Unseen Burpee letters released

Censored letter to Burpee page 01

Censored letter to Burpee page 02

Almost 70 years after the Dams Raid, the Burpee family in Canada have now put some of their correspondence into the public domain. The first of these was sent to Lewis Burpee’s parents by his wife Lillian on 13 February 1943, while Lewis and his crew were still serving in 106 Squadron. Lillian, who was pregnant, was living in Newark while Lewis was serving at RAF Syerston. Note the chunks cut out by the censor!

On the Dams Raid, Burpee and his crew were part of the mobile reserve, five aircraft which left Scampton after midnight, They were to be given instructions as to which dam to attack when the results from the first and second waves had been assessed. In fact, he was shot down less than 2 hours after his take off and crashed on the edge of the heavily protected airfield at Gilze-Rijen in Holland.

Gibson Letter
This letter from Guy Gibson was sent to Mrs Burpee on 20 May 1943. It follows the standard format for letters of this kind, offering the chance that he had been captured, but pointing out that it was seen to crash, which led them to fear the worst.

Chaplain letter to Burpee parents

This is followed by a letter to Burpee’s parents from an RCAF Chaplain. He refers to Lillian wanting to get posted back to Canada before her baby was born.

RCAF Min of Estate Letter Burpee

The final letter, sent in July, from the RCAF concerns Lewis’s “personal effects” and asks whether Lillian wants them forwarded directly to Canada, as by then it seems her trip back had been finalised.

New picture of Lewis Burpee and three other Dambusters

Burpee sqd106 smal

Joel Joy continues to unearth interesting new material about the Canadian Dambusters. He has recently got permission from the family of Plt Off Lewis Burpee to publish this picture of his crew, taken while he was on 106 Squadron.
Alex Bateman has kindly identified all the personnel present:

Left to right:
Sgt Joe Brady (Rear Gunner)
Sgt Bill Long (Mid Upper Gunner)
Sgt Guy Pegler (Flight Engineer)
Flt Sgt Lew Burpee (Pilot)
Flt Sgt Eddy Leavesley (Wireless Op)
Sgt George Goodings (Bomb Aimer)

The photo was taken on 106 Squadron at Syerston, on 18 January 1943 after a night trip to Berlin.  The Lancaster is W4842 ‘ZN–H’.

Brady, Long, Pegler and Burpee went on to 617 Squadron in March 1943, and were four of the crew of AJ-S on the Dams Raid. They were all killed when they were shot down near Gilze Rijen in Holland, and are buried together in Bergen Op Zoom war cemetery. There are full details of Burpee’s 26 previous operations on the Air Force Association of Canada website. (In alphabetical order, scroll down to Burpee.)