AJ-C crash site cleaned up, thanks to local German history group

AJ C Stone after cleaning with members of the Heimatverein Hamm-Heessen 960px

Members of the Heimatverein Hamm-Heessen and Heimatverein Walstedde show the results of their work. [Pic: Heimatverein Hamm-Heessen]

Here is a heart-warming story to mark last weekend’s 79th anniversary of the Dams Raid.

For many years the memorial erected in the 1970s at the spot near Hamm where Lancaster ED910 AJ-C crashed in the early hours of 17 May 1943 has been in a poor state of repair. Malcolm Peel visited it for his 2018 guide for this blog, and noted that it was overgrown and did not seem to have been cared for.

AJ C Stone and cross before 800px

The memorial before clean-up work was started. [Pic: Heimatverein Hamm-Heessen]

The memorial commemorates the crew of AJ-C, which crashed after being struck by flak. The crew comprised Plt Off Warner (“Bill”) Ottley DFC, pilot, Sgt Ronald Marsden, flight engineer, Flg Off Jack Barrett, navigator, Sgt Jack Guterman DFM, wireless operator, Sgt Thomas Johnston, bomb aimer, Sgt Harry Strange, front gunner, and Sgt Fred Tees, rear gunner. 

There was in fact one survivor from the crash, rear gunner Fred Tees. He heard Jack Guterman say over the intercom ‘Möhne gone’. Almost immediately Ottley started a sentence: ‘We go to…,’ when ‘a hell of a commotion’ occurred to interrupt him. The aircraft was suddenly bathed in searchlights and a tremendous barrage of flak struck it, mainly from the port side. Tees then heard Ottley say, ‘I’m sorry boys, we’ve had it,’ but thereafter his memory of events became blank.

Tees’s turret was blown clear of the rest of the aircraft and he regained consciousness on the ground nearby, very badly burnt. He was soon captured and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner. Bill Ottley and the rest of the crew died instantly. They were buried by the Germans in Hamm and reburied after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

Now it seems that a group of German people from the Heimatverein Hamm-Heessen and the Heimatverein Walstedde (two local history groups) have decided to clean up the site, stripping back the vegetation and creating a new level area around the cross and plaque.

AJ C Stone free 800px

[Pic: Heimatverein Hamm-Heessen]

The original stone can now be seen clearly, with its inscription:
Bewahret den frieden
krieg ist grausam
[Keep the peace
war is cruel]

Here is a report in German on their Facebook page.

Many thanks to the groups for their work which will be much appreciated by future visitors.

Here is a newspaper report in German from the 1980s describing the initial installation.

press report hammer stadtanzeiger 1980

[Pic: Heimatverein Hamm-Heessen]

Thanks to Volker Schürmann for information for this post. Volker has also sent this picture of the memorial to the AJ-E crew at Haldern, taken last weekend. Blog readers will know that Volker was the driving force in getting this memorial installed.

AJ-E 800px

Pic: Volker Schürmann

8 thoughts on “AJ-C crash site cleaned up, thanks to local German history group

  1. Malcolm Peel May 22, 2022 / 3:12 pm

    So pleased that the site has been cleared after such a long time. Let’s hope it is kept this way.
    Thank you, Charles, for mentioning the Driving Notes .. all being well, I hope to visit the crash sites before the 80th commemorations as I’m sure some of them will need updating after four years.

  2. MaryB May 22, 2022 / 3:16 pm

    Many thanks and much respect to the History group for their hard work. They have done a beautiful job.

  3. Merle Green May 22, 2022 / 3:44 pm

    Many sincere thanks to this wonderful German Group, who have worked so hard at the memorial to AJ-C . I am deeply moved to learn of their magnificent gesture. May peace be with us all.

  4. Martin Gordon Davies May 22, 2022 / 6:31 pm

    Wonderful and heart-warming to see the German people taking care of their former enemies crash sites and graves. Well done to ALL of them !

  5. tesseractorion May 22, 2022 / 7:52 pm

    This was great to read about, thanks to all involved.

  6. John Jackson May 22, 2022 / 8:16 pm

    Visited this memorial in the early 2000’s, at that time it was looked after by the Borstelmanns (may be incorrect spelling) who had looked after it for many years before. Sometime in the 2000’s it was moved back a little due to water logging I believe.

  7. priscilla littmoden May 23, 2022 / 9:39 am

    fantastic

  8. Peter Turton May 23, 2022 / 3:22 pm

    A very heartening story Yes war is cruel. My uncle Ronald Turton I have recently learnt was a pilot of one of the planes in the standby squadron. After the war he imigrated to Australia. I am ex-Royal Navy aged 80 and living in Cape Town.

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