Remembrance Day in Sardinia: commemorating Bob Hay

flr-lt-r-c-hay-dfc-wg-cdr-baz-pottsWg Cdr Baz Potts places a poppy on the grave of Flt Lt Bob Hay. [Pic: Sgt Jamie Johnson, RAF]

Not all the Dams Raid aircrew who died during the war are buried in the large war cemeteries in Germany. One who lies on his own is Flt Lt Bob Hay DFC and Bar, the bomb aimer in Mick Martin’s crew in AJ-P. He is buried in Cagliari in Sardinia, which is where Martin landed his damaged aircraft after an operation targetting the Antheor viaduct in southern France in February 1944. Hay had been killed when a cannon shell exploded in the bomb aimer’s compartment during the attack. His body was removed, and he was buried on the island the next day.
This year, Remembrance Day coincided with a NATO exercise in Sardinia, and a contingent of Commonwealth troops held their ceremony in the war cemetery in Cagliari.

dsc_5456Wreaths were laid at the central war memorial, and individual tributes were made to a number of men who are buried in the cemetery, and a poppy placed on their graves. Amongst these was Bob Hay, 617 Squadron’s Bombing Leader, who received a Bar to the DFC for his work on the Dams Raid.
Thanks to Captain Ray Leggatt RAN and Sqn Ldr Paddy Currie RAF for sending this information. Pictures by Sgt Jamie Johnson RAF.

Dams Raid crews remembered at Reichswald

Reichswald graves 2016Pics: Mitch Buiting

Twenty-seven of the 53 Allied aircrew who died on the Dams Raid on 16/17 May 1943 are buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. They came from the four crews captained by Henry Maudslay, Bill Astell, Norman Barlow and Warner Ottley.
Last weekend, local photographer Mitch Buiting took new pictures of all their graves in a special tribute for the 73rd anniversary of the operation. They are shown in a composite picture above, and can be seen individually on his Wargraves Photographers Facebook page.
Mitch Buiting is one of the many photographers who do great work for the project. You can find out more about this here.

Les Knight’s mother at his grave – new picture

A Dutch correspondent, Hans Dekker, who lives in Den Ham, has kindly sent me some exciting rare photographs concerning Flt Lt Les Knight, the pilot of AJ-N on the Dams Raid, who was killed in a later operation on 16 September 1943.
I have told the story of his final flight before, notably in a 2010 obituary of Ray Grayston, his flight engineer, but it bears repeating.
Four months after the Dams Raid eight crews from 617 Squadron were sent out with another new weapon, a 12,000lb ‘thin case’ bomb, to attack the Dortmund Ems canal. It was a terrible night, and heavy fog blanketed the target. Four crews had been shot down when Knight, flying at about 100ft in fog hit some trees, and badly damaged both his port engines.
His tailplane and starboard engine were also damaged, and Knight was left with no option but to jettison his bomb and get his crew to bale out. He held the aircraft steady while they left and when the last man, Grayston, had gone he must have tried to bale out himself. However as soon as he took pressure off the control stick and rudder the aircraft flicked on its back and plunged to the ground. Knight did not get to the hatch in time.
All seven of the rest of the crew (they were carrying three gunners) landed safely. Five evaded capture, while two became PoWs. There is no doubt that they all owed their lives to their young pilot, something that they never forgot.
Knight’s crash occurred just outside the village of Den Ham, and he is buried in the village’s general cemetery.
The grave was first marked with a simple wooden cross, which was replaced after the war with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission gravestone.

His mother, Mrs Nellie Knight, visited the grave in about 1954.

Some other members of the Knight family may be in this picture. I would welcome any further information.

Other members of his crew have visited Les’s grave on a number of occasions. Here is Bob Kellow, the wireless operator, probably taken in the 1980s.

Finally, here is the full crew, pictured at Scampton in July 1943, as one of the series of publicity photographs taken by official RAF photographers of members of 617 Squadron.

IWM CH11049

Left to right: Harold Hobday (navigator), Edward Johnson (bomb aimer), Fred Sutherland (front gunner), Les Knight (pilot), Bob Kellow (wireless operator),  Ray Grayston (flight engineer), Harry O’Brien (rear gunner).

Lancaster flyover, Wickhambreaux, Kent, Saturday 10 September

This year, the annual commemoration of Dambuster David Maltby and his crew, which takes place in Wickhambreaux, Kent, has an extra ingredient – a flypast by the UK’s only flying Avro Lancaster.

The event takes place on Saturday 10 September, a few days before the 68th anniversary of the crew’s final flight, on an aborted raid on the Dortmund Ems canal on 14 September 1943. A small exhibition describing the lives of all the crew members will be opened in the Village Hall at 11.30am. This will be followed by an act of commemoration at David Maltby’s graveside, in the churchyard, starting at 12.15pm. The flyover will take place at 12.40pm, weather permitting.

Members of the families of David Maltby, William Hatton and Victor Hill will all be present, and anyone interested is welcome to attend.

Hatton, Hill and Maltby Dambuster families paying respects

Members of three Dambuster families came together earlier this week to mark the anniversary of the deaths of their relatives. Pictured above are (far left) William Castle, nephew of Sgt William Hatton, (third from left) Rene Hopkins (sister of Sgt William Hatton) and (second from right) Valerie Ashton (daughter of Flt Sgt Victor Hill). They are gathered at the graveside of Sqn Ldr David Maltby, in St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent for the annual commemoration of the deaths of this Dams Raid crew after an aborted raid on the Dortmund Ems Canal in the early hours of 15 September 1943. David Maltby’s body was the only one recovered after their aircraft went down – those of the rest of the crew were never found, and they are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. The accident may have been caused by a collision with a Mosquito of 139 Squadron returning from a completely separate raid on Berlin, but this has never been proved.
The commemoration was organised by the East Kent branch of the RAF Aircrew Association, whose chairman, John Addley, is on the far right.

Annual commemoration, Wickhambreaux, Kent, 14 September 2010

All are welcome to join members of the East Kent RAF Aircrew Association and the Maltby family at David Maltby’s grave in St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent, at 11.30am on Tuesday 14 September 2010. This annual event, commemorating the lives of all of David’s crew, takes place on the anniversary of their last operational flight. This year, we hope to be joined for the first time by members of the families of Sgt William Hatton and Flt Sgt Victor Hill, members of David’s crew, whose bodies were never recovered after their aircraft crashed into the North Sea.

Dambuster memorabilia of Flt Sgt ‘Jimmy’ Green

Pic: Dominic Howard

Flt Sgt Gilbert John (“Jimmy”) Green was the bomb aimer in Cyril Anderson’s crew aboard AJ-Y on the Dams Raid. See here for more about what happened to this crew after the raid.
A relative of Green’s has recently been given some memorabilia concerning him and has written about it on the WW2Talk Forum.
Cyril Anderson’s nephew, Dom Howard, has done a great job over the last few years researching the careers of the Anderson crew, and visiting their graves in Germany. He has posted more details and some pics on the thread on WW2Talk.

67 years on

This year, 2010, 16 May will fall on a Sunday. On another Sunday 16 May, in 1943, 133 aircrew in 19 Lancaster aircraft took off from RAF Scampton on what would prove to be the RAF’s most famous bombing operation of the Second World War, the attack on the dams of the Ruhr. Two of the targets were breached and many millions of gallons of water were discharged, causing mayhem in the area and disrupting the German war machine for many months.
However, the cost in lives was very high. On the ground, 1,341 people died – troops defending the dams, civilians living nearby, prisoners working in forced labour camps. Of the aircraft that took part, eight did not return and 53 of their crews died. The other three were captured.
On this 67th anniversary of the raid, we show pictures of the gravestones of six of the pilots and links to pictures of their crews.
Thanks to Lyndon Harper for the use of his pictures.
Flt Lt Bill Astell, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Flt Lt Norm Barlow, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Plt Off Lewis Burpee, buried Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery
Flt Lt John Hopgood, buried Rheinberg War Cemetery
Sqn Ldr Henry Maudslay, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Plt Off Warner Ottley, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
The other members of these crews can be seen in a post on the WW2Talk Forum, as below:
I do not, at present, have access to any pictures of the graves of Sqn Ldr Melvin Young and his crew, who are all buried together in Bergen General Cemetery in Holland. Anyone who can help me with pictures is asked to contact me.
Plt Off Vernon Byers’s aircraft was shot down in the Waddenzee area off the coast of Holland. Of this crew, the only body recovered was that of the rear gunner, Sgt James McDowell, and he is buried in Harlingen General Cemetery in Holland. I would also welcome any pictures of his grave.