Der Chef blames Kommune for Dams Raid success


Sefton Delmer, propaganda genius behind Gustav Siegfried Eins [Pic: Wikipedia]

On the afternoon of 17 May 1943, a remarkable broadcast was heard on German radio sets. ‘Achtung, achtung, said the speaker. An ‘incalculable flood catastrophe … befell our homeland last night from the destruction of the Moehne and Eder valley dams.’ He went on:

‘The responsibility for the fact that the enemy could succeed in inflicting this horrible desolation with his mines and bombs, unfortunately, will still be unavoidably affected by it, the responsibility for it remains with the Kommune, for the most part with a single individual, with Joseph Terboven.
Terboven – let it not be forgotten about him – allegedly in order to preserve for the nation the works of art in his ostentatious castle in Kettwig, had all portable anti-aircraft equipment from the Moehne Valley taken away on May 12, right after the air attack on Duisburg, and set up in Kettwig to protect his castle which he considered badly threatened.
Only the heavy guns permanently emplaced at the vital Moehne Valley dam on which the system of the whole Ruhr valley depends, were left there. And four days later, last night, the enemy was right on hand and simultaneously attacked the Moehne, Sorpe and Eder Valley Dams. On the Moehne the defence was hopeless. Joseph Terboven saw to that. One lone shitpot Englishman was brought down. The enemy made four low-altitude flights practically unhindered, calmly illuminated the region with flares, and with his mines smashed a gap 100 metres long in the dam.
At the Eder Valley dam it was not much better. There the Kommune land defenders had long since carried off the greater part of the anti-aircraft and set it up at Kassel, with the fantastic explanation that the enemy wouldn’t be able to find the dam in the Eder Valley anyway. The defence of the cities is much more important on account of the morale of the people. What is left of the morale, what is left of anything at all, whether Kassel itself will be spared the devil only knows – now that the Eder dam is blasted and the unleashed floods rage down the Weser, Schwalm and Fulds Valleys, destroying men, live stock and crops for many kilometres around, tearing away bridges and (halting) the war production for months to come.
The single dam which could be properly defended because there, perhaps by pure chance, all the flak was still available, was the Sorpe valley dam. There they brought down at least seven of the attackers, and in spite of three heavy attacks only a small hole was made in the dam. Let’s hope it will hold.’

The speaker claimed to be someone called ‘Der Chef’ – the Chief. He was a patriotic German officer, broadcasting from somewhere deep inside the German Reich from a radio station called Gustav Siegfried Eins (GS1).
Der Chef saw himself as the head of an organisation of disaffected German troops. He hated the British, led by Churchill who he described as a drunken old cigar-smoking Jew, but almost as much he hated what he called the Party Kommune. This was his term for the loose organisation of low and middle-ranking Nazi bosses who were mostly concerned with their own welfare to the detriment of the war effort. They feathered their own nests, shirked their civil and military duty and profiteered from the war. According to der Chef, as long as they were comfortably housed, continued to make money, were safe from Allied bombing and were well fed, they were happy to see the German people dying in a fruitless and mismanaged war.
The broadcast on 17 May 1943 was one of many where Der Chef attacked the Kommune, and in particular a man called Josef Terboven, the President of the Rhine Province and also the Reichskommissar for Norway.
Der Chef’s radio broadcasts went out at 12 minutes before the hour, and lasted about 12 minutes each. They were repeated throughout the day at the same time.
Two voices were heard in each broadcast, an announcer and Der Chef himself. He saw himself as a trenchant, hard-hitting spokesman, fearless, determined and completely sure of the ground on which he stood. He frequently used the coarse type of language which he saw as being appreciated by the front line soldier.
The broadcasts were apparently listened to by a number of German people. Whether they believed them or not is another matter since they were, of course, propaganda, broadcast by a clandestine British station, hidden in the Bedfordshire village of Aspley Guise*. The station was the brainchild of a unit in the Political Warfare Executive led by the Daily Express journalist Sefton Delmer. Delmer went on to create a number of other clandestine radio stations later in the war.
The translated extract above and much of the other information in this article comes from Lee Richards’s website. Here is the full translated text of the 17 May broadcast.

*Fascinating Fact about the Dams Raid, number 317: Between 1880 and 1914, the Rector of Aspley Guise, the village which housed PWE’s secret radio station, was the Rev James Chadwick Maltby, grandfather of Dams Raid pilot, Flt Lt David Maltby.

News Chronicle report on Dams raid

Dom Howard has kindly sent me another contemporary newspaper report of the Dams Raid, this time from the News Chronicle of 20 May 1943. It’s interesting to read the amount of detail the Air Ministry revealed on the days after the raid – there was a tremendous public appetite to find out how this one operation had dealt such a blow to the heart of the Nazi war machine.

You can see all the reports on Dom’s Photobucket pages here .


Read all about it, North American style

My friend Dominic Howard sent me these pictures a while back and I have been so busy I forgot to post them on the blog! Better late than never, so here they are. They are original editions of the Winnipeg Free Press and Baltimore News-Post newspapers from May 1943, containing the first reports of the Dams Raid. You can see high resolution scans of both newspapers in Dom’s Photobucket pages — here for Winnipeg and here for Baltimore.

Dom is the great nephew of Cyril Anderson, the pilot of AJ-Y on the Dams Raid. Cyril had been transferred from 49 Squadron to 617 Squadron on 25 March, along with his crew. On the raid, his aircraft AJ-Y was part of the third wave, the mobile reserve, and was eventually dispatched to the Sorpe Dam. He encountered heavy flak en route and had a problem with a malfunctioning rear gun. So at 0310, with dawn approaching and the valleys filling with mist, he turned back while still short of the target. He landed at Scampton at 0530, with his mine still on board.

Guy Gibson was not pleased with the fact that he had returned without dropping the mine and, taking no notice of the other extenuating circumstances, sent Cyril and his crew back to 49 Squadron.  Many researchers now feel that Gibson was unfair on Cyril, and that he was poorly treated by being removed from 617 Squadron.

Cyril and his crew completed another 15 operations in 49 Squadron until on a raid on Mannheim on 23/24 September 1943 they were shot down by a German night fighter and killed. The night fighter pilot was Lt Heinz Grimm, who was himself killed a few weeks later.

Dominic has an account of this final operation to Mannheim, and his trip to Germany to investigate the crash on his website,

Dams Raid: first hand accounts by David Shannon and Tony Burcher

These first hand accounts of the Dams Raid were posted on an Australian aviation art forum in 2008 by someone called Stephen Diver. They come from letters sent to the Diver family by David Shannon (pilot AJ-L) and Tony Burcher (rear gunner in AJ-M, piloted by John Hopgood). You will have to scroll down some way to read them all (and make sense of some pretty terrible typing and spelling!) but they make interesting reading.
Perhaps the most fascinating is Tony Burcher’s account of what his pilot John Hopgood said as he realised that his aircraft was badly damaged:

Then John said
“Right well what do you think?” Should we go on? I intend to go on because we have only got a few minutes left. We’ve come this far.
“There’s no good taking this thing back with us. The aircraft is completely manageable. I can handle it ok. Any objections?”
I remember hearing Charlie [Brennan] (who as F/E would have been standing right beside John at this time) interrupt him by saying
“Well what about your face? Its bleeding like..”
and John interrupting him mid word by saying
“just hold a handkerchief over it”.
So I imagine for the remainder of the raids time Charlie would have been standing next to John in an attempt to try and stem the bleeding and keep his eye sight clear.
I have no idea as to the nature of the wound and can only assume it to have been a head wound of some nature.
Based on Charlies reactions,and he was normally a calm chap, I can only assume Johns wounds to have been severe in nature. I think anyone else would have probably turned around at that point and headed for home but not John.
That was the type of man he was.

Sobering stuff.

[Hat tip Night Warrior on Lancaster Archive Forum]

Vincent MacCausland: letters and images

Nearly two years ago, I published a post about an interview with the sister of Vincent MacCausland which I had found online. This was printed in his hometown paper, the Prince Edward Island Guardian, on the 65th anniversary of the Dams Raid. Now a lot more material about him has come to light.
MacCausland was the bomb aimer in Dinghy Young’s crew in Lancaster ED887, AJ-A, and was therefore responsible for dropping the fourth mine of the night, the one which caused the initial small breach in the Möhne Dam, later broken completely by David Maltby and his crew.
Joel Joy has been collecting further information about MacCausland, and has come up with a number of new bits of information and photographs which he has kindly allowed me to publish here.
Vincent MacCausland joined the RCAF in 1940, and after training as an observer and then a bomb aimer completed a first tour in 57 Squadron. He received a commission and appears to have returned to 57 Squadron, which had by then moved to RAF Scampton, for a second tour in March 1943. He was then drafted into a crew of newly qualified personnel allocated to the experienced pilot Melvin Young, when their original bomb aimer was found to be unsuitable. Young was the commander of 57 Squadron’s C Flight, and when the call came out for experienced crews to join the new 617 Squadron to undertake a special secret operation, the entire flight was moved across the base. These were the crews captained by Melvin Young, Geoff Rice, Bill Astell and Sgt Lovell. (The last was only to stay a few days, and were transferred back to 57 Squadron.)
Intensive training followed. Young was put in charge of A Flight, which gave him a number of extra responsibilities, including organising much of the training schedules.
One of the remarkable discoveries made by Joel Joy is that some of Vincent MacCausland’s letters home are in a Canadian archive, the Canadian Letters and Images Project, based in Vancouver. They go back to 1940, when he first joined the RCAF.
Only one, written on 17 April 1943, survives from this period. In it he writes:
You are perhaps wondering what I am doing here. There is really no need to feel over anxious to know that I am back again for my second tour. I really was due back six months after Sept of 41 and had the privilege of joining a well experienced crew and on aircraft that one dreams about. To tell you the honest truth I would not have taken this on had I believed it was a doubtful move. I came up here a couple of days ago (Apr 14th) and we are on revision and conversion for the next month before going over with a few bundles for the squareheads I know that you will be feeling most anxious during those few months ahead but the time will soon pass and I know that God will be especially with us as were blessed in that first tour. I hope that we shall be writing at least two to three times per week and if you do the same, it will be much happier for us all.
Sadly, the blessings that were bestowed on him in his first tour would not follow him to his second. Having been so instrumental in the destruction of the Möhne Dam, Young was detailed to act as Gibson’s deputy at the Eder. After it too was blown by Knight’s successful mine drop, Gibson, Shannon, Knight, Maudslay and Young set off for home. Unfortunately the latter two – the squadron’s two flight commanders – didn’t get back. AJ-A was shot down crossing the Dutch coast near IJmuiden, and crashed into the sea. The bodies of all its crew were washed ashore during the following two weeks.
All seven are buried in the cemetery near Bergen.
Two more contemporary items are shown here. These are the missing and death notices published in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The first of these, from June 1943, gives the names of all the Canadians who went missing on Operation Chastise (including John Fraser, who was later discovered to have baled out and been sent to a PoW camp). The second, from December, gives the list of those confirmed dead.
Post edited, November 2010. The correct number for the aircraft AJ-A piloted by Sqn Ldr HM Young on the Dams Raid was ED887/G.

The Dams Raid: contemporary report in The Times

It may well vanish behind a paywall again shortly, but at the moment you can read The Times’s contemporary accounts of the Dams Raid. The page available is from 19 May 1943, two days after the raid. The previous day’s papers had carried the first reports, but the story was to dominate the news agenda for several more days to come – fed by the Air Ministry’s public relations officers, who had become highly skilled at releasing information in several stages.

New German film shows Eder Dam after raid

Thomas Schindler, a correspondent from a German TV station, has sent me this link to the recent broadcast of some hitherto unseen film of the aftermath of the destruction of the Eder Dam on 17 May 1943. During the war, secret filming by German citizens was forbidden, with the threat of the death penalty for anyone caught. However a soldier naval officer on leave shot this film, and it has recently been given to the TV station.
My German isn’t up to much, so if anyone can translate what the interviewees say and the voiceover material  I’d be very grateful. Please leave a comment below or send me an email.

UPDATE: Dave, a poster on the Lancaster-Archive Forum, has kindly provided the gist of a translation:

Hermann Hauschild was a naval officer from Bergheim home on leave when he secretly filmed the aftermath of the attack on the Eder dam on May 17th 1943. Secretly, because if caught, the death penalty would apply. He specified that the film may only be made public after his death. The ruins shown are of Affolden, where both the church and the school were destroyed and 10 people died.The RAF asked for a copy after the war, but otherwise the film was almost forgotten. Karl Schaefer was asked to repair the camera and was given the film as payment. The camera still works well after 80 years, and the film is regarded by the family as an heirloom. Hermann Hauschild died twenty years ago.

Time Magazine: report on Dams Raid from May 1943

An interesting report from May 1943 on the Dams Raid from Time Magazine’s online archive. It contains a number of inaccuracies, due to the restrictions imposed by the censor, but nevertheless has a certain breathy contemporaneity:

It was a matter of seconds now. The bomb bay doors were open; the flak had begun, pin points of yellow blossoming slowly upward, then sliding by with a rush into the sky above. Now the planes were roaring 50 feet above the water; now the target was dead ahead. Now the bombardiers pushed their buttons, and now the big, dark mines, each weighing 1,500 pounds, tumbled from the planes. Some landed with a splash in the water; some hit the dams fair & square. When the roar of their explosions had subsided, the sustained, deeper roar of pent-up waters, suddenly released, struck terror into the hearts of those below.

It was a matter of seconds now. The bomb bay doors were open; the flak had begun, pin points of yellow blossoming slowly upward, then sliding by with a rush into the sky above. Now the planes were roaring 50 feet above the water; now the target was dead ahead. Now the bombardiers pushed their buttons, and now the big, dark mines, each weighing 1,500 pounds, tumbled from the planes. Some landed with a splash in the water; some hit the dams fair & square. When the roar of their explosions had subsided, the sustained, deeper roar of pent-up waters, suddenly released, struck terror into the hearts of those below.

Hat tip to poster Brndirt at World War 2 Talk