The Dam Busters: an almost complete picture

BBC pictureboard

Greig Watson and his colleagues at BBC online have been slaving away for the last few weeks trying to get a complete pictureboard of all 133 aircrew who took part in the Dams Raid.
Believe it or not, a display of this type has never been published before, and they deserve huge credit just for taking on the work.
However there are a few gaps, and the Beeb is very keen to find a relative somewhere who can help find a picture of the missing aircrew. All of them are British, so there should be a good chance that together we can complete the jigsaw.
Here are the missing photos:
David Horsfall (Now found!)
John Marriott (Now found!)
Michael Fuller (Now found!)
John Kinnear (Now found!)
Alan Gillespie (Now found!)
Robert Marsden (Now found!)
Jack Barrett (Now found!)
Thomas Johnston (Now found!)
Harry Strange (Now found!)
Daniel Allatson (Now found!
Dennis Powell (Now found!)
Norman Burrows (Now found!)

If you are related to any of these men, or know of a source for a picture of them, please let me know (leave a comment below or send me a private email) , or log onto the BBC site and send them the details.

(I can claim a modest part in this work, having helped the BBC with some of the picture research.)

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The Dams Raid: complete list of all participants

Grantham 0003 fly order small

During the next nineteen weeks I will be publishing an article about each one of the 133 aircrew from 617 Squadron who took part in the Dams Raid (Operation Chastise) on 16/17 May 1943, at the rate of one a day. These will be titled ‘Dambuster of the Day’.
Above is shown the order for the operation as it appeared on squadron noticeboards on the morning of the raid. For security reasons it was merely titled ‘Night Flying Programme’. The typed programme was kept by Squadron Adjutant Flt Lt Harry Humphries, and is now in the possession of Grantham Museum.
Each article will include links to other material online about each man, and I hope that readers will add further links in the comments on each piece. In that way, the blog entries will serve as a tribute to all the people who took part, in this the 70th anniversary year.
A complete list of the 133 also appears below.
The names appear in the order of the three designated ‘waves’: the first tasked to attack the Möhne and Eder dams, the second to attack the Sorpe, and the third the mobile reserve. Each aircraft in the wave is then listed in the order it finally took off, which differs slightly from the list in the programme above.
As each article appears, the list below will be edited to provide a link to the relevant blog entry.

AJ-G
First wave: First aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine exploded short of the dam.
Wg Cdr G P Gibson DSO & Bar DFC & Bar Pilot
Sgt J Pulford Flight engineer
Plt Off H T Taerum Navigator
Flt Lt R E G Hutchison DFC Wireless operator
Plt Off F M Spafford DFM Bomb aimer
Flt Sgt G A Deering Front gunner
Flt Lt R D Trevor-Roper DFM Rear gunner

AJ-M
First wave: Second aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Aircraft hit by flak. Mine dropped late, bounced over dam. Aircraft crashed on far side of dam.
Flt Lt J V Hopgood DFC & Bar Pilot
Sgt C Brennan Flight engineer
Flg Off K Earnshaw Navigator
Sgt J W Minchin Wireless operator
Flt Sgt J W Fraser Bomb aimer
Plt Off G H F G Gregory DFM Front gunner
Plt Off A F Burcher DFM Rear gunner

AJ-P
First wave: Third aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine veered left after dropping and exploded at side of dam.
Flt Lt H B Martin DFC Pilot
Plt Off I Whittaker Flight engineer
Flt Lt J F Leggo DFC Navigator
Flg Off L Chambers Wireless operator
Flt Lt R C Hay DFC Bomb aimer
Plt Off B T Foxlee DFM Front gunner
Flt Sgt T D Simpson Rear gunner

AJ-A
First wave: Fourth aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine dropped accurately, causing small breach. Aircraft crashed on return flight.
Sqn Ldr H M Young DFC & Bar Pilot
Sgt D T Horsfall Flight engineer
Flt Sgt C W Roberts Navigator
Sgt L W Nichols Wireless operator
Flg Off V S MacCausland Bomb aimer
Sgt G A Yeo Front gunner
Sgt W Ibbotson Rear gunner

AJ-J
First wave: Fifth aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine dropped accurately, causing larger breach, followed by dam collapse.
Flt Lt D J H Maltby DFC Pilot
Sgt W Hatton Flight engineer
Sgt V Nicholson Navigator
Sgt A J B Stone Wireless operator
Plt Off J Fort Bomb aimer
Sgt V Hill Front gunner
Sgt H T Simmonds Rear gunner

AJ-L
First wave: First aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine dropped accurately but no breach caused.
Flt Lt D J Shannon DFC Pilot
Sgt R J Henderson Flight engineer
Flg Off D R Walker DFC Navigator
Flg Off B Goodale DFC Wireless operator
Flt Sgt L J Sumpter Bomb aimer
Sgt B Jagger Front gunner
Flg Off J Buckley Rear gunner

AJ-Z
First wave. Second aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine overshot. Aircraft damaged, and shot down on return flight.
Sqn Ldr H E Maudslay DFC Pilot
Sgt J Marriott DFM Flight engineer
Flg Off R A Urquhart DFC Navigator
WO A P Cottam Wireless operator
Plt Off M J D Fuller Bomb aimer
Flg Off W J Tytherleigh DFC Front gunner
Sgt N R Burrows Rear gunner

AJ-B
First wave. Crashed on outward flight.
Flt Lt W Astell DFC Pilot
Sgt J Kinnear Flight engineer
Plt Off F A Wile Navigator
WO A A Garshowitz Wireless operator
Flg Off D Hopkinson Bomb aimer
Flt Sgt F A Garbas Front gunner
Sgt R Bolitho Rear gunner

AJ-N
First wave. Third aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine dropped accurately causing breach.
Plt Off L G Knight Pilot
Sgt R E Grayston Flight engineer
Flg Off H S Hobday Navigator
Flt Sgt R G T Kellow Wireless operator
Flg Off E C Johnson Bomb aimer
Sgt F E Sutherland Front gunner
Sgt H E O’Brien Rear gunner

AJ-E
Second wave. Crashed on outward flight.
Flt Lt R N G Barlow DFC Pilot
Plt Off S L Whillis Flight engineer
Flg Off P S Burgess Navigator
Flg Off C R Williams DFC Wireless operator
Plt Off A Gillespie Bomb aimer
Flg Off H S Glinz Front gunner
Sgt J R G Liddell Rear gunner

AJ-W
Second wave. Aircraft badly damaged by flak on outward flight. Returned to base with mine intact.
Flt Lt J L Munro Pilot
Sgt F E Appleby Flight engineer
Flg Off F G Rumbles Navigator
WO P E Pigeon Wireless operator
Sgt J H Clay Bomb aimer
Sgt W Howarth Front gunner
Flt Sgt H A Weeks Rear gunner

AJ-K
Second wave. Crashed on outward flight.
Plt Off V W Byers Pilot
Sgt A J Taylor Flight engineer
Flg Off J H Warner Navigator
Sgt J Wilkinson Wireless operator
Plt Off A N Whittaker Bomb aimer
Sgt C McA Jarvie Front gunner
Flt Sgt J McDowell Rear gunner

AJ-H
Second wave. Aircraft badly damaged and mine lost, flying low over sea on outward flight. Returned to base.
Plt Off G Rice Pilot
Sgt E C Smith Flight engineer
Flg Off R MacFarlane Navigator
WO C B Gowrie Wireless operator
WO J W Thrasher Bomb aimer
Sgt T W Maynard Front gunner
Sgt S Burns Rear gunner

AJ-T
Second wave. First aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully but failed to breach dam.
Flt Lt J C McCarthy DFC Pilot
Sgt W G Radcliffe Flight engineer
Flt Sgt D A MacLean Navigator
Flt Sgt L Eaton Wireless operator
Sgt G L Johnson Bomb aimer
Sgt R Batson Front gunner
Flg Off D Rodger Rear gunner

AJ-C
Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.
Plt Off W H T Ottley DFC Pilot
Sgt R Marsden Flight engineer
Flg Off J K Barrett DFC Navigator
Sgt J Guterman DFM Wireless operator
Flt Sgt T B Johnston Bomb aimer
Sgt H J Strange Front gunner
Sgt F Tees Rear gunner

AJ-S
Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.
Plt Off L J Burpee DFM Pilot
Sgt G Pegler Flight engineer
Sgt T Jaye Navigator
Plt Off L G Weller Wireless operator
Flt Sgt J L Arthur Bomb aimer
Sgt W C A Long Front gunner
WO J G Brady Rear gunner

AJ-F
Third wave. Second aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully but failed to breach dam.
Flt Sgt K W Brown Pilot
Sgt H B Feneron Flight engineer
Sgt D P Heal Navigator
Sgt H J Hewstone Wireless operator
Sgt S Oancia Bomb aimer
Sgt D Allatson Front gunner
Flt Sgt G S McDonald Rear gunner

AJ-O
Third wave. Only aircraft to attack Ennepe Dam. Mine dropped successfully but failed to breach dam.
Flt W C Townsend DFM Pilot
Sgt D J D Powell Flight engineer
Plt Off C L Howard Navigator
Flt Sgt G A Chalmers Wireless operator
Sgt C E Franklin DFM Bomb aimer
Sgt D E Webb Front gunner
Sgt R Wilkinson Rear gunner

AJ-Y
Third wave. Did not reach Sorpe Dam because of navigation problems and weather conditions. Returned with mine intact.
Flt Sgt C T Anderson Pilot
Sgt R C Paterson Flight engineer
Sgt J P Nugent Navigator
Sgt W D Bickle Wireless operator
Sgt G J Green Bomb aimer
Sgt E Ewan Front gunner
Sgt A W Buck Rear gunner

All smiles at Avro

Sometime in late 1943 or early 1944, a number of 617 Squadron aircrew flew up to the Avro works near Manchester. A historic picture taken in the boardroom has recently come to light.

All of the 617 Squadron personnel were in Mick Martin and Joe McCarthy’s Dams Raid crews. They have been identified by Alex Bateman in a post on the RAF Commands forum. Only some of the Avro staff have been identified, including the fitter, Mr Hickson, whose son inherited the photograph. It looks as though the fitters involved were not given much notice as they all appear to be in their working clothes.

Left to right: John Fielding (Avro research manager), Tammy Simpson, Toby Foxlee, Don MacLean, Dave Rodger, Teddy Fielding (Avro production director), (unknown Avro worker), Bill Radcliffe, Joe McCarthy, Mr Hickson (Avro fitter), Ivan Whittaker, (unknown Avro worker), (unknown Avro worker), Mick Martin and (unknown Avro worker). The two Fieldings at Avro were unrelated.

Please get in touch if you can identify any of the unknown Avro personnel.

Photo credit: Ken Hickson via Peter Cunliffe, author A Shaky Do – The Skoda works raid 16/17th April 1943

The race to smash the German dams

James Holland’s film, shown on BBC2 last Tuesday night, is available for UK viewers to watch again on iPlayer until Saturday 19 November. Follow this link.

So far, I can’t find any reviews posted online, but I have come across an interesting preview article in the New Statesman in which Guy Walters argues that Holland completely counters the “revisionist” view that the Dams Raid actually achieved very little. According to Walters:

The raid was in fact a triumph, and did an enormous amount of damage. After studying the German archives, Holland shows that: “…not only were two major dams completely destroyed, so too were seven railway bridges, eighteen road bridges, four water turbine power stations and three steam turbine power stations, while in the Ruhr Valley alone, eleven factories were completely destroyed and a further 114 damaged, many severely. Vast tracts of land had also been devastated by the tidal waves that had thundered up to eighty miles from the dams.”
Such damage can hardly be considered “little of substance”.
Furthermore, Holland completely skewers the argument that as the dams were quickly rebuilt, the damage was therefore not that great. The whole point of their swift reconstruction “underlines just how important they were to Germany”, and the men and material required had to be diverted from elsewhere.
Holland also argues that the destruction of the dams struck a huge psychological blow against the Germans, as these were structures that were venerated as triumphs of the country’s might and technical knowhow. In short, the raid was indeed a catastrophe for Nazi Germany, and a triumph for the British.
Holland’s analysis will no doubt draw its detractors, perhaps inspired by a politically fashionable thinking that seeks to denigrate just about every British success during the Second World War. Of course, there was much that we got wrong, but we also got many things spectacularly right.

In my view, Holland’s programme was a well researched and presented documentary. There were interviews with three of the four surviving Dambusters – Les Munro, Grant McDonald and George “Johnny” Johnson – and a good use of far flung written source material, such as Charlie Williams’ letters, which are in archives in Queensland, Australia.

Perhaps the point that came across most strongly was the airmanship involved. Flying a 30 ton aircraft a thousand miles through hostile territory just 100 feet above the ground required enormous concentration, exceptional skill and tremendous luck. When you consider the odds it is no real surprise that eight of the 19 aircraft failed to return. And no surprise, either, that this tactic was only used sparingly in the rest of the war.

With so much already written and broadcast about the Dams Raid it is not surprising that little new information emerged. But that shouldn’t detract from what was a thorough film, mercifully lacking most of the frills and tricks which many documentary directors nowadays feel it necessary to add. Catch it again on iPlayer while it is still available!

Dambuster mothers in 1955

I mentioned in an earlier post the Pathé newsreel shot at the premiere of The Dam Busters in 1955. Four middle-aged women are shown being presented to Princess Margaret, and are identified only as the mothers of four aircrew who died on the Dams Raid. I’ve now done a screengrab of each of these, in the hope that someone out there may be able to identify a grandmother or great aunt.

Please get in touch if you recognise any of these.

Great turnout for Kent Dambuster salute

Crowds at the graveside of Sqn Ldr David Maltby. Photo: Ady Kerry

The country’s only flying Lancaster couldn’t make an appearance, but a couple of hundred people were not deterred, and made Saturday’s tribute to the crew of Dams Raid Lancaster AJ-J in Wickhambreaux, Kent, a very special occasion.

The village churchyard contains the grave of pilot David Maltby, whose body was the only one recovered from the North Sea when the aircraft he was flying crashed on 15 September 1943. Every year, local people gather to commemorate David and the rest of his crew, who have no known grave. This year, we were privileged to be joined by representatives of the families of three of other crew members, John Fort (bomb aimer), William Hatton (flight engineer) and Victor Hill (front gunner).

As well as the graveside tribute, a small exhibition took place in the Village Hall, which was opened by the Sheriff of Canterbury, Cllr Hazel McCabe.

Obviously, people were disappointed that the Lancaster was prevented from flying by high winds (foreshadowing Monday’s gales in the wake of Hurricane Katia) but that did not prevent a very impressive turnout, and a poignant and moving service, led by the Vicar, the Revd Chris Wilkinson.

Many thanks to all who came, and to Revd Chris Wilkinson, the Wickhambreaux Parish Council, the Village Hall Committee, the Sheriff of Canterbury and the Rose Inn for their help.

Peter Fort, great nephew of Flg Off John Fort, his two daughters, and Rene Hopkins, sister of Sgt William Hatton.

Valerie Ashton, daughter of Flt Sgt Victor Hill.

George Foster, nephew of Sqn Ldr David Maltby. Photo: Ady Kerry

The Vicar of Littlebourne, Revd Chris Wilkinson, conducting the graveside tribute. Photo: Ady Kerry

Charles Foster, nephew of Sqn Ldr David Maltby. Photo: Ady Kerry

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, www.lancasterbombers.com