Wreaths laid at Gilze Rijen, 4 May 2023. [Pic: Kath Fisher]
Today, the RAF BBMF Lancaster was involved in tributes for wartime activities in the Netherlands on Dutch Remembrance Day. Two of these were for the men who took part in the 1943 Dams Raid, eighty years ago this month. In the Netherlands, Remembrance Day commemorates all events together on 4 May. This is a tribute to all Dutch victims of war – civilians and military personnel – who have died in armed conflict or peace missions in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or further afield since the start of the Second World War.
On the day of the Dams Raid, 16/17 May 1943, Canadian pilot Lewis Burpee and his crew were shot down on the inward flight near Gilze Rijen airfield before receiving orders to attack a final target. The site is now marked with the tribute shown above.
Today, the RAF BBMF Lancaster flew over Gilze Rijen airfield, to pay tribute to this crew. It then travelled on to the small Dutch town of Den Ham to commemorate Flt Lt Les Knight DSO, who took part in the raid itself and with his crew dropped the ‘bomb’ which breached the Eder dam. Four months later he would die near this town after a futile attempt to attack the Dortmund Ems canal. He lost his own life after his Lancaster was badly damaged, but saved the lives of the rest of his crew by holding it at a high enough altitude for them all to bale out.
The RAF BBMF Lancaster flying over Den Ham, 4 May 2023. [Pic: Harmen Paalman]
Thanks to Melvin Chambers for help with this article, and for supplying these three further pictures.
I hope you are well and looking forward to the Christmas holidays.
I thought I would get in touch to let you know about something I am planning for next years 80th Dambuster anniversary, which I may need your help with and that you may want to cover.
So firstly me, I’m Simon Storey, I’m 45, married with 4 kids. I love cycling, I’m a British Cycling level 2 coach as well as a ride leader and I set up and run a free community initiative called The Bicycle Bus, where we encourage and enable families to ride to school once a week instead of driving, which helps to improve physical and mental health, improves confidence and social skills, takes cars off the road and helps to improve air quality. So many wins!! Anyway, I also organise charity cycle challenges every couple of years or so for me and some mates, in the past we have ridden from coast to coast at the thinnest, widest and longest points of Great Britain, ridden between 5 countries, 5 capital cities in 5 days, ridden from London to Paris to London in 48 hours as well as riding Wales in a Day – Caernavon to Chepstow, 185 miles in 1 day to name a few raising over £35,000 for various charities.
This year, having an interest in military history, I am doing a ride to honour the Dambusters which will coincide with the 80th Anniversary of Operation Chastise. In particular, we are riding to honour the pilot and crew of AJ-Z, Henry Maudslay who was born in my home town of Royal Leamington Spa. The 4 day challenge starts outside Henry’s home in Leamington and takes us to the iconic Mohne Dam stopping at Petworth Hotel in Woodhall Spa, the Dambuster memorial also in Woodhall Spa, RAF Scampton, The Dambusters Inn as well as Reichswald Forest war cemetery where 4 crews are buried including Henry, we will also be stopping at the crash sites of AJ-Z & AJ-E on our way to the Mohne Dam, totalling 400 miles, arriving at the Dam on May 16th and we will come back to the Dam at 00:28 on the 17th May, the exact time when Guy Gibson dropped his upkeep bomb.
How can you help?
I’d like to try and get in touch with any family members of Henry that might be interested in seeing us off and being involved, also any other family members of any of the Dambuster that would like us to take something to place at the graves, crash sites or Dam we are visiting. The dambuster that reads your blog may be able to help.
I thought this may be of interest for them to read also.
We will be raising money for the RAF benevolent fund on the challenge. There are 7 of us (plus a support driver) each one representing someone from the crew of a Lancaster. I’m happy to go into more detail if you wish and have photos I can share from previous challenges.
Let me know what you think.
Thanks for your time.
As we have updated the Driving Notes and with the 80th rapidly approaching, have you any objections to my promoting the Notes on various platforms? Even though there doesn’t appear to be many — if any — formal events, there may be folk who are travelling to the Dams and who may benefit from the directions. Hope you are recovered from your recent medical problem.
Malcolm: No objection of course. In fact it would be good to incorporate any minor updates onto the blog post, so if you want to send them through, I’d be happy to add them. Best wishes — Charles
I don’t think there are any amendments to make since we updated last September but will have a read-through just to check. Seem to have two email addresses for you — which is the best one to use? Maybe you would prefer to email me with this information.
Dear Charles, Yesterday the village of Den Ham witnessed a spectacular fly past by the BBMF Lancaster, as she danced across the village, banking on three occassions from left to right and back again. For many this was an emotional experience as the flight was cancelled earlier due to technical issues. Every organisation involved at the 22 fly past places in Belgium and the Netherlands were devasted when told on the eve of the flight it was cancelled. After cancelling the plans at each fly by spot, everyone had just sa few hours to re-arrange their plans. And with sucess, at least 1000 people attended the Knight memorial and another special location nearby. We were over joyed, Our heartfelt thanks go out to the BBMF and everyone involved to repair the Lancaster over night. Our fly past like the 21 others were an astounding success. THANK YOU BOYS.
Dear Melvin: Thanks for this account. Some of your pictures will also be uploaded. C
Gosh, 80 years already. Let’s hope these fine people are never forgotten. Thanks for a super article & photos.
Along with a group of friends, I have been honoured to visit all of the crash sites and War Graves, including that of Les Knight.
Dear Mr. Pearn, that you for Remembering these exceptional men. Thank you for visiting Den Ham to pay your respects to Flt/Lt Les Knight DSO. We usually get 400 visitors per year to the area to pay their respects. It is a shame we are not always around to welcome visitors from afar personally. For example on Sunday morning 30 April we were surprised by two visitors from Sydney, Australia.
Sent from my iPad