Thanks to Alex Bateman, I’m now able to list the mother of four of the Dams Raid aircrew who attended the Premiere of The Dam Busters and were presented to Princess Margaret. They appear in the Pathé News report of the occasion.
The mothers are: top left, Mrs Florence Hatton, mother of Bill Hatton; top right, Mrs Nellie Knight, mother of Les Knight; bottom left, Mrs Dorcas Roberts, mother of Charlie Roberts; bottom right, Mrs Elizabeth Nicholson, mother of Vivian Nicholson.
Flt Sgt C W Roberts
Lancaster serial number: ED887/G
Call sign: AJ-A
First wave. Fourth aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine dropped accurately, causing small breach. Aircraft shot down on return flight.
Charles Roberts was born in 1921 in Cromer, Norfolk, and had been a trainee accountant before the war. He enrolled in the RAF in 1940, and had initially been selected for training as a pilot. He was sent out to Rhodesia for training at an Elementary Flying Training School. Like many would-be pilots, he ended up qualifying as a navigator.
Back in England he met up with his future colleagues at 1660 Conversion Unit. They came together in January 1943 but, as was common practice, had to wait until March to be given an experienced pilot, who arrived in the shape of Melvin Young. Unlike some of his colleagues, he appears never to have flown on any operations before the Dams Raid, a lack of experience he shared with Vivian Nicholson, the navigator of David Maltby’s aircraft, flying alongside him. Inexperienced he may have been, but he doesn’t appear to have made any significant errors on the flight to the Möhne Dam, as Young, Maltby and Shannon maintained formation throughout the trip.
During AJ-A’s run in to attack the dam, Roberts’s role was to stand in the cockpit looking out of the starboard blister at the reflection of the two lights set so that when they touched the aircraft was at the correct height of 60 feet above the water. He would have called ‘up’, ‘down’ or ‘steady’ during the approach as the pilot adjusted the height.
On the return journey, Roberts set the correct course for one of the three approved routes home, and it was on the last leg of this that AJ-A met its fate.
Roberts was engaged to a WAAF who worked at Scampton packing parachutes.
He is buried with the rest of the crew in Bergen General Cemetery.
More about Roberts online:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
KIA 17 May 1943.
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources: Arthur Thorning, The Dambuster who Cracked the Dam, Pen and Sword 2008
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002