Record number of Canadian Dambuster families gathered in Alberta

Dambuster families gather in Nanton, Alberta. Back row, left to right:  Larry Heather (Earnshaw family), Dianne Young (Fraser family), Peter Brosinsky (Earnshaw family),  Charlene Brosinsky (Earnshaw family), Shere Fraser (Fraser family), Kerry O’Brien-Larsen (O’Brien family), Jim Heather (Earnshaw family), Doris Fraser (Fraser family), Tamara Sutherland (Sutherland Family), Hartley Garshowitz (Garshowitz family), Joan Norris, Tom and Cathy Sutherland (Sutherland family), Marilyn McDowell (McDowell family), Bryce Ramlo, Erin Ramlo and Karen Ramlo (McDonald family)
Front row, left to right: crouching/sitting:  Joe McCarthy (McCarthy family), Emily, Kathy and Rob Taerum (Taerum family), Ted Barris, author. [Pic: Hartley Garshowitz]

A record number of Canadian Dambuster families gathered at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta last weekend. They came from all parts of Canada and Washington State, USA, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Dams Raid in which their relatives took part. Many of them died on the raid.

Most later gathered under the wing of the museum’s Lancaster aircraft, which has been specially reconfigured and painted in 617 Squadron’s colours as a further tribute. Not all the families are present in the photograph above, so for completeness they are listed below.

Charles Brennan, flight engineer in AJ-M. Granddaughter, Andrea Davids from Calgary, and her son Mark.


Harlo Taerum, navigator in AJ-G. Nephew, Rob Taerum, Rob’s wife Kathy, and their daughter Emily Taerum from Calgary.


Lewis Burpee, pilot of AJ-S. Son, Lewis Burpee from Ottawa.



Don MacLean, navigator in AJ-T. Son, Jim MacLean from Toronto.



Ken Earnshaw, navigator in AJ-M. Nephews and nieces, Jim Heather of Vulcan, Alberta; Margaret Danielson from Edmonton with her daughter Clarissa Danielson Hall and son-in-law Scott Hall; Larry Heather from Calgary; Charlene Brosinsky and Peter Brosinsky from Bashaw, Alberta.

Abram Garshowitz, wireless operator in AJ-B. Nephew, Hartley Garshowitz from Hamilton, Ontario.


Floyd Wile, navigator in AJ-B. Nephew, Don Lightbody and his wife Carolee Lightbody from Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Percy Pigeon, wireless operator in AJ-W. Son Greg and Greg’s wife Louise from Williams Lake, British Columbia.


Grant McDonald, rear gunner in AJ-F. Nephew, Bryce Ramlo, his wife Karen and their daughter Erin Ramlo from Mayne Island and Vancouver, British Columbia.


John Fraser, bomb aimer in AJ-M. Widow, Doris Fraser from Langley, BC, daughter Shere Fraser from Blaine, Washington, and niece Dianne Young from Calgary.


James McDowell, rear gunner in AJ-K. Daughter, Marilyn McDowell from Burlington, Ontario.


Revie Walker, navigator in AJ-L. Son, John Walker, John’s wife Amy and their daughter Kenzie from Calgary.


Gordon Brady, rear gunner in AJ-S. Niece, Sheila Robbins and her husband Graham from Beaumont, Alberta.


Joe McCarthy, pilot of AJ-T. Son, Joe McCarthy jr. from Blaine, Washington.



Harry O’Brien, rear-gunner in AJ-N. Daughter, Kerry O’Brien-Larsen from St. Albert, Alberta.


Fred Sutherland, front gunner in AJ-N. Son, Tom Sutherland, his wife Cathy, from Fort McMurray, Alberta, and their daughter Tamara Sutherland from Edmonton, Alberta; daughter, Joan Norris and her husband Hugh of Calgary. Fred Sutherland still lives in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, but chose not to attend this event himself.

Dambuster of the Day No. 52: Floyd Wile

Garshowitz group small

Floyd Wile and colleagues at 19 OTU, RAF Kinloss, September 1942. Four aircrew in this picture would later take part in the Dams Raid. Back row, L-R, Floyd Wile (navigator), Max Stephenson (pilot), Don Hopkinson (bomb aimer). Front row, L-R, Albert Garshowitz (wireless operator), Richard Bolitho (air gunner). From Albert Garshowitz’s photograph album. Pic: Garshowitz family. 

Plt Off F A Wile

Lancaster serial number: ED864/G

Call sign: AJ-B

First wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Floyd Alvin Wile was born on 17 April 1919 in Scotch Village, Nova Scotia, Canada. His parents Harris and Annabell Wile had seven children, five of whom survived into adulthood. Wile went to local schools in Scotch Village and then worked in the timber trade. He enlisted in the RCAF in May 1941 and was selected for training as a navigator. He qualified as an Air Observer in February 1942. After further training he was posted to Britain, and arrived in May 1942.

He was sent to a further training unit at RAF Kinloss and crewed up with pilot Max Stephenson, wireless operator Albert Garshowitz, bomb aimer Don Hopkinson and gunner Richard Bolitho, flying Whitleys. The picture above was taken sometime in September 1942, during this period. The crew were then posted for further training on heavy bombers and Frank Garbas and John Kinnear were added to the crew.

When they were ready for operational flying, the whole crew were posted to 9 Squadron and Wile received a commission. However, before they could fly together Max Stephenson was sent to gain operational experience on a trip to Duisberg, flying as flight engineer. Unfortunately his aircraft was shot down, and he was killed.

Without a pilot, the crew was then shipped to 57 Squadron, and allocated to Bill Astell and flew their first operation to Lorient on 13 February 1943. After several more operations, they were posted together to the new 617 Squadron.

Sadly, Wile and his colleagues were all to die on 617 Squadron’s first operation, when their Lancaster was damaged by flak and collided with a pylon near Marbeck. They were buried first in Borken, and reinterred after the war in the Reichswald Forest Military Cemetery.

Thanks to Floyd Wile’s nephew, Don Lightbody, for help with this article.

More about Wile online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry

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

Further information about Mick Martin and the other 132 men who flew on the Dams Raid can be found in my book The Complete Dambusters, published by History Press in 2018.