23 Lancaster Type 464 conversions were produced. Nineteen of these flew on the Dams raid and eight were lost, leaving fifteen. None were ever fully returned to standard Lancaster BIII configuration (although some were part-modified) as it was too difficult or too costly to refit the bomb bay doors and mid-upper turret.

Over several days in August 1943 nine of the aircraft were used for trials with forward-rotating Upkeep mines at the Ashley Walk bombing range in the New Forest. During the trials ED765 was caught in the slipstream of others as it flew in close formation and crashed. The pilot (Flt Lt William Kellaway) and bomb aimer were seriously injured while the rest of the crew had more minor injuries.

Over the following six months some of the aircraft were used on occasional operations, as well as for training and other trials. On 10 December 1943, on an operation to drop supplies to members of the SOE, ED825 and ED886 were both lost. The crews were skippered by Wrt Off G Bull and Flg Off Gordon Weeden. Weeden and all his crew were killed, but Bull and four of his crew managed to bale out and were captured. The final wartime loss of a Dams Raid Lancaster occurred on 20 January 1944 when ED918 crashed on a night training flight near Snettisham in Norfolk. The pilot, Flt Lt Thomas O’Shaughnessy, was killed along with his bomb aimer.

Three were used after the war, in August and December 1946, in an mission which was given the name Operation Guzzle: the disposal of the remaining 37 live Upkeep mines in the Atlantic Ocean about 280 miles west of Glasgow. The eleven Type 464 Lancasters which survived the war were all finally scrapped in 1946-7.

Here is Frank Pleszak’s list:

You can read Frank’s full post on his blog here.

9 thoughts on “What happened to the Dams Raid Lancasters: a definitive list

  1. Mohne all the time October 18, 2019 / 2:40 pm

    For many years now I have said Guy Gibson had a say in the Squadron letters assigned to his Dams raid Lancaster and that he chose his fathers initials AJ-G… Then all the others were given AJ and a letter to follow ..

    • charlesfoster October 18, 2019 / 3:04 pm

      Hi Nigel — I know that you have had this theory for a while! Rob Owen might have the definitive answer, but in my view I think it more likely that the squadron’s letters were allocated by the air ministry or whoever was responsible for these things without any consultation. When the letters turned out to be AJ, Gibson realised that if he chose to use G for his own aircraft (something which was presumably under his control) they would then make his father’s initials. It is fairly certain that some senior captains had some choice in the letters they got — M for Hopgood, P for Martin, E for Barlow, Q for McCarthy are some that I have seen mentioned. Let’s see if Rob comes up with some further information. Best wishes Charles

      • Jenny Elmes October 18, 2019 / 8:37 pm

        Yes, Hopgood chose ‘M’ as his previous B1 Avro Lanc R5731 ZN-M had seen him through some very close shaves, and he saw the call sign ‘M’ as a lucky letter (which of course it proved not to be as he was shot down at the Mohne Dam)!!

  2. Stephen Cooke October 18, 2019 / 3:38 pm

    I seem to recall seeing a documentary where a Lanc crash site was investigated, and they found a component for a underbelly gun mount that was fitted to only one of the early Upkeep conversions and never used.

    I don’t think I imagined all that information, but I can’t find any reference to it to corroborate my memory.

    • charlesfoster October 18, 2019 / 11:39 pm

      Steve
      The documentary is on Youtube, in five parts. I blogged about this back in 2009. Here are the links:

      Part 1
      Part 2
      Part 3
      Part 4
      Part 5

  3. Mohne all the time October 18, 2019 / 9:24 pm

    That was a documentary called the Last Dambuster filmed in france in 2007 about ED825.. George Johnny Johnson attended the excavation and they found many items including the underbelly gun mount unique to ED825 . One poignant item for Johnny was a piece of bomb aimers perpsex which he last looked through in the night if May16/17 1943… You can still get this documentary on dvd and I would recommend it .

  4. Allan Hillman October 25, 2019 / 7:53 pm

    Hello

    Only just caught up with this article – I note the reference to Greater Manchester, however, this was only formed on 1 April 1974, as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, so a little early in an article referring to the 24 Dams Lancasters between 1943-1945.

    In case you are not aware the /G signifies that the aircraft was guarded, we did the same thing with the Gloster Meteor when it came in to service, and no doubt did it with other “secret” aircraft as well

    Cheers

    Allan

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