Daniel Allatson, centre, at a family wedding in 1941, with, left, his cousin Bridget Fowler, née Childs and, right, Irene [surname unknown]. [Pic: Fowler family]
Sgt D Allatson
Lancaster serial number: ED918/G
Call sign: AJ-F
Third wave. Second aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully, but failed to breach dam.
Daniel Allatson was born on 7 November 1923 in Eastwood, Essex. His birth name was Daniel Louis Alberts, and his parents were Frederick and Maude Alberts. He was adopted almost immediately after birth by Samuel and Dorothy Allatson who lived nearby in Southend. Samuel Eli Allatson transferred from the Royal Navy to serve in the newly formed RFC during the First World War. He held the rank of Serjeant-Mechanic, and was awarded both the DFM and the French Medaille Militaire.
Perhaps inspired by his father’s service, Daniel Allatson joined the RAF shortly after the start of the war. His brother also joined the RAF. Daniel Allatson qualified as an air gunner, and was eventually posted to 57 Squadron at RAF Scampton as part of the crew piloted by Sgt Bill Divall. This crew flew on a number of operations together in February 1943.
At the end of March, five crews were posted from 57 Squadron – its entire C Flight, which was made up of those skippered by Melvin Young, Bill Astell, Geoff Rice, Flt Sgt Ray Lovell and Flt Sgt W Lancaster. However, Lovell’s crew “did not come up to the standard necessary” for the new squadron and on 9 April they returned to 57 Squadron. In their place came Bill Divall and his crew, joining 617 Squadron the following day. As they were already based at Scampton the transfer was of course relatively easy.
Despite completing the training successfully, shortly before the raid Divall himself suffered a knee injury, so his crew were resigned to not participating. But then Ken Brown’s front gunner, Don Buntaine, also reported sick, so Allatson was quickly drafted in as his replacement. Allatson’s name appears on the “Night Flying Programme” which was typed on the morning of Sunday 16 May 1943, the day of the raid, so the substitution must have been made by then.
Allatson acquitted himself well in what was undoubtedly the most intense operation he had yet undertaken. He then returned to the Divall crew, and took part in the operations undertaken by 617 Squadron in the summer of 1943. These involved attacks on various Italian targets, flying on to Blida in Algeria for refuelling and rearming.
In September 1943, Divall and his crew were detailed for the attack on the Dortmund Ems Canal, using a new “thincase” 12,000lb bomb. The crew was augmented by an extra gunner brought in from another squadron, Sgt G S Miles. Allatson was stationed in the rear turret. The operation became the most catastrophic undertaken by 617 Squadron throughout the war, with five of the eight aircraft involved shot down or crashed. Weather conditions were very poor: heavy mist blanketed the canal making it impossible to see the culverted area which was the intended target. Divall’s aircraft dropped its bomb on another section of the canal, but then crashed almost immediately afterwards, with a further explosion. Allatson’s turret was blown clear of the aircraft, and his body was found in a field near a farmhouse, with a bruise on his forehead the only external sign of injury.
Daniel Allatson and his colleagues were buried by the Germans in the churchyard at Bramsche. Their bodies were exhumed after the war, and reinterred in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
Thanks to Mark Fowler and Susan Paxton for help with this article.
More about Allatson online:
Entry at Commonwealth Graves War Commission
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Alex Bateman, No 617 ‘Dambuster’ Sqn, Osprey, 2009
Chris Ward, Andy Lee and Andreas Wachtel, Dambusters: the Definitive History, Red Kite, 2003
The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.