Len Eaton and Charlie Williams photographed together in training

Air Gunners 44 Course IMG_1997 960px

44 Course Air Gunnery training at No 14 OTU, 10 April 1942. [Pic: Susan Paxton]

On this day 78 years ago nineteen Lancaster aircraft took off from RAF Scampton on what would become known as the Dams Raid. Two of the wireless operators had, in fact, gone through part of their training together, as this photograph shows. It depicts a group of wireless operator/gunners taken in April 1942 at RAF Cottesmore, while they were in No 14 Operational Training Unit.

The two were Flt Sgt Len Eaton, wireless operator in AJ-T, piloted by Joe McCarthy, and Plt Off Charlie Williams DFC, wireless operator in AJ-E, piloted by Norman Barlow. The photograph was pasted into a scrapbook belonging to Williams, which is amongst his papers held in the John Oxley Library, part of the State Library of Queensland, Australia. 

The nature of wartime service in the RAF makes it quite likely that there were a number of other previous encounters of this kind between the men who were brought together in March and April 1943 to take part in this historic operation, but this is one of the few which have documentary proof. 

Eaton returned safely from the Dams Raid, and went on to fly with McCarthy on another 34 operations until he was taken off operations in July 1944. He received the DFM for his service. Williams, however, was not so lucky. He and all the other members of Barlow’s crew were killed when they collided with a power line near Haldern in Germany. They died shortly before midnight on 16 May 1943. 

The names of all the 26 men in the photograph are listed below, along with what is known about them at present. The research has been done by Susan Paxton and Alan Wells, who would welcome any further information. 

Top Row:
Weir: Sgt Allen Weir RAAF, Cloncurry, Qld, Australia. KIA 2 June 1942.
Pugh: Possibly Canadian.
Livingstone: Nothing known.
Moir: Sgt Colin Moir RAAF, Marrickville NSW. Survived the war. Almost certainly the last survivor of this photograph: he died just last month on 20 April 2021, at the age of 100.
O’Keefe: Sgt Ralph O’Keefe, born in Canada, but serving in the RAF. KIA June 1942.
McLeod: Possibly Australian.
Lawlor: Nothing known.
Quance: Sgt Peter Quance RAAF, born in Birmingham, England, but his family emigrated and he enlisted in Sydney, Australia. KIA June 1943.

Middle row:
Radermeyer: Sgt Ignatius Rademeyer, Rhodesia. Later PoW and survived the war.
Degen: Sgt Lawrence Degen. Survived the war, and died in 2008.
Gallagher: Sgt Francis Gallagher RAAF, born 1914, Guyra, NSW, Australia. KIA January 1943.
Eaton: Sgt Leonard Eaton, born 16 March 1906, Manchester. Survived the war, and died in 1974.
Black: Possibly Australian.
Taylor: Possibly Canadian.
Robson: Sgt Wallace Robson RAAF. Australian. KIA June 1942.
Barrett: Nothing known.
Hunt: Sgt Edmund Hunt RAAF, Rockdale, NSW, Australia. KIA 30 June 1942.
Royal: Nothing known.

Bottom row:
Little: Plt Off Harvey Little, from Wetheral, Cumberland. KIA 31 May 1942.
Powell: Nothing known
Wood: Possibly Australian.
Grey: Plt Off Charles Gray. Survived war.
Gillenland: Plt Off Harold Gilleland, from London. KIA December 1942.
Williams: Plt Off Charles Williams, born 19 March 1909, Townsville, Qld, Australia. KIA 16 May 1943.
Newround:  Plt Off Alec Newbound RAAF. Born in 1917 in Swallowcliffe, Wiltshire. Emigrated to Australia and enlisted in Melbourne. Survived war.
Agley: Possibly Flt Sgt Leonard Agley, from Bradford. Survived war.

10 thoughts on “Len Eaton and Charlie Williams photographed together in training

  1. mfazzman May 16, 2021 / 12:38 pm

    Another fascinating dams related story Charles. And another, as so often, with a cruel and sad ending. What fantastic, brave chaps these were…and of course today is the 78th anniversary of their great raid; even more poignant with it being a Sunday, as in 1943.
    God bless ’em all.

    • Roy Eaton May 16, 2021 / 1:19 pm

      Len Eaton was my uncle

      • mfazzman May 16, 2021 / 2:49 pm

        You must feel very proud Roy. I hope you have some momentos of your uncle. What very brave chaps.

    • Susan Timms. May 16, 2021 / 4:06 pm

      Hear, hear to that’s!! Brings tears to,my eyes just reading about them. One wonders what their thoughts must have been 78 years ago today with that mammoth task in front of them. God bless them all.

  2. susanpaxton May 16, 2021 / 1:24 pm

    Several decorations in this group, and at least two became signals leaders: Bob Rademeyer, DFC was signals leader of 44 Sqn and Alec Newbound, DFC of IX Sqn. Identifiable DFMs: Eaton and Degen; identifiable DFCs in addition to the two mentioned above are Wilf Gray and Charlie Williams.

  3. Alan Drew May 16, 2021 / 3:54 pm

    Posts and photos such as these are so meaningful – we can never forget the efforts made by these brave men – I can only “imagine how it must have been” Thank you Charles Foster Susan Paxton and Alan Wells!

  4. David Sulman May 16, 2021 / 7:06 pm

    Gone, but not forgotten.

  5. susanpaxton May 16, 2021 / 9:46 pm

    Incidentally, while Charles has listed everyone killed as “KIA,” Charlie very carefully noted on his copy of the picture “KA” for killed in action and “KAS” for killed on active service, i.e. in training. The rate of attrition in OTU can be glimpsed by realizing that there are three men in that photo who died before they ever had a chance to take it to the Germans. Something of all the agony of this can be glimpsed in a letter from his parents in Sgt Hunt’s file: “If we had ten sons, we would send them, sir.”

  6. 389bg May 17, 2021 / 2:00 am

    Charles, Thank you for all you do to remember those who took part in the Dams Raid. Now 18 years to the day since I visited the Mohne Dam with Holts Tours , it could have been yesterday as the memories are so vivid. Kind regards, Bruce James Sydney , Australia

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. Laurie Edward. May 17, 2021 / 11:07 am

    A big slice of ‘my Australia’ in the total posting including the fine comments. Laurie Edward. Melbourne. Ex RAAF RadTech. Lincolns.

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