A quiet wood in Germany

IMG_6612Pic: Wim Govaerts

One year ago last weekend, a bronze plaque was unveiled on the edge of a quiet wood near the little town of Haldern in Germany. It is a memorial to the seven men in the crew of AJ-E, who took off from RAF Scampton on the Dams Raid on 16 May 1943, and who died at this spot when their aircraft collided with a power line and crashed.
The memorial was the initiative of Volker Schürmann and his colleagues in the Haldern local history society. Those of us who were present remember it with affection and gratitude, and look forward to continuing the friendships formed on that day for many more years to come.

May your bells ring out for Christmas Day

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Best wishes for the festive season to all the readers of this blog, wherever the boys in the NYPD Choir* are singing for you.
I have had a great year working on this blog, with two particular highlights. The first was travelling to Germany to take part in the unveiling of the memorial to the Dams Raid crew of AJ-E, in the company of relatives of six of the crew who died on that night. Thanks once again to Volker Schürmann and the rest of the local German community who instigated the memorial and made us so welcome. The second was the completion of the 133 Dambuster of the Day biographies in August, which I hope means that at last every single man who took part in the Dams Raid gets his own small place in history marked for ever.
I look forward to another year of providing a lot more Dambuster information. Have a very good Christmas and a happy New Year.
Charles

*And in memory of the late great Kirsty MacColl.

Memorial postcard has Möhne bonus

Einzm_MšhnetalsperreAnyone who donated to the successful appeal for a memorial to the Dams Raid crew of AJ-E should by now have received a souvenir postcard showing the plaque. These were dispatched over the last few weeks by our good friend Volker Schürmann, the appeal organiser. But if you look closely at the top right hand corner of the card, you will see a little bonus – a commemorative stamp produced by the German post office in 2013 to mark the centenary of the construction of the Möhne Dam. The eagle-eyed Volker purchased a stock of these at the time of their production and kept them aside specially for the cards, to add what he calls a little “British humour” to their publication. A nice gesture. Whether it adds any value to the card, we can’t say at present, but put yours away in your loft and let your grandchildren reap the benefit in 50 years time.

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Dambuster Memorial unveiled as many pay tribute

IMG_6611Pic: Wim Govaerts

Several hundred people gathered on Sunday 17 May 2015 on the edge of a small wood in Haldern, north western Germany, to pay tribute to the crew of Dams Raid Lancaster AJ-E, piloted by Flt Lt Norman Barlow DFC. This was the spot where the aircraft crashed shortly before midnight on the night of 16 May 1943, en route to attack the Sorpe Dam.
Some of Norman Barlow’s letters home to his mother in Australia were read out during the ceremony. In one, written on 3 May 1943, he told her about the new aircraft he had been assigned for the Dams Raid. “I have just got a brand new machine. “E” for Edward or Elsie or Elliott. I hope I am as lucky as I was with “G” for George”.
And then, just 12 days later and the night before died, he sent love to everyone back at home, including his daughter, then four years old: “I must close now and have a bath and get a little shut eye whilst I can.  So keep your chin up Mother dear it can’t last forever. Your loving son Norman xxxx.”
Sadly, E-Edward would not turn out to be not a lucky machine for Norman and his crew, and they were all killed instantly in the crash. For seventy years, the site was not marked in any way, but then in 2013 local historian Volker Schürmann began a campaign to have a permanent memorial established. He organised a public appeal which succeded in raising the funds, after many generous donations from supporters from around the world. There were further donations of materials from the local community, and the farmer on whose land the aircraft crashed was kind enough to make a space available.
Relatives and representatives of five of the crew travelled to Germany, and unveiled the memorial. Wreathes were also laid by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, by other organisations, and by the local community. A guard of honour was provided by the Haldern Fire Brigade, and musical tributes were played by the Haldern Brass Band.
Huge thanks go to all the people of Haldern who donated to and supported the memorial, and to all those who travelled to Germany to take part in the ceremony.

Pictures below by Wim Govaerts and Mitch Buiting.

IMG_6365 Banner depicting the crew of AJ-E. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6396Volker Schürmann being interviewed by British Forces Broadcasting Service reporter, Rob Olver.

IMG_6388Items from the wreckage of AJ-E, found locally by Marcel Hahn. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6462Welcome from Bernhard Uebbing, Chair of Heimatverein Haldern, the local history society. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6481Volker Schürmann outlined the background to the project. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6494Charles Foster gave a brief history of the Dams Raid and its historical significance. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6509Trish Murphy, a friend of Norman Barlow’s daughter Adrianne since their schooldays in Melbourne, read from Norman Barlow’s last letters home. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

Rework_9274Rob Holliday, whose wife Sara is a cousin of bomb aimer Plt Off Alan Gillespie, gave an account of the lives of all the crew members of AJ-E. (Pic: Mitch Buiting)

IMG_6550The first wreath was laid by Group Captain Steve Richards of the RAF. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6553Lt Colonel David Sexstone and a colleague laid the second wreath on behalf of the Royal Canadian Air Force. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

Rework_9289Wreath laid in memory of Norman Barlow by Trish Murphy, with assistance from Jacqui Kelly and Aisling Foster. (Pic: Mitch Buiting)

Rework_9293Wreathes laid in memory of Philip Burgess by Carole Marner, followed by Jenny Rowland. (Pic: Mitch Buiting)

Rework_9298Wreath laid in memory of Alan Gillespie by Sara and Rob Holliday (Pic: Mitch Buiting)

IMG_6558Wreath laid in memory of Charlie Williams by Helen Brown. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

Rework_9306Wreath laid in memory of Jack Liddell by Patricia and Mike Gawtrey. (Pic: Mitch Buiting)

IMG_6471Music for the occasion was provided by the Haldern Brass Band. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6685A guard of honour was provided by the Haldern Fire Brigade. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6665The five sets of relatives and representatives, joined by Volker Schürmann and Charles Foster. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6678The full RAF and RCAF delegations, photographed after the ceremony. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)

IMG_6583AJ-E, honoured and remembered, 17 May 2015. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)