AJ-N crew photographed 40 years on

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Left to right: Harry O’Brien, Fred Sutherland, Bob Kellow, Sydney Hobday, Ray Grayston and Edward “Johnnie” Johnson. [Pic: O’Brien family].

Melvin Chambers has kindly allowed me to share these pictures which he was sent recently. The first was taken in May 1983 in the course of the 40th anniversary commemorations of the Dams Raid. It shows the crew of AJ-N, piloted by Les Knight, which dropped the weapon which breached the Eder Dam. Sadly, Les was killed on 16 September 1943 on the Dortmund Ems canal operation, when his aircraft crashed having struck trees flying at 100 feet in fog. He managed to bring it up to an altitude from which his crew could escape by parachute, which they all did. They never forgot the skill and bravery Les showed that night, saving their lives while sacrificing himself.

The crew members stayed in touch with the Knight family back in Australia, and when Les’s mother Nellie Knight heard that the O’Briens had had their first child she sent them Les’s own christening robe, which is shown below.

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More information from Melvin’s fine tribute site, Remembering Les Knight DSO.

17 thoughts on “AJ-N crew photographed 40 years on

  1. Barbara Brown August 31, 2022 / 3:25 pm

    My old dad —- Billy Warr — is never mentioned.

    • charlesfoster August 31, 2022 / 3:41 pm

      Dear Barbara — not sure who you are referring to? I don’t believe that there was anyone of this name in 617 Squadron between April 1943 and May 1945. Please advise. Charles Foster

      • Barbara Brown August 31, 2022 / 4:20 pm

        William John Warr was mentioned in dispatches.

    • charlesfoster August 31, 2022 / 3:45 pm

      Checking back further, I see that you mentioned your father to me in both 2011 and 2014. I believe that he was in charge of the mess at Scampton and mentioned in dispatches.

      • Barbara Brown August 31, 2022 / 4:53 pm

        Yes that’s the man. I recall he had many photos of Gibson and crews which he donated to the RAF Museum.

  2. Ian Beever August 31, 2022 / 3:45 pm

    Wow! Les knight was a real hero who’s upkeep blew the Eder and then went on to sacrifice his own life for his crew on a later raid. He was so quiet in real life

  3. annie h Nesbitt August 31, 2022 / 5:27 pm

    A heart felt reflection.A very special group . Thank you for sharing .

  4. David King August 31, 2022 / 6:21 pm

    Hello Charles, Thank you so much for this information. Les Knight has always been
    a legend to me, Gentleman and truly marvelous pilot. On a visit to the Ader Dam it brought home to me just how skillful Les Knight truly was concidering he could not drive a motor car. To read this story filled me with so much emotion, I keep a photo of Les with my uncle’s log book. Who was killed in May 1940 as part of the Advanced Air Strike force pushing back the German advance. Gordon was serving with 105 sqn. Both huge heroes to me.

    • Melvin Chambers August 31, 2022 / 7:27 pm

      Dear David, I live in Den Ham where Les Knight died. He too is an inspiration and his epitaph: Let Us Be Worthy is now my guiding light. I have been studying his life since 2013. I can tell you Les Knight was able to drive and ride a bike. Various Knight family members have confirmed this to me. He was also fined 10/- for a driving offence. Sorry to bust this myth for you. For more information on Les Knight you can visit the Facebook page dedicate to his memory: Remembering Dambuster Les Knight DSO

      • charlesfoster August 31, 2022 / 8:18 pm

        I can tell you Les Knight was able to drive and ride a bike. Various Knight family members have confirmed this to me. He was also fined 10/- for a driving offence.
        Well done Melvin for going back to check primary sources!

      • David King September 3, 2022 / 10:36 am

        Hello Melvin, Thank you for letting me know this about Les. I understood that Les could not drive from listening to Ray Grayson, Ray said that Les could not drive a car but could fly the arse off a Lancaster. But it is good to know that Les could drive.

      • Melvin Chambers September 3, 2022 / 11:01 am

        Dear David,
        Good to hear from you. Thank you for informing me about your conversation with Grayston. There are so many stories about Les Knight conderning his life and crash it is becoming more difficult to sift through them all to find the truth. I have a copy of Les’s RAAF service record and therein states a driving offence fine. Have you ever recorded the conversation with Grayston on paper? Would love to read it if yes. Best wishes, and once again thanks for rwaching out.

  5. Caroline H August 31, 2022 / 6:58 pm

    Gosh, reading that brings a lump to my throat. What selflessness and generosity my parent’s generation showed when it was really needed.

  6. David King September 3, 2022 / 4:15 pm

    Hello again Melvin, Sorry I don’t have anything recorded regarding Ray’s conversation. But I fully appreciate and respect your information which you received from Les’s family. To have spoken with the family of Les must have been a very special time for you, And for the family in the knowledge that Les’s grave is being respectfully tended by yourself and the whole village,Which I also feel very humbled in the knowledge of this and for keeping his memory alive.

  7. David King September 3, 2022 / 6:38 pm

    Melvin sorry to go on, But I thought you may be interested in a bit of information regarding a tv programme from 2003 headed The Dambusters (c4) Channel 4 from 2003.
    Also printed in the Northern Echo published 8th April 2003. Headed Last night’s TV . Referring to the above programme. Where Ray Grayston is quoted on Les Knights flying skills.

    • Melvin September 7, 2022 / 7:37 am

      Dear David, I would love to make contact with you. I have some interesting files I am sure will give you some insights into Operation Garlic. Would love to see the newspaper snippets you have. You can contact me via the link Charles has pasted to the Les Knight website. There is a Contact option on the site. Greetings, Melvin

      • charlesfoster September 7, 2022 / 8:39 am

        Gentlemen — I am emailing both of you with each others email addresses. Best wishes — Charles

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