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, R A Baker, B Jagger.
Front, L-R: J O Christie, B Jagger, 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. His family emigrated to Canada a year later and took up farming in rural Alberta. He qualified as a teacher after leaving school, but left within a year to enlist in the RCAF.
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, another Canadian. John Fraser, the bomb aimer was also Canadian and became a close friend. Together they flew on 30 operations in under six months.
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 an experienced navigator and bomb aimer after the first pair selected had not come up to scratch, so they arrived at Scampton on 29 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. Almost as far from the escape hatch as them, he had no chance when Hopgood ordered the crew to bale out, and he died along with them when AJ-M crashed in a field near Ostönnen, 6km from the dam.
Hopgood, Brennan, Earnshaw, Minchin and Gregory are buried together in Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.

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.

Updated 28 April 2013: Names of Jagger and Baker in caption transposed. (See comment below).