My name is Charles Foster. I’m a writer, editor and designer and I live in Dublin, Ireland.
I’ve set this blog up as a service to anyone who would like to find out more, or share material, about the RAF’s 617 Squadron between its formation in March 1943 and the end of that year. I occasionally stray into events which occurred later in the Second World War, but I don’t claim any expert knowledge of this period.
The reason for my interest is personal: my late mother was Jean Foster, née Maltby, and was the younger sister of Dams Raid pilot Sqn Ldr David Maltby. David and his whole crew were killed returning from an aborted operation in September 1943.
This led me first to write a book about David Maltby and his crew, Breaking the Dams, which was published by Pen and Sword in 2008. I have now written a new book, The Complete Dambusters, published by History Press in 2018, which contains a biography and a photograph of all the 133 men who flew on the Dams Raid. More details on the companion blog, completedambusters.com.
You can contact me by email here.
All the posts give you the facility to comment, and these are welcome, providing that they are not defamatory, racist or sexist. I reserve the right to edit comments.
However, if you have the urge to write about one particular topic – the name of the dog in the famous 1955 film The Dam Busters or in its possible remake – then I won’t publish your comment. The reason why is because, frankly, this is a tedious debate that has already happened many times over. It might have been acceptable in the 1950s to use certain words, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hurtful or wrong, even then. The world has moved on: the original name of the dog is offensive and simply cannot be used now or in the remake of the film, however historically accurate it might be. You might be able to justify using a racist word in other places on the internet, but I won’t allow it on this blog.
I’ve written more about this in a post from June 2011. Otherwise, comment away!
Interesting Blog Ive always been fascinated with anything to do with the Dams Raids, several years ago I had the extreme honour and privilige to have a small part in helping to find and excavate ED 825″The last Dambuster” in France. Bomb Aimer Johnny Johnson survived this crash and returned to the field for the first time in 63 years. Some incredible finds were made during the excavation and it was later the subject of TV Documentary. The full story of this dig and the relatives in attendance etc is told in a new chapter creating a revised edition to Redkite Books superb volume “Dambusters” which has just been released…just thought anyone interested may like to know.
Kind regards Julian Evan-Hart
George Johnson wasn’t aboard this aircraft when it crashed in France….the last time he flew in it was the attack on the Sorpe dam on the night of 16th/17th may 1943!
attached is FLICKR link showing ideas for the forthcoming remake – hope they are of interst
Thanks Charles for setting up the site.
I am sure I am not alone in developing a great fondness for the Dambusters when I first watched the film as a young boy. In fact I loved it so much that one day I went into the cinema in Bounds Green (NW London) when it opened and with the help of some sandwiches, saw it three times that day alone! It was possible to do it in those days.
Since then I have, when I can, visited Woodhall Spa, read what I can and have even purchased one of Gerald Coulson’s signed prints.
My mother and sister even arranged for a private showing of the film for me in a cinema for my 60th – that was such a brilliant surprise.
I am not sure why I developed this great fondness for all things ‘Dambusters’ but I am sure that one of them is the intense dedication and bravery of the men like your uncle.
I’m really glad to have found this blog. My Mum and Dad brought me up watching b&w British postwar films on weekend TV, and the film captivated me from an early age. I’ve developed an obsession with the raid, people connected to it, and the film, which I caught as it was meant to be seen at Lancaster’s Duke’s Cinema a couple of years ago. Appreciate the courage of your uncle and his comrades, and your commitment to honouring that here.
As others have mentioned, I to am glad I found your blog, and as many have said before, I to have a great fascination for the ” Dambusters ”
So much so that I join a living history group many years ago called Ops 39-45 who are a bunch of people dedicated and very passionate about keeping the memory alive of all who served in the RAF during the war years. Ops, once a year, generally around the beginning of the year, had our AGM at the Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa, I’m sure I have no need to give any one a history lesson, our president, who has now passed, RIP, was a great man and respected friend by all who ever met him and widely loved and admire by people world wide, Mr Richard ( Toddy ) Todd. You can find Ops 39-45 at many event through out the year at many aviation event, especially Duxford ” Flying Legends ” , come and say hello. Gilly……..Out.
‘Greedy’ here,always remember you at Ops dog’s and at Petwood when you brought along Belle your black Labrador.I took a photo of you both at Scampton.
Pictures of this years anniversary flypast
Matthew — thanks for pointing this out, but the story relates to the flypast in 2008!
congrats for such wonderful blog, feel free in posting in the Dambusters paeg I created in Facebook; it has almost 2,000 followers and is very active
a big hug from Santiago, Chile
Thanks for your efforts on this.
My father W/C D.A.MacLean(interesting initials!) flew as a navigator with Joe McCarthy on the Dams raid. My mother (who is still alive) was a WAAF wireless op for the raid as well.
I am at present writing the biography of Johnny Johnson, based on many interviews with him. He was the bomb aimer in the same aircraft as your father and would be very interested in any information you might have relating to that plane and it’s crew.
Do you have contact details for Johnny Johnson? My Grandfather was the senior intelligence officer for the Dambusters (squadron Leader William Townson). I have been gathering information and research based on him and his work (very colourful) but one of the thiings I am lacking in all of this is accounts of him from people who actually knew him (he died in 1953). Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. You can contact me at email@example.com or 07795 028524
Bill, I am organising a charity event called The Dambustwrs Freelanders Run that will take place in August, would you have any records of WAAF’s from tgat night? We want name to put on a Freelander 1 and 2 that will be representing the WAAF’s from that night.
I am, for some reason, a person who is fascinated by all things connected to The Dambusters. From almost the first time I saw the film when I was 7 or 8 I developed a tremendous appreciation of the men that flew and put therir lives on the line every time they went on a raid. You must be very proud of what he did during the war. I’m sure I would be.
A few years ago I saw a Lancaster bomber fly over head which I am presuming was the September 2009 fly past of Lords cricket ground. I was with my very young children in a playground off Abbey Gardens , St .Johns Wood. As I gazed upward a gentleman i hadnt noticed before said “it’s a Lancaster, I used to fly them.” I so wish now I had engaged him further in conversation, and had just thought to say thank you. My son, now 7 is obsessed with Lancasters. Do you know any surviving Lancaster crewmen who might now live in or around St. Johns Wood who it might have been?
Just a note to say thanks for a really interesting blog. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and will pop in regularly to keep up with news.
Hope this movie gets made, my Dad served at Coningsby from 6th December 1944 to 16th February 1945, before he was sent on to Long Newton in Gloucestershire for Advanced Flying Unit. While at Coningsby which was at that time, home to 83 and 97 Pathfinder Sqdns, since 617 had been transferred to Woodhall Spa. Dad’s job was to be appointed to the dispersal caravan (black and white squares on side you see in the movies), no aircraft could leave the ground without a green flare from the caravan, this is what my father did while still training as a pilot. It was here my father personally saluted Air Vice Marshall Leigh Mallory while out for a stroll. My Dad still has his uniform and his small duffle bag, which we are prepared to allow Peter Jackson’s costume people look at if they want, I have personally not that long ago worked with Mr Jackson on the Hobbit Movie.
Any word on the Peter Jackson re-make of the film?
After I saw the 1955 film my mother told me of how she would watch the test flights of the Bouncing Bomb from the beach near Birchington-on-Sea in Kent, I was yet to be born at Gravesend hospital.
One of the highlites of 2011 was my visit to the Elan Valley in Mid Wales to see the most impressive remaind of Barnes Wallaces coffer dam, the one he built specially to test the explosive charges for his bouncing bomb.
I used to live in Sounth wales and attended the annual Round the Lakes 20mile road race held in Rhayader for five years on the trot without realising the existence of Wallaces dam adjacent to the Caban Coch dam near the Elan Valley visitor centre.
Unfortunately the walk to the remains of the dam are not suitable for the infirm or disabled travelling along a very rocky and steep path on the opposite side of Caban Coch.
Your first view of the dam will remain vivid for the rest of your life, its huge, atleast fourty feet high and well over three hundred feet wide.
Watching the film “The Dambusters” near the begining where Barnes shows the RAF Ministry officials the explosive impact on his mock up of the dam could not be further from the truth.
He chose this very remote part of Mid Wales for the simple fact that it was almost guaranteed nobody let alone the Germans would see what was going on.
It is in such a secluded spot that not even i knew about it, and i must have passed Caban Coch reservoir on the opposite side to the dams remains atleast thirty times.
I can throughly recommend anyone interested in the Dambusters story to take a visit, but you must enquire at the visitor centre just outside Rhyader otherwise you will never know where to go.
Even the original buildings used by Wallace are still there next to the dam, in an almost timewarp.
Considering its part of one of the most significant events in the war it is thought provoking standing next to the dam with its huge gaping hole in the middle.
Many thanks Peter. I will add this to my ‘bucket list’ and make sure I do it.
I am actually ticking off something in my bucket list this Tuesday as I am going to look at and have a ride in the Avro Lancaster based in Licolnshire. It is not airworthy and is able to taxy but that will be just great as far as I am concerned.
Thanks again for the info.
An excellent blog and very informative -thanks.
I have been running Dambuster Motorcycle Tours for five years now as I was based in Germany for a number of years and got to know the dams and Ruhr Valley really well so decided to start tours there. Next year we are running a tour to coincide with the anniversary and will be on the Mohne Dam at midnight on the 16th May to commemorate the raid and then visit the Memorial at Gunne to remember all those lost when the dams were breached. For the tour we have a full itinerary which is available on our website, and we also have a Facebook Group (easy to Google as I don’t wish to advertise on here) which is full of info too.
Keep up the good work, Regards, Tony Dadson – Dambuster Motorcycle Tours.
Thank you Tony! I read the Dambusters when I was 13. It was in my dad’s collection of war books. I also read Gibson’s book ‘enemy Coast Ahead.’
They were all my heroes. Still are. I’d love to do the tour you’re running.
The oar referenced on your blog https://dambustersblog.com/2010/03/24/a-wizard-show-rc-sherriff-and-the-dam-busters/#comments was featured on today’s BBC Antiques Roadshow (6th Jan 2013).
Hello Charles, thanks for hosting this web site which I find most interesting. My mother, Irene Brown (Mountney) past away last September, she was a WAAF and a parachute packer for 617 at the time of the raid. She and Charles W. Roberts (Youngs navigator on the raid) were engaged and so I follow the blog with total interest to discover more of Charles. I was lucky enough to be invited to last years reunion of the Dambusters, meeting so many interesting people including Johnny Johnson and the daughter of the great Barnes Wallace. During the evening I also met a dutchman and his rather beautiful daughter who help tend the graves of Young and his crew. I was touched by the kindness still shown to these men, after all the years have past, and how refreshing it is to find folk still willing to give up their time to look after our ‘Boys’ far from home. My chum Glen (ex tail gunner of 617) has invited me again this year to join him at the reunion, I’ll call in at the bar in Petwood to see mother…..as she’s in the large photo of the Squadron (taken after the raid) hanging in the right of the bar. Cheers Mum.
Is there a way of finding out when Dambusters reunion events are scheduled for. My grandfather was part of the planning of the raids and I would like to meet with people connected with the Dambusters
Charles Walpole Roberts was my Great Uncle. He was born out of wedlock so we only found out about him about 10 years ago.
It would be interesting to find out more information about your families side.
Charles was born to my great grandfather, who then several years later married my great grandmother, they had several children of which my Grandfather Derek Charles Roberts was born… and the rest as they say… is history!
Hi Len you must be who my mum met( Viv) Charles half sister. I have only just found this site it’s very interesting. Yesterday was such an emotional day but very interesting. Where I live in Hildenborough Kent there was a plaque put up in the house opposite me for another former dambuster (Brian Goodale) that lived in our village. To find he lived in the house opposite me was a big surprise. Was so pleased you are in contact with my mum. I am like her very interested in all the stories. Kind regards Niki
Nikki, I’m delighted to hear from you. The unveiling went well yesterday and I’ll have several photos to send you when I get home next week from Holland. I’m not sure you will get my email address from this reply but your mum has it …so email me asap….so I can mail directly to you. I will of course be in touch with Viv too. The blog today has some photos.
Great to hear from you and look forward to getting your email address.
Hi Len thank you so much for your kind reply. Am so glad it all went well. I am off on my holidays but will get your email address from mum. Would love to see some photos. Kind regards Niki
Hello Charles. Just found your web site whilst looking for details of the next possible Lancaster flypast over Derwent Dams as I have to record this for my family history.
My father, Alfred Schofield, was head of the drawing office at Avro Chadderton during the war years working on and designing the machinery that made the Avro Lancaster.
He left AVRO after the war, remaining in engineering, his passion, to go on to be a consulting engineer untill he died in 1966.
As a child I can remember seeing a flying jacket in his workshop at home but it was not untill I was much older I wondered if he had ever test flown in a Lancaster……. wow!
Thank you for making this site.
I am intrigued by a passage in Hugh Trevor-Roper’s Wartime Journals.
“I have never met my cousin Dick Trevor-Roper of Plas Teg but whenever his name drifts into my ken it is attached to some exploit showing a proper spirit of enterprise and adventure – either controlling an extensive underground betting operation …climbing the outside of skyscrapers..being cashiered from the Regular Army, or rehabilitating it by brilliant exploits in the RAF.”
Richard was the son of Captain Charles Cadwaladr Trevor-Roper who was killed in the Great War.
According Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage he gained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in August 1935 in the service of the Royal Artillery but ultimately was killed on air operations over Germany 31 March 1944.
Does anybody know more?
Richard Trevor-Roper went on to fly for the Pathfinders, small groups of parachute soldiers formed into pathfinder units, to parachute ahead of the main force. Their tasks were to mark the drop zones or landing zones, set up radio beacons as a guide for the aircraft carrying the main force and to clear and protect the area as the main force arrive. The units were formed into two companies to work with the two airborne divisions.
Richard sadly died on one of the worst nights for Bomber Command on 30/31 March 1944.
Richard had one son Charles who is my father, i hope this is useful information for you.
Matthew, you have the information slightly incorrect. Its true that Pathfinders were and still are, parachute troops who drop in ahead of the main force to mark and secure drop zones for the force coming in behind them, but they are not the pathfinders Richard was involved with. Their training is akin to that of the SAS now.
Richard was a member of a Bomber Command Pathfinder Squadron, who flew ahead of the main bomber force to mark the target, and more specifically the aiming point on that target, usually with coloured flares of some description. He was lost whilst flying with 97 Squadron, having been posted to them less than a month before.
When you have completed all 133 Dambusters of the Day, how about compiling them in a book for purchase.
There is one in preparation Lindsay, including not only the 133, but also the 14 stood down that night and another 22 who joined the Squadron but left before the raid took place – 169 in total. It should appear around the start of 2014
You have no idea how pleased I am to suddenly find out that the fourteen members of the squadron who didn’t get to fly on the raid are mentioned in your book. My brother was one of them and he was devastated not to be able to go. I will find and purchase your book immediately!
Alex’s book has not been published.
Hi Charles, can I just say that this is a terrific blog and I am loving every update. I have added it to the resources page on WW2 Discovery, I hope that is ok? http://ww2discovery.net/resources
Like so many others I have had a passion and fascination for the ‘dambusters’ spanning some 40 years. As a child my father allowed me to stay up and watch the film with him and from that day forward I have been interested in that particular mission and in Bomber Command in general. I am a Lincolnshire Lass and a ‘Granthamian’ so I have also been immensley proud of our county’s rich history of Bomber Command and also Grantham’s close links with the dambuster’s raids. I cannot not mention the Avro Lancaster Bomber and my devotion to it. I have been lucky enough to get up close to the BBMF craft (I work for Lincolnshire Libraries) and for my recent 50th Birthday, my family presented me with a VIP day (16th April 2013) at the Lincolnshire Aviation Centre at East Kirkby where I will taxy down the runway in ‘Just Jane’. I will regard this experience as equal in momentous occasions, as both my marriage and the birth of my daughter. We are reminded every year of the sacrifices that our servicemen and women made in two world wars, and I feel personally that no greater sacrifice has been made more than Bomber Command, who waited a lifetime for recognition. As my father sat me down and told me of his father’s sacrifice, I have passed this on to my own daughter. We have the freedom today because of their actions. ‘Lest we forget?’ I will never forget and thank them from the bottom of my heart for giving me a future. I am paying tribute to the 70th Anniversary of the ‘Dambusters’ by presenting my own display at the local library in Grantham from 20th April to 24th May 2013 in the downstairs foyer. I would like to publicly thank Charles Foster for his assistance with the crew list.
Hi Charles, having a father named Derrick Gibson, (squadron 72 Leonard Cheshire’s) who was in Bomber Command, it was inevitable he would name his son Guy Gibson, and hardly a day has gone by without someone commenting! It used to be where’s the black dog, and I allow close friends to call me Wing Commander! It has however enabled me to talk to and meet a lot of people who just wanted to share their memories, and how they felt about the supreme efforts of The Dambusters and BC. I would very much like to meet anyone who served from 617 if I can? It would be an honour to shake their hand. If this gives anyone the ‘spur’ to contact me, I would like to hear from them through your blog…… Thanks again, Guy Gibson
As we’re coming up to the 70th anniversary of the Dams raid you may be interested in this: in 1967 my father was CO of RAF Scampton. Plans were afoot for a major 25th anniversary reunion of the wartime 617 Squadron survivors… but in May 1968, by which time my father’s posting would have come to an end. The solution? Executive decision in the finest military tradition: change the reunion to a 24th anniversary – after all, what’s in a name? Thus the great event took place during my father’s term of office with virtually all the surviving wartime members of wartime 617 attending. Waddington’s flying Lancaster, City of Lincoln, flew circuits and bumps, young Vulcan pilots sat in awe at the feet of Mickey Martin and Leonard Cheshire after dinner, and we even had Cheshire to stay the night (he came with the wrong medals – picked up his wife’s by mistake – so we never got to see VC, DSO & 2 bars, DFC). I never found out what happened at the “real” 25th anniversary the next year. Probably a damp squib.
Hello Mr Foster
My name is Richard Duhme I am working in a small cinema in Soest, Germany. We are not far away from the Möhnesee and I would like to show the movie ‘”Dam Busters” from 1954.
The problem is I only know who has got the film rights for the DVD. And my problem is I don’t know who has it for public presentation.
The question is, do you have any clue who might has it? Or maybe you have a hint for my research?
Thanks a lot for any answer!
I am leaving a message here in the hope that someone who visits it might be able to help. I am a teacher at Hutton C of E Grammar School near Preston Lancs. I know that one of our old boys took part in the Dam Buster raid. Unfortunately I cannot remember his name. I have searched through the names you have listed but none match the names on our honours board. I really would like to do some kind of presentation but I cannot get in touch with anyone who might have the information I need. I remember a previous deputy head doing an assembly about him and I know he had a nick name and I am fairly sure he was awarded an honour. can you help at all? thankyou.
My Grandfather was from Bolton (not a million miles away) and he was the senior intelligence officer for the dambusters (Squadron Leader William Townson). Not sure that is close enough for you though.
My father served in Squadron 72 in bomber command, under Cheshire and described him as a extremely easy to talk to person and a great leader, and years later did fund raising for him for The Homes via Variety Club of GB. . My father didn’t have a part in 617’s mission but his emotions were roused as much as all the squadrons were, as what the mission (being celebrated today) accomplished was a massive boost to morale! My father became an aircraft electrician, and talked about ‘patching up Lancaster’s’, sometimes within one day to get them out on another mission with bombs loaded, and away they would go, fast turn around. Hence my name – best wishes to all, Guy Gibson (and yes, my Dad had a black dog!)
Margaret, the names of those who flew on the raid are what they are. There are a few possibilities; firstly could your ex boy be one of the crews who did not fly due to illness?
Namely: Wilson, Johnson, Knox, Mieyette, Coles, Payne, Hornby
Divall, Blake, Warwick, Simpson, McArthur, Williams, Rodger, Buntaine
Sadly all of these were later killed in action.
Or, could it be that he subsequently joined 617 Squadron?
Over the years there have been about 500 people who flew on the Dams Raid as the story gets slightly amended in folk law!
The comment from last September by Peter about the Caban Coch reservoir is wrong, he is getting mixed up. It was the Nant y Gro Dam, which was blown up by Wallis in 1942 in order to test his theory and test the amount of explosive required. It was owned by the Birmingham Water Authority who built the Elan Valley in the 1890s.
The Nant Y Gro dam was used to supply water to the workers and the small community that lived there and who built the dams. It now feeds the Caban Coch reservoir. In 1942 it was surplus to requirements and it was this that was blown up. The models were at the Road Research Laboratory at Harmondsworth, London.
Enter these coordinates into Google Maps 52.244677, -3.600015 and you will find the reservoir and the Nant y Gro remains. I agree it is not for the unfit to find it. You can see it better on Google Earth.
thankyou for your replies. I have subsequently discovered that the Old Huttiin I was trying to find out about did belong to 617 squadron but he flew on a mission in the Oct 4 months after the Dam Buster \raid.I believe it was to blow up a dam near switzerland. he used his plane to draw enemy fire away from the plane which was going to drop the bomb. he was killed. His name was Wyness and I have now discovered several comments from other members of the squadron who say he lived for the moment. According to our records he once climbed the main school building to hang “something “from the tower! We are proud of him.
This is a reply to Angela Shields. I am sure there are many that feel like you. I am certainly one. I was lucky enough to have the VIP day and had the taxy on Just Jane last year. A memorable day indeed – stayed at the Petworth Hotel as well just to add to the occasion.
Visited the excellent presentation at the RAF Hendon Museum on Friday where they gave a talk on Operation Chastise. I hope we will always remember those brave souls that helped to win the war for us. Without them I am sure I would not be around as being Jewish I would not have been born in 1948.
HI does anyone have any information about an Alexander Marsden who either loaded or deployed the bombs ?
Message for Scott Williams regarding Charles Walpole Roberts, many many thanks for letting me know about him. Your words explain a great deal and now realise why my search for his family has been difficult. He was hugely important to my mother and I would like to exchange my details with you directly. I plan on visiting his grave within the next year. My email address is [REMOVED BY EDITOR] and hopefully you can make contact directly so that we can swop info. Best wishes and thanks again for this valuable information, Len Brown
Charles walpole Roberts was my late brother scott williams is my great nephew i do notnknow him wellCharles was my fathers son from his first marriage and i have lots of information about him i asked scott to forward to you my phone number in case you were interested in anything i know i have recently had an interview with areporter from eastern daily press re charles who wrote abrilliant report on Charles in paper dated nov 30th please excuse any mistakes i may have made i am new to the world of computers regards viv challice
Message for Viv Challice, Hi Viv, I’m having difficulty contacting you as your email address is not accepting messages and I’m not sure of Scott’s contact details. Would you kindly contact Charles on this web site and he can give you my mobile number so we can have a chat. Best wishes Len Brown
I’ve looked for years and years (since about 1963) for the lyrics to the piece in the movie that takes place when Gibson (Richard Todd) and his mates are in London for a show. The girl sings “Sing soldier as you march along….”. Anyone know if there are complete lyrics or sheet music for this number? I assume it was composed by Leighton Lucas, who did the incidental music, but I couldn’t find much by googling that.
I stumbled upon your blog while researching Gordon Yeo, air gunner for AJ-A “Apple” killed in action returning home from the Moehne Dam raid. Gordon was my my mother’s cousin and it was her stories of him while I was young that stirred my interest in the Dambusters raid, 617 Squadron and anything to do with the Avro Lancaster. One of the 2 world’s remaining Lancs is part of the Hamilton Air Museum in Ontario Canada. I was fortunate to be in Hamilton this past June and witnessed the “Flight of the Merlins” – a flypast of the Lanc, Mosquito, 2 Spitfires and 2 Hurricanes – sounds and sights were awesome and spine-tingling. The Lancaster also pays annual visits to Ottawa to participate in flypasts over our Aviation Museum as part of the Battle of Britain celebrations. The Aviation Museum is on the site of one of the (now decomissioned) Commonwealth training bases (CFB Rockcliffe) from WWII. I never tire of seeing or hearing the Lancaster, and this past weekend was fortunate to go aboard and tour this wonderful aircraft. There’s not much room on board and it’s hard to imagine in battle conditions a crew of seven operating in cold crowded surroundings – I did spend a surreal moment or 2 of visualizing. I certainly gained a greater appreciation for those crews who gave their lives to ensure what we have today.
I was lucky enough to be given a commemorative picture and a piece of E Easy, Barlows aircrfat which crashed near holdern. It was repairing a local barn but I now have it. Piece is about 5 inches by 3 inches, and still has the camo paint showing.
Dear Viv, Its really lovely to hear from you and cant wait to have a chat about Charles. I am remiss in getting back to Scott, but I too have fallen foul of the dreaded computers with mine having had a complete melt down before Christmas. Hopefully Scott will have a link to the newspaper article that I can look at. So now that I have Scott’s details again I’ll make contact with him directly and that will enable us to have a chat. Very best wishes to you and thank you for taking the time to make contact with me. Len Brown
Dear LenThe said paper is the Eastern Daily Press dated 30 November article is in the Weekend supplement i have spare copy if you would like it article tells all about Charles and his family life contact me if you would like paper would be interested in your thoughts on article best wishes to you Viv Challice
Charles would you be so kind as to forward my email address to Viv Challice so that I can forward some personal information to her regarding Charles Roberts. Should she read this I would appreciate a hard copy of the article she mentioned. Best wishes Len Brown
Hi Len the copy of article i have is a spare newspaper copy.You have Scotts email address if you message him he can give you my telephone number You can reach me on this any evening .and i can arrange to forward it to you plus i will copy the earlier article from some months previously which prompted me to contact said paper best wishes viv challice
Here’s a challenge for anyone with knowledge of the Dambusters.
In the early 1960’s, as a child, I collected stamps, those I purchased I obtained from a chap who my father told me was a former Dambuster and member of the Guinea Pig Club, my father was a former Coastal Command navigator and had little time for those who made false claims about their ‘heroic service’ during the war. I recall the ‘Dambuster’ was writing his memoires which he was selling (film rights?) and hoped to buy and renovate a Lancaster in Australia, I know that he moved to Australia in the 60’s. When I used to buy stamps from him he had a small shop unit on the A3 at Tolworth Rise, presumably as he had received treatment at St Mary’s in Roehampton which was not far away. I recall that he had trouble speaking and his face was scarred, and also red hair, but time plays tricks on memories.
Does it ring any bells for anyone, as I have forgotten his name after all these years and would like to remember it.
Could it be Fred Tees?
Charles my email address was printed incorrectly probably as a result of me being new to computer land my correct address is [email address removed] I would appreciate it if you would kindly forward it to Len BROWN who has been trying to contact me re Charles Walpole Roberts or forward me his phone number.Many thanks
[email address removed]
Sincere apologies to you Charles computer problems but the address above this post is now correct I only have one 1 in address please amend
Hi I wonder if anyone can help me with some information regarding a distant relative who, after passing away, we discovered worked for the MOD and had worked on the development of the bouncing bomb and then onto work at Portlanddown. His name was John (Jack) hornby.
Would love any info you may have.
Your mention of John Hornby rings a bell because I am related to the Hornby’s .
I have many relatives who were involved directly in the dams raid . I also have done some research of my own over the years . I would urge Charles Foster to dig deeper in to the role of Maurice shorty Longbottom , the test pilot who flew the last sucesfull test of the bomb . You will find his fingerprints in so many pies if you start digging . There is a much bigger picture to this raid that has not yet been told . maurice had a close working relationship with Barnes and the westland aircraft company . Barnes hinted strongly that Shorty was very much the technical genius when it came to the ‘future’ of advanced technology. The Hornby’s are related to the Petter family . Teddy Petter was the genius who designed The westland whirlwind ,English electric lightning, canberra ,etc.
The chap who mentioned talking to Barnes Wallis daughter mentioned that the raid was a smokescreen . This is partially true as I understand it . It was what was being manafactured under the dams that had to be taken out .
It would also help to understand shorty’s work with the wavy navy ,including Ian Fleming ,with whom he worked directly . Shorty appeared at the pre raid briefing then scooted off. My personal suspicion is that he, with 618 mosquito squadron ,provided the fighter cover for the raid . His low flying skill was legendary. There is an account of him sucesfully highballing a railway tunnel with a mosquito while Barnes Wallis watched . Highball was the smaller version of the upkeep bomb.
I found this excellent blog when trawling the internet for any information regarding Ron Batson. I met Ron in Fleetwood Lancs where he had lived for about twenty years and he, was ill and returning to the North east where he had originally came from. I have collected British war medals for fifty years and was very lucky to purchase Ron’s. He said he was not interested in the Dambuster industry and would not allow me to photograph him. When he left Fleetwood he never returned any calls or replied to any mail, and I knew he was very ill and have seen his date of death in this very interesting site.
I am a young adults writer in New Zealand. At present I am writing a book about my Uncle Len Chambers one of the two New Zealand Dambusters. Len was the wireless/operator on Micky Martin’s ‘P’ for Popsie Landcaster, the plane that circled round after dropping its bomb to keep the flak away from Guy Gibson and the other planes as they flew in to drop their bombs. It was Len who radioed back first to base first to let them know the raid had been successful. Not much is known about him as after the war he returned to the remote West Coast town South Island NZ, and never talked about his war years. He did 67 “sorties” . If anyone has any information about him I would appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.
Marlene, I would be interested to hear where you are at with your book 🙂 My uncle was Bob Hay who was the Bomb Aimer on P for Popsie with your uncle ! Uncle Bob sadly was killed in a later raid on a railway viaduct in the South of France and Ivan Whittaker (Flight Engineer) was injured.
Marlene, I would be interested to hear how the book is going.
My uncle also was in P for Popsie, Bob Hay who was the Bomb Aimer and the 617 squadron’s Bombing Leader. He was killed in a raid on the Antheor Viaduct in the south of France in about Jan/Feb 1944 and buried in Sardinia. Not too sure whether Uncle Len was still on P for Popsie at that time.
Good morning. I noticed one of your bloggers in New York was asking about the song “Sing soldier while you march along” and I can see that you answered him, but cannot access that reply. I am in a show here in the midlands and we are performing lots of 1940’s songs, one of them being this that we cannot find written down anywhere. We are wearing out the cassette trying to decipher the words! Can you help please? Barbara
I think you are right. The words for this song don’t seem to be published anywhere, and I can only think that they must have been written especially for the 1955 film. The best I can offer is this, which I found on a site which has transcribed the soundtrack:
sing, soldier, as you march along
sing a yankee song
let the sound float around everywhere
soon the pilots will pick up the air
zoom around, sing while I make a cheerful sound
Let it ring, have your fling, like the birds in the spring
sing, everybody, sing
sing, soldier, as you march along
sing a yankee song
let the sound float around everywhere
soon the pilots will pick up the air
zoom around and sing
while I make a cheerful sound
sweet music makes the wheels go round
Hope this helps. — Charles
DAMBUSTERS MUSEUM GERMANY
We greet all who have read about the brave pilots of the 617th Squadron. It is important to know that there is next to the Eder Dam Möhne Dam yet could also be destroyed.
There are 15 years the Dambusters Museum Germany that if the plans are successful, will soon be enlarged. http://www.dambusters.de
We keep in touch with Peter Jackson in Newzealand because soon -so hope we-
is the new film Dambusters starting to production.
Good afternoon, I too have spent years trying to identify the song,”sing soldier as you march along” and also the orchestra playing the music, but to no avail. Also I’ve tried to find out if the dancers were the “Tiller girls” even contacting the descendant or the man who started the Tiller girls but no luck there either. The lyrics posted by Barbara I don’t particularly agree with, having spent a considerably time listening and writing it down although there is two words I can’t be sure of and it sounds like the lady sings “Zoom Sierra”. When I have more time perhaps I’ll post on this site what I think the words to this marvellous song are. One more thing, has anybody spotted the English Electric Canberra reportedly accidentally shown in the film. Keep up the good work about this fantastic film.
Hi I have 3 signed Gibson itens. One a photo signed 3 days before his death to “Twigg”. Another is a letter which was part of a series of letters between the squadron and Bill Astell’s parents post raid. The other is part of a small collection signed during the war with other flyers as part of it. I’m fairly certain they are all real, but I’d be interested to know if there is any way of securing real pproof. Jon waterman
I have a set of fruit knife and forks by Elkington & co dated 1936 Made for the Petwood Hotel – The Officers mess of The Dam Busters WW2 , possibly of been used by 617 Squadron Guy Gibson VC, Leonard Cheshire VC and their Officers ,I am sure they went through a lot of hands between 1936 to 1943 and beyond but its thanks to Elkington & co having a date letter on them and the name of the hotel that they can be traced back to the time of Dambusters. been at Petswood
What do you think ?
I am trying to find out any information about a Warrant Officer AJ Webb who was an air gunner with 106 and latterly 617 squadron which he joined in 1943. So far i have been unable to find out anything as to whether he was with these squadons and i wondered if anyone could help with identifying if he was with 617 ?
Any help or pointers would be much appreciated.
I wonder if anyone might be able to help me..
I am holding a charity fundraiser for the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters, in aid of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. I am trying to obtain a very large scale model of the aircraft used in the attack to suspend from the ceiling of a beautiful venue, to make this a night to remember!
Please, if anyone might know someone who could help, please contact me.
Dear Charles I think you blog is a great read. I saw you tonight at the royal Albert hall event, following that I would love to read your book, do you know if a audio version of your book will became available. Sharon
thank you so much for being on stage at the Royal Albert Hall this evening. I am glad that you attended and told us about your research as I have a few unanswered questions you may be able to help with, anyhow that’s an email for another day.
I just wanted to say thank you for a fantastic evening!
I’d booked the tickets as a surprise birthday present for my brother’s birthday (May 15th) as our Grandfather was a Bombaimer/Navigator in 5Group.
Hope you had safe travels homeward bound.
My name is George Andrew Germain, PO George Andrew Deering DFC was my uncle. Over the last year or so I’ve been working on a pictorial history of my family going back to the 1850’s.
It would come as no surprise to you that for his short live, George Deering features quit prominently.
As part of my research, scouring the Internet for any photos of George, (I have a few photos taken before the war and a few more of him after he signed up taken in Canada before he was posted overseas). I came across your blog and subsequently purchased and downloaded your recent publication ‘The Complete Dambusters’. And of course the first thing I did was run a search on George. Now I understand how extremely difficult it must be to compile a bio on each and every crew member. But I would like to point out a major problem with George’s
I know how upset my Grandfather and George’s three sisters would be if they had read that Charlotte was his only sibling. George was closest in age to my mother Margaret Deering who was born in 1917. She my mother Margaret was devastated when George was killed.
The eldest sister Sarah (know as Sadie) was born in 1906 and Charlotte born in 1908. The family immigrated from a fairly comfortable life in Kirkintilloch to Toronto in 1927 because of my Grandmother’s health. They had a really tough time of it due to the depression and my Grandmother’s imminent death in 1930.
I might be able to help out a little bit with the mystery of how George was assigned to 617 Squadron. I believe he wrote my Grandfather that he was volunteered to the new squadron by his C.O. for being AWOL. I have no proof of this but his RCAF files have recently been released online. I have no understanding of the military abbreviations and jargon, but there might be evidence there.
I look forward to reading your book and would ask if you could help me out with any pictures or anecdotes of George you might know of. I recently found 40sec of film outtakes from a Fox Movietone newsreel ( AIR HERO CANADIAN “DAM BUSTERS’ ARE HONORED IN LONDON) shot at Buckingham Palace on the day they were presented with their medals.
Thanks for your blog.
George — Thanks for this long and useful comment. I am emailing you privately about some of the matter it contains.
Best wishes — Charles
my grandfather was in dambusters 617 squadron one of Canadians would like to learn more
Thanks for this comment. What was your grandfather’s name? — Charles
Hi there , I an aviation historian located near Kembs ,France and Weil Am Rhein Germany and after two years of research of various military archives and numerous publications I am about to launch an updated memorial site for the 617 Sqd Kembs Raiders of Oct 7,1944 . I need your help to obtain crew photos and other details. Pse contact me by email , Cheers , A
Hi Alex, my fathers cousin Eric Spencer flew on that raid and was the bomb aimer with flight lieutenant Howard’s plane that was shot down, I’ll see what I can do. Phil.
Thanks Philip , would greatly appreciate a photo which I would like to post on the Kembs Memoriual Blog https://kembs.blogspot.com
Thank you and would greatly appreciate a photo for my Blog
Thank you ! https://kembs.blogspot.com
Not sure if my reply was posted
Hi I am Thomas Tate’s granddaughter who died with Christopher Howard. I have a few photographs but no information about my Grandfather. Whenever I spoke to my Grandmother she changed the subject too painful I presume. It would be wonderful to have any information.
Hello Alex, I need to correct the my post, Eric’s surname was Hartley, sincere apologies. For your information he is buried at the Durnbach war cemetery. Phil
Thanks no prob
Having watched the film many hundreds of times, I was amazed to hear about the Canberra as I had never noticed it. So I immediately set out to look for it. It can be seen on the ground at around 1:07:06 through the rear side window of the car. The dihedralled tailplane is easy to spot. The ‘Lancasters with 4-bladed props’ in the background are Lincolns of course. In the unlikely event that someone has a record of the Lincolns on the base at that time, I would be very happy to see it.
Blow me down I just found the Canberra again at 1:38:00 !! The fin and some of the tailplane can be seen very briefly at the top right hand corner of the screen. It is in a dispersal bay and the shot was taken from a taxying Lancaster.
A photograph taken of me by my Dad in 1947. Where do think that may have been?
Jeff — can’t see any photo here. Please send it to me by email. Click on the link in the article above. CF
The link didn’t work. Sent photo conventionally.
I am Sheila, the youngest sister of P/O TW Johnson who died on the Dortmund-Ems Canal raid in September 1943 with F/L HS Wilson and his crew. I have visited my brother’s grave several times with members of my family but have never been near the crash site.. I now have a copy of ‘The Dambuster Crash Sites’ so have a clearer idea of where it is. Can you tell me if there is a memorial at the site?
Where do you think the crash site is located? I live in Germany.
Somewhere near Ladbergen off the A1 E37, in a field near the Schumachermuseum, There are detailed instructions in the book I mentioned – ‘Dambuster Crash Sites’ by Chris Ward and Andreas Wachtel. I am too old to visit again but I would like to think that there was a memorial to mark the site.
Unfortunately that’s very far away from me. I will see if I can find anything on German websites. If there is a memorial,I’m sure it would be mentioned somewhere.
If not, have you considered a plaque in a church which is close to the site? There is a framed embroidery in a church in Devon remembering a cousin of mine who died in an Avro Lincoln in Kenya and I found it very moving.
Thank you for your interest. Perhaps I ought to get in touch with the British Legion – they might know.
I have just come by what looks to be a very naive engraved pewter tankard. It has the 617 squadron emblem on the front and engraved on the rear it has “bombs away 17/5/43 and the name Ken’s underneath that. It really does look like it has been hand engraved with a hammer and nail. It allegedly came from the Blue Bell pub when it was refurbed in the 1950’s when the names on the ceiling were painted over. If you think it’s worth a look I could send you a couple of photos. Thanks for your help hope to hear from you soon.
Hi Kevin — sounds interesting. Please email me a picture. Charlesjfoster [AT] gmail.com (Replace the [AT] with @!). Thanks — Charles
Thanks so much for getting back to me. Sorry I posted this on a blog regarding a particular article. I have since found the direct email link on your page and have already sent you a couple of pictures. I hope you have received them. I look forward to your views. Hope you have a good week.
Haven’t heard from you did you get my emails?
Hello Charles, A minor addition to your biography of Revie Walker, Shannon’s navigator. My wife was his secretary when he was on his final posting as CAdO (Chief Administration Officer) at RCAF Station Summerside, Prince Edward Island. His retirement gift from his wife was twins! My wife and I received a congratulatory message from him (which we still have) when we married just after his retirement.
Just going through my video archive and found a very old BBC documentary about Sir Barnes Wallace. Called “The Great Inventor” The Dams raid is of course covered.
Have just started to read your “The Complete Dambusters” and was surprised to learn that Barnes Wallis’s paper “A Note on a Method of Attacking the Axis Powers” included a quotation from Thomas Hardy. Can you tell me what this was please?
Mike — I will check and get back to you. CF
The quotation is
“Experience is to intensity, and not as to duration.” From Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Chapter XIX).
Thanks to Dr Robert Owen for this information.
Hi Charles – I wonder if you can help – I am looking for the Ops that Len Chambers completed with the Squadron – He was with 75(NZ) Squadron before 617 and I am currently researching a Nominal Roll for all operational aircrew. Obviously I am keen to add information regarding subsequent postings after 75(NZ) – thanks in advance!
Hi there. I will reply to you separately by email. CF
Anyone interested on 52 FG , Madna , Italy 1944 is welcome to join the forum
My father, Syd Svensson, was a bomb aimer with the RAAF in Canada, and a friend of Bob Hay (dam buster). I would like to contact members of Bob’s family to decipher anomalies in a story my parents told me about their knowledge of Bob. I am a published author, now writing a memoir and would like to get as correct a picture as I possibly can. Hope you can help.
Annah — thanks for this. I will contact the Hay family and ask them for permission to send on their email details.
Thanks so very much, Charles. Appreciate your efforts and your wonderful blog.
Does anyone have any information on the ground crew who serviced Gibson`s plane? My friend thinks her dad Gilbert J Marsh was one of them.
I have come rather late to this excellent site. As the contributor to the RCAF Association “Honours and Awards” website, https://www.rcafassociation.ca/heritage/honours-awards/ I shall be borrowing from this site to augment entries (starting with Stefan Oancia – and of course I shall give full acknowledgement to the site. You in turn may easily borrow from the RCAFA website. My motto is “The best way to back up your data is to share it”
I found this quite by chance after doing a little bit of search for my Grandson, age 9, who chose his great great uncle Doug as his hero for a school presentation. Douglas (Gerry) Garton joined 633 Sqn from 627 (Mosquitos) as a ground crew engineer. Dates etc can be supplied. Doug met and later married Joyce a Canadian WAAF who was at the time Gibson’s driver. I was fortunate in later life to visit with Doug to RAF Halton where the ground crew apprentices trained and met with a few of his surviving peers who also served on 633. interesting reading is Guy Gibson – Richard Morris published by Viking/Penguin books
My father was in the Dam Busters Squadron but did not fly on the mission. Needless to say I wonder whether there is any mention of him anywhere. His name was ALBERT EDWARD NORMAN, he was known as TOM. He was born on 5 June in I think 1921 – not positive on the year
I have tried to find information on him here at the Australian War Memorial but cannot find out anything. Can you please suggest what I can do?
Many thanks. Richard Norman
I can’t find anyone with the surname of Norman in the 617 Squadron aircrew between March 1943 and May 1945. Is it possible that he was in ground crew? I don’t have a list of these. CF
Absolutely fascinating reading. Came across this when researching Sergeant Richard Bolitho, as I am currently undertaking a article piece about him for a community newspaper in Kimberley, Nottinghamshire. I’ve tried contacting you via email, however it doesn’t seem to allow me to. I just have a couple of questions I wonder if you’d be able to help me with.
All the best
Stephanie Lawton / Interpretation and Display Officer
Solway Aviation Society, Aviation House, Carlisle Lake District, Airport, Crosby-on-Eden, Cumbria, CA6 4NW.
UK Charity Registration number 1034715 Company Registration number 2731967
Hi Charles I am in the process of putting a display together for next year for the 80th Anniversary of the Dambusters Raid, and would like to ask your permission to use the images of the pilots that took part. I would be grateful for any help. I always acknowledge copyright etc.
Hi Stephanie — Thanks for the enquiry. I will get back to you by email. Charles
Thank you for this blog,it’s really interesting and i’m very much enjoying reading it.
I was lucky enough to visit Scampton recently and see Guy Gibsons’ office
One thing I’ve always wondered is, which direction did they take off from Scampton on May 16th 1943 in order to cross the North Sea ?
If anyone can help with this i’d be very grateful.
Kevin — thanks for this comment. I need to check this and get back to you. CF
I am searching information about Willian John Bennett DSC service number 13810817, born in
25/11/1919, Rio de Janeiro – Brasil, and his service on 617sqn.
Can you help me with some data?
Thank you in advance for your attention.
William Bennett was a bomb aimer in 617 Squadron in 1944. I will forward information to you by email. CF
I found in ORB two mission flew By W J Bennet in december 1943 and two in january 1944.
Very sorry that I didn’t send the email as promised. You have now found the correct information yourself.
Charles do you know of Jack Leggo’s children? Many years ago I used to lunch with Lady Leggo but lost touch. Denise Dawson nee Hay.
Sorry, Denise, I’ve never been able to track down any of the Leggo family. However, I will leave this comment up here on the website in the hope that someone will get in touch some time in the future. Best wishes — Charles
Thank you for your prompt reply Charles
On a completely different topic, but one closely related to the Dambusters, I interviewed the late Johnny Johnson many times with a view to writing the story of his life from his childhood to the moment he returned from his last
mission. The book was never published because the publishers, at the last moment, decided they wanted the book to cover his whole life – and this part of the book had to be researched and finished in less than 2 months. At that stage I opted out but his son took over the project and was able to write a very good book which fulfilled the publisher’s brief.
The unpublished book that I wrote is based on many face to face interviews with Johnny himself seven or eight years before he died in 2022, aged 101. The book included descriptions of his disastrous relationship with his father, his failed attempt to be a pilot, his subsequent conversion from rear gunner to bomb aimer, his first meeting with his future wife and then the realities of flying 50 missions over Germany (and one over Italy). He then described in great detail his training for the Dambusters raid, many fellow members of 617 squadron and his very candid assessment of Guy Gibson both as a man and as a leader. He then recounted with an amazing memory for detail the Dambusters raid. Finally he described the award ceremony at Buckingham Palace where he was awarded the DFC.
Having written the first draft of the book Johnny was then happy to comment on, add to and sometimes correct what I had written until a second draft was finally completed.
If anyone would like to read this ‘book’ I’d be more than happy to send it as a Word document, free of charge.
David: I would be happy to put your manuscript up on on this blog’s website so that readers could download it free of charge, providing both you and the family agree. We can discuss this by email or the phone, if you would like to do so. Best wishes — Charles
My father in law joined 617 squadron as a replacement crew after the dams raid and was involved in the Tirpitz raid amongst other sorties.
He remained in 617 squadron for the rest of the war until he was shot down over Bergen in January 1945 and then taken POW.
We have a copy of his flight log and a handwritten diary of his time as a POW and transfer from Bergen to Germany.
He was a rear gunner and his pilot was kellaway.
He appears in the 617 photograph which is always shown when 617 squadron are referred to and we have a copy which we obtained some years ago from RAF Hendon archives. His name was Ernest Temple.
see our event 8oth anniversaryÂ dambusters raid ederdam – germany.Â Â Â Oliver
Hello charles l lived in sherburn village for over 36 years and as a small boy i can remember Mrs nicholson who lived in the house on the corner next door to the CO OP I remember my father doing some repairs to her house when i was just a boy in the 1960s and she showed me Viviens DFM after she passed away i think the medal went to a relation who lived just across the road from her house but im not sure at the time i didnt fully understand the importance of it until l was a little older
Thank you for your comment.
I also met Vivien’s parents in the 2000s and saw his DFM.
I will reply to you privately sometime in the future.
Best wishes Charles