Dambuster of the Day No. 35: Harold Simmonds

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Harold Simmonds in a photograph taken in 1942, with his girlfriend, Phyllis. Nothing more is known about her, other than the fact that this picture was taken in Warrington, Cheshire. [Pic: Grace Blackburn]

Sgt H T Simmonds
Rear gunner

Lancaster serial number: ED906/G
Call sign: AJ-J
First wave. Fifth aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine dropped accurately, causing large breach. Aircraft returned safely.

Harold Simmonds was born on Christmas Day 1921 in Burgess Hill, Sussex. He went to London Road School and later worked in a government job. Soon after the war started, Simmonds volunteered for the RAF. He started his service in groundcrew, serving at Kemble in Gloucestershire and Mount Batten near Plymouth. However, he had always wanted to fly, and eventually he was selected for aircrew training, going to the No.2 Air Gunners School in Dalcross, near Inverness.
He then met Vivian Nicholson, John Fort and Antony Stone at 1660 Conversion Unit at Swinderby, when they were all posted there on 5 January 1943. He went with them to 1660 Conversion Unit, and on to 207 Squadron, finally ending up at 97 Squadron, where the whole crew joined up with David Maltby.
Four months after the raid, on 14 September 1943, Simmonds took off from RAF Coningsby on 617 Squadron’s first major operation since the Dams Raid. When their aircraft suffered its final crash it sank with the bodies of all the crew except the pilot, so he has no known grave.
Harold Simmonds is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

More about Simmonds online:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Breaking the Dams website

KIA 15 September 1943.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources: Charles Foster, Breaking the Dams, Pen and Sword 2008
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

David Maltby’s last flight: possible Mosquito collision

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Sqn Ldr David Maltby and his Dams Raid crew, pictured in August 1943, at RAF Blida North Africa. Sadly, they were all killed over the North Sea a month later. Standing L-R: Victor Hill, Antony Stone, John Fort, David Maltby, William Hatton, Harold Simmonds. In front: Vivian Nicholson. [Pic: Grace Blackburn]

Today’s Sunday Express contains a two page feature about the last flight of Sqn Ldr David Maltby and his crew, on 14/15 September 1943, almost exactly four months after the Dams Raid. This was an attack on the Dortmund Ems canal, which was called off when weather conditions over the target were found to have deterioriated. As Maltby turned the aircraft back towards base, some sort of explosion occurred and it crashed into the sea with the loss of everyone on board.
What caused the explosion has been the subject of some speculation over many years. When researching my book, Breaking the Dams, I came across some documents in the National Archives which indicate that the crash may have occurred because of a collision with a Mosquito on another raid, out of radio contact and also returning to base. The Mosquito was from 139 Squadron, and was piloted by Flt Lt Maule Colledge. he full story is told in my book, and in abbreviated form on my other website, breakingthedams.com.