More Canadian Dambusters families meet in Ontario

Left to right: Jim MacLean (MacLean family), Hartley Garshowitz (Garshowitz family), Cathie Somers (Glinz family), Milton Lewis (Garshowitz family), Bernie Wyatt (Oancia family), Marilyn McDowell (McDowell family), Paul Morley (Garbas family). [Pic: Hartley Garshowitz]

More Canadian Dambuster families gathered together in Ontario at the weekend, for a second event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Dams Raid. This took place at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario, which is the home of Canada’s only flying Lancaster aircraft. Six families were represented, including those of Harvey Glinz, Stefan Oancia and Frank Garbas, who weren’t able to get to the gathering two weeks ago in Nanton, Alberta.

The picture above shows the attendees in front of the Lancaster, which is now carrying the code letters AJ-B, the same as that used on the Dams Raid by the crew captained by Flt Lt Bill Astell. This included two men from Hamilton, Ontario – Albert Garshowitz and Frank Garbas.

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Record number of Canadian Dambuster families gathered in Alberta

Dambuster families gather in Nanton, Alberta. Back row, left to right:  Larry Heather (Earnshaw family), Dianne Young (Fraser family), Peter Brosinsky (Earnshaw family),  Charlene Brosinsky (Earnshaw family), Shere Fraser (Fraser family), Kerry O’Brien-Larsen (O’Brien family), Jim Heather (Earnshaw family), Doris Fraser (Fraser family), Tamara Sutherland (Sutherland Family), Hartley Garshowitz (Garshowitz family), Joan Norris, Tom and Cathy Sutherland (Sutherland family), Marilyn McDowell (McDowell family), Bryce Ramlo, Erin Ramlo and Karen Ramlo (McDonald family)
Front row, left to right: crouching/sitting:  Joe McCarthy (McCarthy family), Emily, Kathy and Rob Taerum (Taerum family), Ted Barris, author. [Pic: Hartley Garshowitz]

A record number of Canadian Dambuster families gathered at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta last weekend. They came from all parts of Canada and Washington State, USA, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Dams Raid in which their relatives took part. Many of them died on the raid.

Most later gathered under the wing of the museum’s Lancaster aircraft, which has been specially reconfigured and painted in 617 Squadron’s colours as a further tribute. Not all the families are present in the photograph above, so for completeness they are listed below.

Charles Brennan, flight engineer in AJ-M. Granddaughter, Andrea Davids from Calgary, and her son Mark.

 

Harlo Taerum, navigator in AJ-G. Nephew, Rob Taerum, Rob’s wife Kathy, and their daughter Emily Taerum from Calgary.

 

Lewis Burpee, pilot of AJ-S. Son, Lewis Burpee from Ottawa.

 

 

Don MacLean, navigator in AJ-T. Son, Jim MacLean from Toronto.

 

 

Ken Earnshaw, navigator in AJ-M. Nephews and nieces, Jim Heather of Vulcan, Alberta; Margaret Danielson from Edmonton with her daughter Clarissa Danielson Hall and son-in-law Scott Hall; Larry Heather from Calgary; Charlene Brosinsky and Peter Brosinsky from Bashaw, Alberta.

Abram Garshowitz, wireless operator in AJ-B. Nephew, Hartley Garshowitz from Hamilton, Ontario.

 

Floyd Wile, navigator in AJ-B. Nephew, Don Lightbody and his wife Carolee Lightbody from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

 

Percy Pigeon, wireless operator in AJ-W. Son Greg and Greg’s wife Louise from Williams Lake, British Columbia.

 

Grant McDonald, rear gunner in AJ-F. Nephew, Bryce Ramlo, his wife Karen and their daughter Erin Ramlo from Mayne Island and Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

John Fraser, bomb aimer in AJ-M. Widow, Doris Fraser from Langley, BC, daughter Shere Fraser from Blaine, Washington, and niece Dianne Young from Calgary.

 

James McDowell, rear gunner in AJ-K. Daughter, Marilyn McDowell from Burlington, Ontario.

 

Revie Walker, navigator in AJ-L. Son, John Walker, John’s wife Amy and their daughter Kenzie from Calgary.

 

Gordon Brady, rear gunner in AJ-S. Niece, Sheila Robbins and her husband Graham from Beaumont, Alberta.

 

Joe McCarthy, pilot of AJ-T. Son, Joe McCarthy jr. from Blaine, Washington.

 

 

Harry O’Brien, rear-gunner in AJ-N. Daughter, Kerry O’Brien-Larsen from St. Albert, Alberta.

 

Fred Sutherland, front gunner in AJ-N. Son, Tom Sutherland, his wife Cathy, from Fort McMurray, Alberta, and their daughter Tamara Sutherland from Edmonton, Alberta; daughter, Joan Norris and her husband Hugh of Calgary. Fred Sutherland still lives in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, but chose not to attend this event himself.

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

Garshowitz0006photo

[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.
Sources:
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.