Fraser family donate stolen logbook damages to Bomber Command Museum

At the 75th Dams Raid anniversary event in Nanton last week (see post below), Mrs Doris Fraser and her daughter Shere made a substantial donation to the hosts, the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. The donation was part of the money confiscated from the assets of Alex Bateman, who was convicted in 2017 of the theft of Flt Sgt John Fraser’s logbook.

Commenting afterwards, Shere Fraser wrote: ‘We wanted to use the money for good, turning what was once tears to smiles. I felt victory last year returning Ken Earnshaw’s photo album to his family, and this weekend it brought us tremendous happiness to use the damages money to honour the courage and memory of 617 Squadron.’

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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.

Doncaster vandals steal Fraser plaque

The vandalised memorial stone in a Doncaster park. [Pic: Heather Allsworth]

In April 1943, Canadian airman Flt Sgt John Fraser was allowed special leave for one day from training for the Dams Raid in order to get married. His wife Doris came from Doncaster, and they had met while John was stationed at nearby RAF Finningley.

More than sixty years later, in July 2003, to honour of John and Doris Fraser, Doncaster Council decided to instal a bronze plaque in a local park, next to a tree which was planted in his memory by a group of people including Doris Fraser, her daughter Shere and two of the Fraser grandchildren. Representatives of the current 617 Squadron were also present to honour one of the squadron’s founder members.

Yesterday, Shere Fraser revisited the park and found, to her horror, that the plaque had been wrenched from the memorial stone and removed, presumably for a few pounds worth of scrap metal. Local police and local press have been informed, and if anyone has any further information they are asked to contact the authorities.

Below: the plaque photographed at the time of its installation.

Bateman ordered to pay Fraser family £12,500 for logbook theft

Alex Bateman, arriving in court while on trial in January 2017. [Pic: Pixel8000]

Alex Bateman, who was jailed for two years in February for stealing the logbook of Canadian Dams Raid veteran John Fraser, has been ordered to pay £12,500 to Fraser’s widow Doris. Giving the ruling in a compensation hearing in Wood Green Crown Court Judge John Dodd QC said that, even so,  “no financial value could possibly compensate the family” for the theft.
Bateman had claimed during the trial that he had received the book as a gift, and had forged a Christmas card from Doris Fraser to back this up. He claimed that the book had later been stolen from his home. Today in court he still maintained that he last saw the logbook in early 2003, and did not know its current whereabouts.
Judge Dodd went on to say that the theft case had “engaged the emotions in a way that’s unusual”. He added: “It is absolutely clear that no financial value can possibly compensate the family, who have lost this connection with a hero. That’s one of the sad things that no order I make can possibly restore or make good that loss and that sense of betrayal frankly.”

John and Doris Fraser on their wedding day, April 1943. [Pic: Fraser family]

The judge said that he would do all he can “to see that the family receive some appropriate measure, some modest measure of financial compensation” in addition to the value of the book.
Adjourning the case to a date to be fixed, the Judge added: “Mr Bateman has the opportunity to do the honourable thing. I’m sure he knows what I mean by that. I’m sure you all know what I mean by that.”
Shere Fraser, John Fraser’s daughter, commented after the case, speaking from her home in the USA: “There is no outcome from these hearings that can compensate the years of pain and anguish we have felt over the loss of my father’s precious record of his wartime courage, his RCAF log book. Losing my father in a tragic plane crash in my childhood devastated my family. Years later, we are still grieving his loss. Never did our family expect that a heartless criminal would rob us of his legacy of courage. Today’s hearing was another painful reminder that no money will ever replace what he has stolen. Now and forever, I will never give up hope for the recovery of my father’s log book. I am my father’s daughter.”

Further information here:
Report from BBC London
Report from Daily Record

Stolen Fraser logbook – £5000 reward offered

Photocopy of John Fraser’s logbook, from Alex Bateman’s trial. [Pic: Metropolitan Police]

Shere Fraser Lowe, the daughter of Dambuster Sgt John Fraser, has offered a £5,000 reward for information leading to the return of his stolen log book. This was loaned to researcher Alex Bateman by the Fraser family for his work. Bateman was jailed for two years in February 2017 for theft after failing to return it.

Fraser Lowe believes someone other than Bateman knows of its whereabouts. She told the BBC in an interview today: “Some people say it’s just a document, a piece of paper, but that’s not what it is to me – it’s priceless. Because I lost him at a very young age – I value every little piece – so to get it back would be like getting a piece of my father back.”

She said she did not think it right to treat the log book as a commodity but had been advised that “money talks”. “I believe someone out there knows something, and hopefully they will come forward and tell us where it is,” she added.

The logbook has also been added to the International Lost Art Register, the world’s largest private database of lost and stolen art, antiques and collectables.

Bateman’s trial and sentence were reported here. In 2003 he was cautioned for other historical thefts, including stealing two documents and a badge from the National Archives.

Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of the log book, or who has further information about other missing Dambuster material, should contact Acting Detective Sergeant Henry Childe on 020 8345 4552 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

More information in this BBC story.

Album return brings Dambuster families together

Shere Fraser, daughter of John Fraser, and Ken Heather, nephew of Ken Earnshaw, embrace after the Earnshaw family photograph album is returned. [Pic: Shere Fraser]

A battered wartime photograph album containing 290 prints was returned to its rightful owners on Saturday. The ceremony took place at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta and brought together the families of two Canadian crewmates, John Fraser and Ken Earnshaw, who had served together for several months in the RAF’s 50 Squadron before being transferred to a new outfit, 617 Squadron, to undertake the Dams Raid in May 1943. Their aircraft had been shot down as it attacked the Möhne Dam: Earnshaw died as it crashed, but Fraser was able to bale out, and became a prisoner of war.
In the late 1990s, both families had separately sent material, including the airmens’ RCAF logbooks, to London-based researcher Alex Bateman to help him in his work. However, he had failed to return the material when asked, and then claimed that the items had been stolen from his home. After a long campaign by John Fraser’s daughter, Shere Fraser, Bateman had been prosecuted for the theft of the Fraser logbook, and he is now serving a two year prison sentence. Earnshaw’s logbook is still missing.

The album and loose photos, contained in a Metropolitan Police evidence bag. [Pic: Shere Fraser]

During a search of Bateman’s home, the police found Ken Earnshaw’s photograph album hidden in a wardrobe. It was confiscated, and entrusted to Shere Fraser to bring back to Canada to hand over to the Earnshaw family.
Also present were relatives from two other Dambuster families – Rob Taerum, nephew of Harlo Taerum, navigator in AJ-G, and Joe McCarthy Jr, son of Joe McCarthy, pilot of AJ-T. Afterwards, the engines on the Museum’s Avro Lancaster bomber were fired up in their honour.
L-R: Rob Taerum, Shere Fraser, Jim Heather, Joe McCarthy. [Pic: Jim Heather]

All roads lead to Alberta

Shere Fraser in her home in Washington State. Pic: Calgary Herald

There is much local interest in Alberta about the return of a photo album to the family of the Canadian Dambuster to whom it belonged, according to this report in the Calgary Herald.
As we said in the previous post, the album was the property of Canadian navigator Ken Earnshaw, who was killed on the Dams Raid in May 1943. It was found by police in 2015 in the London home of Alex Bateman, who was sent to prison in February for the theft of the RCAF logbook of Earnshaw’s comrade John Fraser. It is believed that Bateman also stole Earnshaw’s logbook but no prosecution was brought on this matter.
The police entrusted the photo album to Fraser’s daughter Shere, who was present at the sentencing hearing in London. She brought it back to Canada and will hand it over it to Earnshaw’s nephew Jim Heather on Saturday 22 April. The event will take place at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta.
Thanks to Jim Heather.