Six Dambusters photographed for 1993 reunion

RH12 You mag spread lores

Pic: Ray Hepner

Among the many fascinating items in Ray Hepner’s collection of Dams Raid artifacts are a number of press cuttings from down the years. This great article from the Mail on Sunday’s You magazine is just one. It was taken sometime in early 1993, and appeared in the magazine on 9 May 1993, the week before the 50th anniversary of the Dams Raid.
The picture shows (left to right) Dudley Heal, Edward (“Johnnie”) Johnson, Jimmy Clay, David Shannon, Basil Feneron and George Chalmers lined up in front of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster at RAF Coningsby.
The caption to the picture doesn’t say this but the article which accompanies it does note the sad event which occurred between the photograph being taken and its publication a few weeks later: the death on 8 April 1993 of David Shannon, something which rather put a dampener on the anniversary events.
Time has marched on since then, and now all these gentlemen are no longer with us. But it is nice to see them all together in the autumn of their years, for one last time.

Dambuster of the Day No. 114: Basil Feneron


Sgt H B Feneron
Flight engineer

Lancaster serial number: ED918/G

Call sign: AJ-F

Third wave. Second aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully, but failed to breach dam.

Harry Basil Feneron was born in London on 14 May 1920, the older of the two sons of Harry and Edith Feneron. His father ran an electrical business, where he and his brother both worked after leaving school. Feneron joined the RAF in 1940 and served in ground crew, before taking the opportunity offered in 1942 to train as a flight engineer. He qualified in October 1942 and was then posted to 1654 Conversion Unit, where he joined up with Ken Brown and his crew. He would go on to fly with Brown for the rest of both their operational careers.

The crew were posted together to 44 Squadron on 5 February 1943 and completed six operations between 9 and 27 March. They were then posted again as a unit to 617 Squadron on 29 March.

The relationship between Brown and Feneron was closer than it was between some of the other pilots and flight engineers on the Dams Raid, with Feneron having more like an assistant pilot role. In the low flying training before the raid, Feneron did an important job looking out for high tension wires and other obstacles, calling out to his skipper as soon as he saw them. They split the responsibility for forward vision, with Feneron taking the starboard half of the windscreen and Brown the port side.

This spirit of partnership could well have been the reason why they survived the testing low level flight to the Dams and back, while others didn’t make it. Feneron saw Burpee’s crash and afterwards concluded that they had been shot down because they weren’t low enough.

When they reached the Sorpe Dam, he worried that if they rose too high after their attack they might fall prey to a night fighter. However, none arrived and after dropping their mine the crew of AJ-F set course for home. Their route took them past the Möhne, where they were shocked to see the damage caused earlier in the night. They then nearly came to grief on two occasions, near Hamm and at the final obstacle, the Helder peninsula on the coast, where Feneron crouched on the floor as Brown flew as low as he dared.

When they were safely over England, Brown handed over the controls to his engineer for a time while he went aft to examine the extensive damage which AJ-F had endured. He was back in the pilot’s seat in time to land at Scampton and Feneron went through his customary ritual of kissing the ground – on this occasion probably with more fervour than usual. He was then able to see the damage for himself, including a large hole a few inches behind where wireless operator Herbert Hewstone had been sitting.

Feneron went on to fly on nine more operations in 617 Squadron before being commissioned and then in March 1944 being transferred into a training unit. He carried out various instructional roles for the rest of the war before being demobbed in 1946. He returned to work in the family business in London, where he stayed until he retired. Basil Feneron died on 18 November 1993 at his home in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, where he had lived with his wife, Jean, for 30 years. He had two children.

Thanks to Mrs Jean Feneron for help with this article.

More about Feneron online:
Obituary in The Times

Survived war. Died 18.11.1993

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

Further information about Basil Feneron and the other 132 men who flew on the Dams Raid can be found in my book The Complete Dambusters, published by History Press in 2018.

Dambuster obituaries

I have been scouring the interwebnet for online material about the aircrew who took part in the Dams Raid for a project I will be unveiling shortly, but in the meantime, I thought I would share the fruits of part of my research. So far, I have come across these online postwar obituaries:

Ken Brown
George Chalmers
Edward (Johnnie) Johnson
David Rodger
Danny Walker

Thanks to a helpful library subscription, I have also come across four other earlier obituaries which are not generally available in online sources, but can be turned up in newspaper archives. These are of:

Basil Feneron
Harold (Mick) Martin
David Shannon
Paul Brickhill

(I know the last of these did not take part in the Dams Raid himself, but I thought his obituary might be of interest.) I have posted these four obituaries on my other website, and you can see them here.

If you can add any further online or offline material to these links then I would be glad to hear from you.