Sqn Ldr H E Maudslay DFC
Lancaster serial number: ED937/G
Call sign: AJ-Z
First wave. Second aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine overshot. Aircraft damaged, and shot down on return flight.
Henry Maudslay was born in Leamington Spa on 21 July 1921. His family came from an industrialist background, and his father founded the Standard Motor Company. His great-great-great grandfather, also Henry Maudslay, was an important 19th century inventor, and appeared on a British postage stamp in 2009.
While still at Eton College, where he excelled at both rowing and athletics, he volunteered for the RAF, and was called up in July 1940. After training as a pilot in Canada he returned to England in February 1941. His first operational posting was with 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington, flying Hampdens. There he flew on 29 operations, and won the DFC for a single handed attack on two enemy cargo vessels.
In December 1941 he was attached with other members of 44 Squadron to Boscombe Down to carry out service trials and work with the new Avro Lancaster. He carried on in various training roles until he returned to operations with 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe in December 1942, flying Lancasters. All six of the crew he eventually brought with him to 617 Squadron flew with him at some time in the 13 operations he undertook over the next three months, although they only appear to have all flown together as a complete crew once, on 3 March 1943 on an operation to Hamburg.
Maudslay was promoted to Squadron Leader and became B Flight Commander of the new 617 Squadron. As Guy Gibson was often absent on important meetings, a lot of the organisation of training fell to him and Melvin Young, the other Flight Commander.
Shortly before the Dams Raid Henry Maudslay, together with Norman Barlow, witnessed Bill Astell’s will. All three would be lost on the raid.
Maudslay had led Bill Astell and Les Knight in formation to the Möhne Dam, but Astell’s aircraft crashed into high tension wires en route. This meant that after the successful attack on the Möhne, there were only three Upkeep mines left to attack the Eder – a target which was even more difficult to approach.
Shannon was first to attack and made three or four attempts but couldn’t get the correct height and speed, after a dive and tight turn. Maudslay then tried twice with similar problems. During these runs he may have damaged the bomb release mechanism on trees. Shannon made two more dummy runs, then dropped his mine, which exploded with an upsurge of water. However, the dam wasn’t breached so Maudslay made a third attempt on the target at 0145 but his Upkeep was dropped too late and exploded on hitting the parapet of the dam without bouncing. This may have damaged his aircraft. Gibson asked if he was OK, and Maudslay’s faint reply was ‘I think so, stand by’. Meanwhile, Les Knight finally made a successful run and blew a large hole in the dam wall.
Maudslay nursed his damaged aircraft slowly back towards the Dutch border, but his luck ran out near Emmerich at 0243, when he was shot down. One of the flak gunners was Johannes Doerwald, seen below meeting this blog’s author in June 2013.
Henry Maudslay and all his crew died. They were first buried in Dusseldorf, but after the war, they were reinterred in Reichswald War Cemetery.
More about Maudslay online:
Commonwealth War Grave Commission entry
Detailed biography at Barford Community website
Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Barford Community Website