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.

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Dams Raid 75th anniversary: Canada remembers

Pic: Jim Heather

Great picture of the Lancaster at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta, which organised an event to salute the Canadian Dambusters this weekend. The Lancaster’s code letters have been changed to AJ-M, to match that carried by John Hopgood’s aircraft on the Dams Raid and it carries a full size replica of the Upkeep mine which was dropped by Hopgood at the Mohne Dam.

The picture was taken by Jim Heather, the nephew of Ken Earnshaw, Hopgood’s navigator. He also appears in this CBC news report.

Other relatives of Dams Raid participants also attended the event, and it saw the launch of a new book, The Dambusters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid Against
Nazi Germany
, by Ted Barris, about the men who took part. More details on the BCMA website here.

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.

 

Earnshaw photo album to be returned to family

John Fraser and Ken Earnshaw are respectively second and third from the left in the back row in this picture, taken when they served together in 50 Squadron.
Back, L-R: W Mooney, J W Fraser, K Earnshaw, N L Schofield, B Jagger.
Front, L-R: J O Christie, R A Baker. [Pic: Fraser family]

On Saturday 22 April a special presentation will be made at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta. Shere Fraser Lowe, daughter of Flt Sgt John Fraser who was shot down over the Möhne Dam and became a Prisoner of War, will present a very special photo album to Jim Heather. Jim is the nephew of Flg Off Ken Earnshaw who was the navigator on the same aircraft as Fraser. Earnshaw was killed when the Lancaster crashed. The photo album, together with Fraser’s logbook and other Dambuster-related documents, had been stolen from the families in the 1990s.
The Earnshaw album was recovered by the Metropolitan Police from the house in London of the researcher Alex Bateman, who was recently jailed for two years after being found guilty of the theft of John Fraser’s logbook. (See here for coverage of the trial and verdict.) After the trial, the police gave the Earnshaw album to Shere Fraser Lowe, entrusting her with bringing the album back to Canada and returning it to the Earnshaw family.
Despite being found guilty, Bateman continues to maintain his innocence, and refuses to disclose what happened to the logbook.
Also attending will be two more relatives of RCAF aircrew who took part in the Dams Raid: Joe McCarthy jr, son of Flt Lt Joe McCarthy, one of the two pilots who attacked the Sorpe Dam and Rob Taerum, the nephew of Plt Off Harlo Taerum, navigator of the lead aircraft on the Dams Raid.
After the presentation, the engines of the museum’s Lancaster will be started for the first time this season. Their roar will provide a fitting salute to the persistence and tenacity with which Shere Fraser Lowe pursued the return of her stolen artifacts.
Further details on the museum website.

Alex Bateman jailed for two years: full report

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Shere Fraser Lowe and her husband Joe McCarthy Jr outside Wood Green Crown Court today.

Alex Bateman has been sent to jail for two years following his conviction for the theft of the logbook belonging to Flt Sgt John Fraser, the bomb aimer who flew in John Hopgood’s crew on the Dams Raid in May 1943.
Bateman was found guilty last month after a five day trial in Wood Green Crown Court, and appeared today for sentencing.
John Fraser’s daughter Shere Fraser Lowe had flown from her home in Washington State, USA, to attend the hearing. Prosecuting counsel Jollyon Robertson summarised the victim personal statement which she had submitted to the court, and then invited her to take the witness stand. She described how she had been ‘overjoyed’ when Bateman promised to return the logbook to her in 2003, and how distraught she and her mother had been when they were sent a damaged envelope from which the logbook was missing. Her mother was actually physically sick, she recalled. The loss of the logbook had been a lasting deep and emotional scar.
Robertson went on to give more details about the caution given to Bateman in 2003 for the theft of material from the Public Record Office, now the National Archives. He read from a statement made by William Spencer, Principal Specialist: Military Records in the National Archives. This described how an investigation of another individual had elicited Bateman’s name. At the PRO’s request, police went to Bateman’s address and recovered some material. The PRO then requested that a further search take place, and this time Spencer accompanied the police. They found a number of items including two documents of significance relating to 617 Squadron, and an Air Corps training badge. All of these had been removed from the PRO.
However, although the case was passed to the police, it never went to court and an official police caution had been administered.
In mitigation, defence counsel Samantha Wright said that Bateman was struggling to cope. She read a letter which he had written to the court in which he described how he had spent two-thirds of his life researching the Dams Raid, in order, as he said, to ‘pay tribute to those who had served in Bomber Command.’ Wright went on to say that in Bateman’s eyes, he had lost everything. He had had no employment for some 13 years, and was ‘emotionally frail’.
Having heard the submissions, Judge John Dodd QC said that he had given Bateman every opportunity to restore the logbook to its rightful owners. ‘I had hoped that you would have done the decent thing,’ he said. ‘But you maintained the position you had taken during the trial.’
‘The jury plainly didn’t believe you, and neither do I. You lied repeatedly to conceal the truth as to what had happened to the logbook. It remains a mystery as to what you actually did with it.’
‘You have been involved in the theft of historical material for some time, and you are well aware of its financial value.’
‘It is my view that this offence is so serious as to call for a term of immediate imprisonment.’
‘It will be plain to you that I consider this to be a despicable offence involving, as it did, abusing the trust placed in you, presenting yourself as a genuine historian, by the widow of a war hero.’
‘You decided to keep the log book treating it as your own, and misleading the family when they sought its return, which added to their sense of loss and betrayal.’
He sentenced him to a term of two years, saying that he would be released on licence after 12 months.
The judge also set a date for a confiscation hearing in April to settle the matter of compensation.
Speaking later outside the court, Shere Fraser Lowe said it was important that relics of the war were not treated as ‘commodities’.
‘What we value most is upholding my father’s memory and his legacy and his courage,’ she said.
‘For future generations, the log book details his missions, it details his whole service. War is terrible but what is important is that we recognise the courage and the bravery, and we never abuse it – we never treat these items as a commodity.’
‘I know there are good historians and I know there are honest collectors out there. I’m not out to say anything bad about that. But what I want is a balance of respect and trust maintained.’
Fraser Lowe urged anyone who knew where the logbook was to come forward and said the family would never give up hope of getting it back.
‘It can’t be sold on now, and will forever be hunted until it is back with my family. It belongs to its rightful owners,’ she said. ‘I hope that Mr Bateman reflects on this and finds it in his heart to disclose [its] whereabouts.’
There has been a further positive outcome from the police investigation. Among the items found in the police search of Bateman’s house in July 2015 was a wartime photograph album belonging to the family of Flg Off Ken Earnshaw, a crewmate of John Fraser in the Hopgood crew on the Dams Raid. He was one of the 53 personnel who died on the operation.

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Shere Fraser Lowe examines the Earnshaw wartime photograph album

The album has been confiscated, and has now been entrusted to Shere Fraser Lowe. She will take it back to Canada and return it to the Earnshaw family. 

Earnshaw’s logbook was also sent to Bateman in the late 1990s, and is still missing.
Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of either 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.

Dambuster of the Day No. 10: Kenneth Earnshaw

50 sqn Schofield crew

Ken Earnshaw, back row, third from left, in his 50 Squadron crew.
Back, L-R: W Mooney, J W Fraser, K Earnshaw, N L Schofield, B Jagger.
Front, L-R: J O Christie, R A Baker.

Flg Off K Earnshaw
Navigator
Lancaster serial number: ED925/G
Call sign: AJ-M

First wave. Second aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Aircraft hit by flak. Mine dropped late and bounced over dam. Aircraft crashed on far side of dam.

Kenneth Earnshaw was born in Bridlington, Yorkshire, on 23 June 1918, the son of Joseph and Janet Earnshaw. His family emigrated to Canada a year later and took up farming in rural Alberta. He was educated at Camrose High School. He qualified as a teacher at Alberta Normal School in Edmonton, and then taught at Whitebush School in Bashaw, Alberta, before leaving to enlist in the RCAF. He married Mary Heather in November 1941, and they lived in Bashaw.

After training in Canada, at the end of which he was commissioned, he travelled over to England, and was posted to 50 Squadron in November 1942. He was part of a Lancaster crew which flew with pilot Norman Schofield; the crew’s bomb aimer, fellow Canadian John Fraser, became a close friend. Together they flew on 30 operations in under six months. Gunner Brian Jagger, who would fly on the Dams Raid with David Shannon in AJ-L, was also in this crew.

By mid April 1943, they were scheduled to go to a training unit for the normal inter-tour rest period. However both Earnshaw and Fraser were recommended when a call came from the new 617 Squadron being set up at Scampton. Pilot John Hopgood needed two new crew members. His first navigator had fallen ill and his bomb aimer had not come up to scratch. Earnshaw and Fraser were recommended and arrived at Scampton at the end of April, some time after training for the Dams Raid had begun.

As navigator, Ken Earnshaw sat immediately behind John Hopgood and Charles Brennan in the cockpit. He must have seen the trouble Hopgood was in, hit by flak before they even reached the Möhne Dam. He had little chance of reaching the escape hatch when Hopgood ordered the crew to bale out, and he died when AJ-M crashed in a field near Ostönnen, 6km from the dam. Hopgood, Brennan, Earnshaw and Gregory’s bodies were found in the wreckage.

Kenneth Earnshaw is buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery.

More about Earnshaw online:
Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry
Bomber Command Museum of Canada article
Commonwealth War Graves Commission listing

KIA 17 May 1943
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 and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

Further information about Ken Earnshaw 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.