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.
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.
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.
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.