Pic: 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.
Banner depicting the crew of AJ-E. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
Volker Schürmann being interviewed by British Forces Broadcasting Service reporter, Rob Olver.
Items from the wreckage of AJ-E, found locally by Marcel Hahn. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
Welcome from Bernhard Uebbing, Chair of Heimatverein Haldern, the local history society. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
Volker Schürmann outlined the background to the project. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
Charles Foster gave a brief history of the Dams Raid and its historical significance. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
Trish 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)
Rob 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)
The first wreath was laid by Group Captain Steve Richards of the RAF. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
Lt Colonel David Sexstone and a colleague laid the second wreath on behalf of the Royal Canadian Air Force. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
Wreath laid in memory of Norman Barlow by Trish Murphy, with assistance from Jacqui Kelly and Aisling Foster. (Pic: Mitch Buiting)
Wreathes laid in memory of Philip Burgess by Carole Marner, followed by Jenny Rowland. (Pic: Mitch Buiting)
Wreath laid in memory of Alan Gillespie by Sara and Rob Holliday (Pic: Mitch Buiting)
Wreath laid in memory of Charlie Williams by Helen Brown. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
Wreath laid in memory of Jack Liddell by Patricia and Mike Gawtrey. (Pic: Mitch Buiting)
Music for the occasion was provided by the Haldern Brass Band. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
A guard of honour was provided by the Haldern Fire Brigade. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
The five sets of relatives and representatives, joined by Volker Schürmann and Charles Foster. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
The full RAF and RCAF delegations, photographed after the ceremony. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)
AJ-E, honoured and remembered, 17 May 2015. (Pic: Wim Govaerts)