Historic Garbas-Garshowitz pose recreated for Dams Raid 75th anniversary

The nephews of Dams Raid veterans Frank Garbas and Albert Garshowitz recreated a historic wartime photograph in Canada shortly before leaving for England for the anniversary commemorations. Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, the two young men had been childhood friends playing football and rugby for the same team. Both separately joined the RCAF shortly after the outbreak of war and then, after completing training, their paths crossed later as crews were being finalised for heavy bomber operations. Keen to renew their friendship, they joined the same crew, piloted by an Englishman, Max Stephenson.

Sadly Stephenson was killed when flying on another operation, so the crew were posted to 57 Squadron, based at RAF Scampton, with a new pilot, Flt Lt Bill Astell. After flying on a number of operations together, the  whole crew were posted to a new squadron which was being formed at the same station. This was 617 Squadron.

Austell and his whole crew died when their aircraft, AJ-B, flying as part of the First Wave of the Dams Raid to attack the Mohne and Eder Dams, collied with a pylon near Marbeck in Germany.

After the war,  Paul Morley, nephew of Frank Garbas, and Hartley Garshowitz, nephew of Albert Garshowitx, each started their own independent research into their uncles’ roles in the Dams Raid. Realising the connection, they made contact with each other and have been friends since. They travelled together last week to attend the UK ceremonies, but before embarking they posed for a joint photograph in front of VERA, the only flying Canadian Lancaster, which is based in their home town of Hamilton.

Full story in Hamilton Spectator

[Thanks to Lisa Morley]


Dambuster of the Day No. 53: Albert Garshowitz


[Pic: Garshowitz family]

Wt Off A A Garshowitz
Wireless operator

Lancaster serial number: ED864/G

Call sign: AJ-B

First wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Abram Garshowitz, known to his friends as Albert, was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on 11 December 1920, the ninth of twelve children of Samuel and Sarah Garshowitz, who had emigrated from Russia in the first decade of the twentieth century.
At school, he was a keen sportsman, playing many sports but especially American football and rugby. He also played for the Eastwood team in the Hamilton Junior Rugby League, together with Frank Garbas, with whom he would ultimately serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Having worked as a salesman before the war, he enlisted in the RCAF in January 1941, indicating on the enrolment form that the reason for leaving his occupation was “to fight for the country”. He qualified as a wireless operator/air gunner in April 1942, and on the day of his brother David’s Bar Mitzvah his family came to see him in Trenton, and bid him goodbye.
After arrival in England, he underwent further training on Whitley bombers, which had a crew of five, and then was posted to RAF Wigsley for conversion onto Lancasters. The crew, under pilot Max Stephenson, included his future Dams Raid crewmates Floyd Wile, Donald Hopkinson and Richard Bolitho. By coincidence also posted to Wigsley was Frank Garbas, and Albert seems to have persuaded Max Stephenson to add him to the crew, along with flight engineer John Kinnear.
The crew’s first operational posting was to 9 Squadron. After a short time, they were moved on to 57 Squadron at Scampton. However, Max Stephenson was then killed, on an operation with another crew, and they were allocated to Bill Astell, an experienced pilot embarking on a second tour of duty.Their first operation was against the French port of Lorient on 13 February 1943. They undertook a number of operations in the next few weeks.
Astell’s crew had been allocated to 57 Squadron’s C Flight, under Flight Commander Melvin “Dinghy” Young. On 25 March, news came through that the entire Flight was to be transferred to a new squadron, under the command of Guy Gibson.
Known as a gregarious and high-spirited character, Albert was responsible for chalking an inscription on the mine carried by AJ-B on the Dams Raid “Never has so much been expected of so few”, as well as another near its door saying “officer entrance only”.
However, luck wasn’t on their side that night. On the way to the Mohne Dam, near Marbeck, AJ-B encountered flak then hit a pylon and crashed in a farmer’s field, killing the crew. They were initially buried in the City Cemetery in Borken, and subsequently reinterred in 1948 in the Reichswald Forest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.
A prolific letter-writer, Albert wrote many letters and sent numerous pictures to family members, telling them about life in England and what was permissible under censorship rules about his duties. Albert’s nephew Hartley Garshowitz has used this correspondence to build a picture of Albert’s life, and I am grateful for his help with this article.

More about Garshowitz online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry
Garshowitz family tree website
Article by Paul Morley on CBC Hamilton site
Aircrew Remembered webpage about Astell crew

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Robert Owen, Steve Darlow, Sean Feast & Arthur Thorning, Dam Busters: Failed to Return, Fighting High, 2013
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

Poignant last page in Garshowitz logbook

Garshowitz log last page

One of the saddest jobs on any Second World War bomber squadron must have been filling in the logbooks of those who didn’t return from operations. Here, courtesy of his nephew Hartley Garshowitz, is the last page of Wt Off Albert Garshowitz’s logbook from May 1943. Garshowitz was the wireless operator in Flt Lt Astell’s Lancaster AJ-B, which collided with a pylon on the outward flight to the Möhne Dam.
Some points to note:

  • Garshowitz appears to have done all the totalising of hours himself before he took off on the Dams Raid.
  • The entry in red, in someone else’s handwriting after the raid, says ‘”Ops” Eder missing’, when his aircraft was actually tasked with attacking the Möhne.
  • The spaces left for signature by the Flight Commander and the Squadron CO have both been completed by David Maltby, who became Commander of A Flight after the raid. Gibson was obviously not available when this book (one of 53 altogether) was presented for inspection.

There is more about Albert Garshowitz and his good friend Frank Garbas, front gunner in AJ-B, in this entry on the Canadian Bomber Command Museum website.