Dambuster of the Day No. 54: Donald Hopkinson


[Pic: Hopkinson family]

Flg Off D Hopkinson
Bomb aimer

Lancaster serial number: ED864/G

Call sign: AJ-B

First wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Donald Hopkinson was born on 19 September 1920, in Royton, near Oldham in Lancashire. His mother died when he was quite young, so he was raised by her brother’s family. He was educated at Chadderton Grammar School, where he excelled at cricket, and worked as a clerk before volunteering for the RAF in early 1941. After initial training in England he was selected for training as an air observer and sent to Canada. He qualified as a bomb aimer in May 1942, and was commissioned.
Hopkinson was posted to an Operational Training Unit in the summer of 1942, and crewed up with Floyd Wile, Albert Garshowitz and Richard Bolitho, with Max Stephenson as their pilot. In October 1942, all five were sent for heavy bomber training to RAF Wigsley and Frank Garbas and John Kinnear were added to the crew.
The crew was posted on operational duties to 9 Squadron two days before Christmas. However, tragedy struck early in the Ney Year when Max Stephenson was killed on an operation to Duisberg flying as second pilot/flight engineer. The remaining six were sent on to 57 Squadron at RAF Scampton, and were allocated to pilot Bill Astell. They flew on a number of operations together in February and March before being posted into 617 Squadron.
On his last home leave, Hopkinson mentioned to his family that he had a bad premonition about the forthcoming operation. Unfortunately he was correct, and from his position in the nose of AJ-B he must have suddenly seen the HT cables and pylons in its path, realising perhaps that they could not avoid them.
Donald Hopkinson is buried with his comrades in Reichwald Forest Cemetery, having been reinterred there after the war.

More about Hopkinson online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry
Aircrew Remembered web page about Astell crew

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Robert Owen, Steve Darlow, Sean Feast & Arthur Thorning, Dam Busters: Failed to Return, Fighting High, 2013
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002