Doubts over Dams Raid bomb release switch

Four items which claim to be related to the Dams Raid are coming up for auction this Saturday (1 July) by the Northamptonshire firm of J P Humbert. Two lots are being sold by the same collector who sold the wooden bomb sight used on the Dams Raid in January 2015. He had acquired the bomb sight from Hydneye House school when it closed in the late 1960s. The school had previously been owned and run by my grandfather Ettrick Maltby, father of Flt Lt David Maltby, pilot of AJ-J on the Dams Raid. Afterwards, David had given the bomb sight to his father.

When Ettrick Maltby retired in 1955, he handed over the bomb sight and two items of navigational equipment to the new headmaster, Gerald Brodribb. Brodribb kept the letter, seen below, and it was used at the 2015 auction to establish the provenance of the bomb sight and navigational equipment.

However, it now seems that the same collector has come across another artifact, a bomb release switch (see below), and is also putting this up for auction. However, there is no mention of this item in Ettrick Maltby’s letter and nor was it one of the substantial number of items shown to George “Johnny” Johnson when the collector met him in 2008 and asked him to authenticate them.

A standard Lancaster bomb release switch is shown here in a well-known wartime publicity photograph. It is claimed that the item for sale is a non-standard one which was removed from aircraft ED906, code letters AJ-J, after the Dams Raid and then given to Ettrick Maltby before David’s death in September 1943. However, in the summer of 1943, ED906 was still being used by 617 Squadron for test drops of the Upkeep weapon and therefore its bomb release switch should still have been in place.

IWM CH12283

I have only been able to examine the single photograph of the item being sold shown above, and would counsel any prospective purchaser to look at the original item, rather than a photograph. From the photograph, it would seem that it has different wiring from the standard release switch. A wire comes out on each side of the casing before being twisted together below. The standard bomb release has all its cabling gathered together in a single thicker cable which would have given it more protection when in use.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence that the release switch on the Dams Raid aircraft was changed from the standard model. Indeed there would be no need for it to have been, although the fuzing mechanism was modified. Release of the Upkeep weapon was activated by a standard electro-mechanical bomb slip in the bomb bay roof and all that was required was to arrange the wiring circuit from this to the release switch, so that it was direct, by-passing the usual bomb selector panel options, which normally enabled the bomb aimer to select bomb stations in order to programme the sequence of release. Regardless of the circuit it could still have been activated by the standard release switch.

All RAF stores and equipment carried an “AM” [Air Ministry] stamp. The fact that this is apparently stamped in this fashion merely adds credence to the fact the item is a piece of Air Ministry equipment.

As is usual in auctions, everything is always sold “as seen” and with numerous caveats. However, if this item is a genuine modified Lancaster bomb release, then my advice to prospective purchasers would be to seek further provenance before the sale.

Three further lots are also being sold on Saturday. One is a group of four marbles which purport to be amongst those used by Barnes Wallis in his “bouncing bomb” tests. Again, these are not mentioned in the letter from Ettrick Maltby and there is no documentary evidence to connect them to the Wallis family.

The other two items come from a different vendor, a fitter who worked on the scrapping of Guy Gibson’s aircraft ED932 (AJ-G) in 1947, and appear to have been in his possession since. If the letter authorising their removal, which I have not seen, is genuine there is no reason to doubt their veracity.

Hopgood medals auction to aid dam build

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The family of Dams Raid pilot John Hopgood has decided to sell his medals and some other memorabilia to help Water Aid, a charity building a dam in Uganda which will bring clean drinking water to 100,000 people. This very generous gesture is in honour of a young pilot who was, according to his family, an idealistic and deep-thinking man with a big conscience.
Hopgood was only 21, but had completed 47 operations by the time of the Dams Raid. He had become a close friend of Guy Gibson during his time under Gibson’s command in 106 Squadron and Gibson asked him personally to join him in 617 Squadron. By this time Hopgood had already been awarded a Bar to his first DFC, and it is this rare medal (seen above) which is the prize lot in the auction.
There are also a number of other fascinating objects which on their own would have been the star items in many a lesser sale. These include an original telegram from “Wingco and the boys” dated 28 October 1942, the time of his first DFC (see below); an original Buckingham Palace Investiture Ticket; an original letter of condolence from Guy Gibson and a programme for the repeat Royal Premiere of the 1955 “Dam Busters” film.

Auction 77.qxp
The auctioneers are estimating that the collection will reach £30,000–£40,000. My prediction is that it will go for a lot more than this, and we can only hope that whoever purchases such important material makes it available to the public.
The auction is being conducted in London on 15 December 2015 by Morton and Eden. The full catalogue is here. Scroll to page 95 to see the Hopgood collection.

[Hat tip: Dave Bradley]

Best for both sides as Les Munro accepts medals offer

Les_Munro_at_Bomber_Command_Memorial_(med)_big

The generous offer by Les Munro to sell his medals and memorabilia to raise funds for the Bomber Command Memorial in London has now been matched by another from the British peer and collector Lord Ashcroft, which means that the collection will stay in New Zealand.
Lord Ashcroft has offered to pay £75,000 for the collection and the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland is donating a further NZ$20,000. The collection will be displayed in the Museum.
This seems to be the best result possible. The medals and memorabilia (which include a signed menu from the post raid dinner at the Hungaria Restaurant) will now stay in New Zealand as a permanent reminder of the proud role played by the country’s aircrew in Bomber Command. And the fund to maintain the memorial gets a substantial financial boost.
Les Munro (and his family) should be congratulated for their generosity in making the collection available for posterity. Incidentally, the listing for the sale contains a very long article about Les, which can be downloaded as a PDF and is well worth reading.
Lord Ashcroft is well known for his philanthropy and his interest in military history. He is a trustee of the Imperial War Museum in London, which houses his collection of Victoria and George Crosses.

Dambuster bomb sight sells for £41,000, and is going to ‘good home’

Auction screenshot

The wooden bomb sight used by Plt Off John Fort on the Dams Raid sold yesterday at auction for a staggering £33,500 hammer price (more than £41,000 with commission and taxes added). The bidding opened at £20,000 and it quickly became apparent that the only serious contenders were two people in the room who had very deep pockets.
The buyer is at present anonymous, but we have been assured by the auctioneer that the bomb sight, and the other artifacts sold to the same purchaser, have gone to a ‘good home’. We hope to bring you more details in due course.
The bomb sight and a navigator’s parallelogram and desklight were given to my grandfather, Ettrick Maltby, by his son David, the pilot of AJ-J on the Dams Raid. Following David’s death, they were placed in a display cabinet at Hydneye House School, the prep school in Hastings owned and run by the Maltby family. When the Maltbys retired they decided that they wanted them left at the school so that future generations of boys could see them.
Unfortunately the school was forced to close in the early 1970s following a Compulsory Purchase Order when the area became scheduled for redevelopment. By then Ettrick Maltby had died, and nobody from the family thought to retrieve the items from the school. So the Headmaster gave the items to an old boy of the school for his budding aerospace collection.

bomb sight

The bombsight is the only surviving example of those which were made for the Dams Raid. Not all the bomb aimers used the sight, which was devised by Wg Cdr C L Dann, supervisor of aeronautics at the Royal Aeronautics Establishment at Boscombe Down. Many used their own makeshift systems for working out the release points, with pieces of string and chinagraph marks on the perspex blister, but now it seems certain that John Fort preferred this sight.
It is not clear what all the numbers stamped on the handle refer to, although the figure 29.5 would seem to be the angle in degrees between the two arms. Although the two arms are adjustable by means of a wingnut, each arm is locked in position with a small panel pin which can be seen just to the left of the wingnut.
The metal plate was obviously added later when the sight went on display. The varnish was probably also applied at this time.

Dambuster pictures from the Bomber County

Deep in the heart of Lincolnshire lives Anna Haworth, photographer extraordinaire. She has a particular fascination with all things aeronautical, and most especially the Dambusters. There are loads of pictures on her Flickr page, which you can see here. And here is the link to her Dambusters collection, which contains stunning shots from trips over the Derwent dam, atmospheric pictures from the Petwood Hotel, the collections at Metheringham, East Kirkby, Scampton and Coningsby, to name just a few. Plus some other oddities that she has come across, such as the decorated scooter shown above.

If you’ve got a few bob to spare…

… you could do worse than investing in these goodies.

Being sold next week at Canterbury Auctions is this first edition of Paul Brickhill’s  magnum opus, signed by its late owner Flg Off Brian Goodale, wireless operator in David Shannon’s AJ-L on the Dams Raid, and various other luminaries. Guide price £500-£700.

Rather more expensive are three documents featuring the signature of Guy Gibson. They are on sale at Paul Fraser Collectibles for no less than £22,000. I have to say this seems an enormous price for a photograph, a page from an autograph album and an application form for a Skegness ‘entertainment’ club. In these straitened times, will anybody pay this amount? As the sale will be private, we shall probably never know.

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.