The boys who bombed Berlin: Shannon and Burpee together in Express

express-spread-lores

Pic: Chamberlain family

I wrote last year about the selection of David Shannon’s Dams Raid crew, and how four men who had previously flown with him in 106 Squadron were transferred to 617 Squadron at the end of March 1943. These were flight engineer Cyril Chamberlain (known as Joe to his friends and family), wireless operator Arnold Pemberton, and air gunners Douglas McCulloch and Bernard Holmes. In the event, none of them ended up in Shannon’s crew and by the end of April 1943, they had been assigned to other duties.
Cyril Chamberlain’s family have now contacted me and sent me pages from his logbook and some other interesting material. Included was the press cutting seen above, from the Daily Express of 19 January 1943. Bomber Command had mounted two raids against Berlin on 16 Januaryand again on 17 January – the first two attacks on the German capital for 14 months. Part of the force on both nights had come from 106 Squadron, and two of its crews were singled out for mention in the press. By coincidence, both pilots and some of their crews would take part in the Dams Raid four months later.
David Shannon was one of the 12 106 Squadron pilots who captained crews on the first trip, on 16 January, and his crew was later photographed. The press cutting shwn above was annotated by Chamberlain some time after the war. On the left hand side of the cutting you can see the men he identified: bomb aimer Wallace Herbert, flight engineer Joe Chamberlain, wireless operator Arnold Pemberton, skipper David Shannon, mid upper gunner Mac Maccoulh [sic – should be McCulloch], rear gunner Dave Lilley, navigator Dave Whalley [sic – should be Frank Whalley].
I have not seen this picture before, so it is helpful to have so many of Shannon’s then crew identified. However, there is a mystery about the man named as the rear gunner, Dave Lilley. The rear gunner on Shannon’s 16 January 1943 trip to Berlin is identified in the squadron operations record book as Bernard Holmes, and this is confirmed by Holmes’s own logbook, which is in the possession of his son, Robert. Robert also says that the man in the picture is not his father. Furthermore, there is no trace of anyone called Lilley in the squadron operations record book at that time.
A possible explanation is that the photograph would not seem to have been taken immediately after the raid but on the following day, as the men are wearing battledress tunics rather than flying jackets or suits. So Holmes might not have been present when the call came for the crew to reassemble, and another man from another crew was called in to make up the seven. His name, however, is unlikely to have been David Lilley.
This theory is supported by the fact that the crew on the right hand side of the cutting would appear to have been photographed while still in their flying kit.
This is the crew captained by the then Flt Sgt Lewis Burpee. Burpee flew as one of the nine 106 Squadron crews on the second sortie, on 17 January. Of the crew Chamberlain names only the pilot ‘P/O Burpee’ and the flight engineer ‘John Peglar’. These men have all been identified by Lewis Burpee himself on a print which is in the possession of his family. (See this post from June 2015.) They are, left to right: Gordon Brady (rear gunner), William (‘Ginger’) Long (mid upper gunner), Guy (‘Johnny’) Pegler (flight engineer), Lewis Burpee (pilot), Edward Leavesley (wireless operator), and George Goodings (bomb aimer). Leavesley and Goodings both left the Burpee crew before it moved to 617 Squadron.
There are only six men in this shot, which does not include Burpee’s navigator on the day. In fact, this was the squadron navigation leader, Flt Lt Norman Scrivener.
Thanks to the Chamberlain family for pictures.

Dambuster of the Day No. 107: Guy Pegler

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Guy (“Johnny”) Pegler pictured on the far right, standing next to Gordon Brady. Their skipper, Lew Burpee is on the far left. Picture taken in 106 Squadron, probably late 1942. [Pic: Burpee family]

Sgt G Pegler
Flight engineer

Lancaster serial number: ED865/G

Call sign: AJ-S

Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

Guy Pegler was born on 27 September 1921 in Ringwood, Hampshire, the older of the two sons of Claud and Charlotte Pegler. The family would later move to Letchworth in Hertfordshire, where he went to Letchworth Grammar School. Pegler was known by the nickname “Johnny” during his time in the RAF, which he joined in 1938 as an apprentice at No 1 Training School, RAF Halton.
He served in ground crew in the early part of the war, mainly servicing aircraft in Fighter Command, before taking the opportunity in 1942 to train as a flight engineer in Bomber Command.
After qualifying, he was posted to 106 Squadron’s Conversion Flight where he joined up with Lewis Burpee and gunner Gordon Brady for the final stages of Lancaster training. The trio were posted to 106 Squadron in October 1942.
On 24 October 1942, the day Burpee flew on his final operation as second pilot (with David Shannon), Pegler had the dubious privilege of making his operational debut, accompanying the Squadron CO, Wg Cdr Guy Gibson on a trip to Milan. At that stage in his career, Gibson had a different flight engineer or second pilot on nearly every one of his operations. Whether they volunteered or instead were chosen by him is not recorded. Pegler survived the experience, and was able to rejoin Burpee and his crew for their first trip together as a crew, on a “Gardening” operation to the Silverthorn area on 16 November 1942.
Thereafter, Pegler flew with Burpee on all his 25 operations in 106 Squadron and went with him to 617 Squadron. On the Dams Raid, he would have been in his usual seat, alongside his skipper, as they flew too close to the heavily defended Gilze-Rijen airfield and crashed in a ball of flame.
The Germans could not individually identify the bodies of Guy Pegler, Bill Long, Tom Jaye and James Arthur, so they were buried in a communal grave in Zuylen Cemetery, Prinsenhage. After the war the bodies of all seven of the crew of AJ-S were exhumed and reburied in Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery.

More about Pegler online:
Entry at Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Aircrew Remembered page about Burpee crew

KIA 17.05.43

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

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.

New picture of Lewis Burpee and three other Dambusters

Burpee sqd106 smal

Joel Joy continues to unearth interesting new material about the Canadian Dambusters. He has recently got permission from the family of Plt Off Lewis Burpee to publish this picture of his crew, taken while he was on 106 Squadron.
Alex Bateman has kindly identified all the personnel present:

Left to right:
Sgt Joe Brady (Rear Gunner)
Sgt Bill Long (Mid Upper Gunner)
Sgt Guy Pegler (Flight Engineer)
Flt Sgt Lew Burpee (Pilot)
Flt Sgt Eddy Leavesley (Wireless Op)
Sgt George Goodings (Bomb Aimer)

The photo was taken on 106 Squadron at Syerston, on 18 January 1943 after a night trip to Berlin.  The Lancaster is W4842 ‘ZN–H’.

Brady, Long, Pegler and Burpee went on to 617 Squadron in March 1943, and were four of the crew of AJ-S on the Dams Raid. They were all killed when they were shot down near Gilze Rijen in Holland, and are buried together in Bergen Op Zoom war cemetery. There are full details of Burpee’s 26 previous operations on the Air Force Association of Canada website. (In alphabetical order, scroll down to Burpee.)