Nine things you may not know about the Dams Raid

The only photograph taken of a Lancaster in the air on the day of the Dams Raid. [IWM CH18006]

Tomorrow, Saturday 16 May, will be the 77th anniversary of the day in 1943 when nineteen Lancasters of RAF 617 Squadron took off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire to attack the dams in the Ruhr and Eder valleys. Of the 133 aircrew who participated in what would come to be called the Dams Raid, just 80 survived. Thirty-two more died before the end of the war, leaving 48 men.

Here are nine things that you may not know about the men who took part.

1. Neither of the flight commanders (Melvin ‘Dinghy’ Young and Henry Maudslay) had met Guy Gibson before 617 Squadron was formed. Both were shot down on their return flights.

2. Of the 19 flight engineers who flew on the raid, four were Scottish.

3. Five of the six men who made up Guy Gibson’s Dams Raid crew flew on just one operation with him in their whole careers. These were John Pulford, Harlo Taerum, Fred Spafford, George Deering and Richard Trevor-Roper.

4. Ray Wilkinson, rear gunner in Bill Townsend’s crew, was the only man to take part in both the Dams Raid and the final successful attack on the Tirpitz on 12 November 1944.

5. The front gunner in David Shannon’s crew, Brian Jagger, was the son of the portrait painter David Jagger and the nephew of the sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger, designer of the Royal Artillery war memorial at Hyde Park Corner in London. A David Jagger self-portrait was recently sold for £221,000 at auction.

6. Four men who flew on the raid had pregnant wives waiting at home. Two were killed (Lewis Burpee and Charles Brennan). The two others, David Maltby and Richard Trevor-Roper would both die soon after their own sons were born (Maltby on 15 September 1943, Trevor-Roper on 31 March 1944).

7. Two members of the crew of Lancaster AJ-P were knighted later on in their lives: pilot Mick Martin and navigator Jack Leggo.

8. The pilot of AJ-C, Warner ‘Bill’ Ottley, and his wireless operator Jack Guterman were good friends from their time in 207 Squadron and both had extensive classical music record collections which they played in the room they shared. Both died when AJ-C was shot down, and Ottley’s record collection was donated to his school, Hurstpierpoint College.

9. Canadians Albert Garshowitz and Frank Garbas grew up in the same town of Hamilton, Ontario, and had played schoolboy rugby in the same league. They met by chance again in the UK while training and joined the same crew. They both died when AJ-B, piloted by Bill Astell, crashed into a pylon near Marbeck in Germany. [There is a theory that the game they played together was Canadian or American football, but both men put down ‘rugby’ as a sporting interest on their RCAF application forms.]

Further information about all the 133 men who flew on the Dams Raid can be found in my book The Complete Dambusters, published by History Press in 2018.

What happened to the Dams Raid Lancasters: a definitive list

Lancaster ED825/G, one of the 23 Type 464 aircraft built for Operation Chastise. This was given the code AJ-T and was slated to be the spare. Because ED915/G AJ-Q was found to be faulty while preparing for take-off, Joe McCarthy and his crew eventually flew this aircraft on the raid, and attacked the Sorpe Dam. [Pic: IWM ATP 11384C]

Frank Pleszak has done a great service to other Dams Raid researchers by compiling a definitive list of the fate of the 23 aircraft built for Operation Chastise. These were all constructed over a period of two months in 1943 as a variation of the production run of Model BIII Lancasters taking place at the Avro headquarters factory at Chadderton, with final assembly at Woodford, both in Greater Manchester. The special model was given the name of Type 464 (Provisioning).

In total 23 Lancaster Type 464 conversions were produced. Nineteen of these flew on the Dams raid and eight were lost, leaving fifteen. None were ever fully returned to standard Lancaster BIII configuration (although some were part-modified) as it was too difficult or too costly to refit the bomb bay doors and mid-upper turret.

Over several days in August 1943 nine of the aircraft were used for trials with forward-rotating Upkeep mines at the Ashley Walk bombing range in the New Forest. During the trials ED765 was caught in the slipstream of others as it flew in close formation and crashed. The pilot (Flt Lt William Kellaway) and bomb aimer were seriously injured while the rest of the crew had more minor injuries.

Over the following six months some of the aircraft were used on occasional operations, as well as for training and other trials. On 10 December 1943, on an operation to drop supplies to members of the SOE, ED825 and ED886 were both lost. The crews were skippered by Wrt Off G Bull and Flg Off Gordon Weeden. Weeden and all his crew were killed, but Bull and four of his crew managed to bale out and were captured. The final wartime loss of a Dams Raid Lancaster occurred on 20 January 1944 when ED918 crashed on a night training flight near Snettisham in Norfolk. The pilot, Flt Lt Thomas O’Shaughnessy, was killed along with his bomb aimer.

Three were used after the war, in August and December 1946, in an mission which was given the name Operation Guzzle: the disposal of the remaining 37 live Upkeep mines in the Atlantic Ocean about 280 miles west of Glasgow. The eleven Type 464 Lancasters which survived the war were all finally scrapped in 1946-7.

Here is Frank Pleszak’s list:

You can read Frank’s full post on his blog here.

Dambusters Blog at the Dams

Five years after starting this blog, and a lifetime after first hearing about the Dams Raid, I’m excited to report that I’m writing this tonight in a hotel overlooking the Mohnesee. It’s a quiet and peaceful sight tonight, very different from what it must have looked like seventy years ago. Tomorrow morning we will walk the Dam, pay our respects at the memorials in the villages below it, and then go on to the Eder Dam and visit its museum.

UPDATE 22 May
More pictures will follow, but here are the first three.

Mohne 2967

The Möhne Dam

Eder 2969

The Eder Dam

Neheim 2979

The memorial in Neheim

The Dams Raid: complete list of all participants

Grantham 0003 fly order small

During the next nineteen weeks I will be publishing an article about each one of the 133 aircrew from 617 Squadron who took part in the Dams Raid (Operation Chastise) on 16/17 May 1943, at the rate of one a day. These will be titled ‘Dambuster of the Day’.

Above is shown the order for the operation as it appeared on squadron noticeboards on the morning of the raid. For security reasons it was merely titled ‘Night Flying Programme’. The typed programme was kept by Squadron Adjutant Flt Lt Harry Humphries, and is now in the possession of Lincolnshire Libraries.

Each article will include links to other material online about each man, and I hope that readers will add further links in the comments on each piece. In that way, the blog entries will serve as a tribute to all the people who took part, in this the 70th anniversary year.

A complete list of the 133 also appears below.

The names appear in the order of the three designated ‘waves’: the first tasked to attack the Möhne and Eder dams, the second to attack the Sorpe, and the third the mobile reserve. Each aircraft in the wave is then listed in the order it finally took off, which differs slightly from the list in the programme above.

AJ-G

Wg Cdr G P Gibson DSO & Bar DFC & Bar
Pilot AJ-G
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded VC
Born Simla, India, 12 August 1918
KIA 20 September 1944  [Read more]

Sgt J Pulford
Flight engineer AJ-G
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born Hull, 24 December 1919
KIA 13 February 1944  [Read more]

Plt Off H T Taerum
Navigator AJ-G
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFC
Born Milo, Alberta, Canada, 22 May 1920
KIA 16 September 1943  [Read more]

Flt Lt R E G Hutchison DFC
Wireless operator AJ-G
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded Bar to DFC
Born Liverpool, 26 April 1918
KIA 16 September 1943  [Read more]

Plt Off F M Spafford DFM
Bomb aimer AJ-G
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFC
Born Adelaide, South Australia, 16 June 1918
KIA 16 September 1943  [Read more]

Flt Sgt G A Deering
Front gunner AJ-G
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFC
Born Kirkintilloch, Scotland, 23 July 1919
KIA 16 September 1943  [Read more]

Flt Lt R D Trevor-Roper DFM
Rear gunner AJ-G
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFC
Born, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, 19 May 1915
KIA 31 March 1944  [Read more]

AJ-M

Flt Lt J V Hopgood DFC & Bar
Pilot
Killed on Dams Raid
Born Hurst, Berkshire, 29 August 1921 [Read more]

Sgt C C Brennan
Flight engineer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 22 February 1916, Calgary, Alberta, Canada [Read more]

Flg Off K Earnshaw
Navigator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born Bridlington, Yorkshire, 23 June 1918 [Read more]

Sgt J W Minchin
Wireless operator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 29 November 1915, Bourton on the Water, Gloucestershire [Read more]

Flt Sgt J W Fraser
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid. PoW.
Born 22 September 1922, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada
Died Saltery Bay, British Columbia, Canada, 2 June 1962 [Read more]

Plt Off G H F G Gregory DFM
Front gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born Govan, Glasgow, 24 June 1917 [Read more]

Plt Off A F Burcher DFM
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid. PoW.
Born Vaucluse, Sydney, Australia, 15 March 1922
Died Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 9 August 1995 [Read more]

AJ-P

Flt Lt H B Martin DFC
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DSO
Born Edgecliffe, Sydney, Australia, 27 February 1918
Died London, 3 November 1988 [Read more]

Plt Off I Whittaker
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born Newcastle on Tyne, 9 September 1921
Died Wendover, Buckinghamshire, 22 August 1979 [Read more]

Flt Lt J F Leggo DFC
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded Bar to DFC
Born Sydney, Australia, 21 April 1916
Died Brisbane, Australia, 11 November 1983 [Read more]

Flg Off L Chambers
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFC
Born Karamea, New Zealand, 18 February 1919
Died Karamea, New Zealand, 1 March 1985 [Read more]

Flt Lt R C Hay DFC
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded Bar to DFC
Born Renmark, South Australia, 4 November 1913
KIA 13 February 1944 [Read more]

Plt Off B T Foxlee DFM
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born Queensland, Australia, 7 March 1920
Died Nottingham, 6 March 1985 [Read more]

Flt Sgt T D Simpson
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 23 November 1917
Died Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 2 April 1998 [Read more]

AJ-A

Sqn Ldr H M Young DFC & Bar
Pilot
Killed on Dams Raid
Born London, 20 May 1915 [Read more]

Sgt D T Horsfall
Flight engineer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born Bramley, Yorkshire, 16 April 1920 [Read more]

Flt Sgt C W Roberts
Navigator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 19 January 1921, Cromer, Norfolk [Read more]

Sgt L W Nichols
Wireless operator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 17 May 1910, Northwood, Middlesex [Read more]

Flg Off V S MacCausland
Bomb aimer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 1 February 1913, Tyne Valley, Prince Edward Island, Canada [Read more]

Sgt G A Yeo
Front gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 9 July 1922, Barry Dock, Glamorgan [Read more]

Sgt W Ibbotson
Rear gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 18 September 1913, Netherton, Wakefield, Yorkshire [Read more]

AJ-J

Flt Lt D J H Maltby DFC
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DSO
Born 10 May 1920, Baldslow, Sussex
KIA 15 September 1943 [Read more]

Sgt W Hatton
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 24 March 1920, Wakefield, Yorkshire
KIA 15 September 1943  [Read more]

Sgt V Nicholson
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born 15 February 1923, Newcastle on Tyne
KIA 15 September 1943  [Read more]

Sgt A J B Stone
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 5 December 1920 Winchester, Hampshire
KIA 15 September 1943  [Read more]

Plt Off J Fort
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFC
Born 14 January 1912, Colne, Lancashire
KIA 15 September 1943  [Read more]

Sgt V Hill
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 6 December 1921, Berkeley, Gloucestershire
KIA 15 September 1943 [Read more]

Sgt H T Simmonds
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 25 December 1921, Burgess Hill, Sussex
KIA 15 September 1943 [Read more]

AJ-L

Flt Lt D J Shannon DFC
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DSO
Born 27 May 1922, Unley Park, South Australia
Died 8 April 1993, London [Read more]

Sgt R J Henderson
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 17 June 1920, Tarbrax, Lanarkshire
Died 18 February 1961, Limassol, Cyprus [Read more]

Flg Off D R Walker DFC
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded Bar to DFC
Born 20 November 1917, Blairmore, Alberta, Canada
Died 17 November 2001, Blairmore, Alberta, Canada [Read more]

Flg Off B Goodale DFC
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 12 June 1919, Addington, Kent
Died 16 December 1977, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk [Read more]

Flt Sgt L J Sumpter
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born 20 September 1911, Kettering, Northamptonshire
Died 30 November 1993, Luton, Bedfordshire [Read more]

Sgt B Jagger
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 9 November 1921, London
KIA 30 April 1944 [Read more]

Flg Off J Buckley
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 1 May 1919, Bradford, Yorkshire
Died 6 May 1990, Bradford, Yorkshire [Read more]

AJ-Z

Sqn Ldr H E Maudslay DFC
Pilot
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 21 July 1921, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire [Read more]

Sgt J Marriott DFM
Flight engineer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 19 January 1920, New Smithy, Derbyshire [Read more]

Flg Off R A Urquhart DFC
Navigator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 2 August 1919, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada [Read more]

WO A P Cottam
Wireless operator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 29 August 1912, Jasper, Alberta, Canada [Read more]

Plt Off M J D Fuller
Bomb aimer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 28 April 1920, Reigate, Surrey [Read more]

Flg Off W J Tytherleigh DFC
Front gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 8 November 1921, Cambridge [Read more]

Sgt N R Burrows
Rear gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 31 August 1914, Liverpool [Read more]

AJ-B

Flt Lt W Astell DFC
Pilot
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 1 April 1920, Knutsford, Cheshire [Read more]

Sgt J Kinnear
Flight engineer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 6 November 1921, Newport, Fife [Read more]

Plt Off F A Wile
Navigator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 17 April 1919, Scotch Village, Nova Scotia, Canada [Read more]

Flg Off D Hopkinson
Bomb aimer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 19 September 1920, Royton, Lancashire [Read more]

Wrt Off A A Garshowitz
Wireless operator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 11 December 1920, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada [Read more]

Flt Sgt F A Garbas
Front gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 13 July 1922, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada [Read more]

Sgt R Bolitho
Rear gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 19 January 1920, Derry, Ireland [Read more]

AJ-N

Plt Off L G Knight
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DSO
Born 7 March 1921, Camberwell, Victoria, Australia
KIA 16 September 1943 [Read more]

Sgt R E Grayston
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 13 October 1918, Dunsfold, Surrey
Died 15 April 2010, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire [Read more]

Flg Off H S Hobday
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFC
Born 28 January 1912, Croydon, Surrey
Died 24 February 2000, Hindolveston, Norfolk [Read more]

Flt Sgt R G T Kellow
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 13 December 1916, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Died 12 February 1988, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada [Read more]

Flg Off E C Johnson
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFC
Born 3 May 1912, Lincoln
Died 1 October 2002, Blackpool, Lancashire [Read more]

Sgt F E Sutherland
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 26 February 1923, Peace River, Alberta, Canada
Died 21 January 2019, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada [Read more]

Sgt H E O’Brien
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 15 August 1922, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Died 12 September 1985, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada [Read more]

AJ-E

Flt Lt R N G Barlow DFC
Pilot
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 22 April 1911, Carlton, Victoria, Australia [Read more]

Plt Off S L Whillis
Flight engineer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 18 October 1912, Newcastle on Tyne [Read more]

Flg Off P S Burgess
Navigator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 19 September 1922, Portsmouth, Hampshire [Read more]

Flg Off C R Williams DFC
Wireless operator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 19 March 1909, Townsville, Queensland, Australia [Read more]

Plt Off A Gillespie
Bomb aimer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 16 November 1922, Hesket, Westmorland [Read more]

Flg Off H S Glinz
Front gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 2 March 1922, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada  [Read more]

Sgt J R G Liddell
Rear gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 22 June 1924, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset [Read more]

AJ-W

<Flt Lt J L Munro
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Born 5 April 1919, Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand
Died 4 August 2015, Tauranga, North Island, New Zealand [Read more]

Sgt F E Appleby
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 3 November 1921, Eastbourne, Sussex
Died 15 September 1996, Eastbourne, Sussex [Read more]

Flg Off F G Rumbles
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 14 September 1920, Kirtlebridge, Dumfriesshire
Died 26 February 1988, Port Elizabeth, South Africa [Read more]

Wrt Off P E Pigeon
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 3 June 1917, Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada
Died 25 March 1967, Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada [Read more]

Sgt J H Clay
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 2 February 1911, North Shields, Tyne and Wear
Died 6 August 1995, Gosforth, Tyne and Wear [Read more]

Sgt W Howarth
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 29 August 1921, Oldham, Lancashire
Died 12 January 1990, Oldham, Lancashire [Read more]

Flt Sgt H A Weeks
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 10 December 1919, Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada
Died 22 March 1992, Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada [Read more]

AJ-K

Plt Off V W Byers
Pilot
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 24 September 1919, Star City, Saskatchewan, Canada [Read more]

Sgt A J Taylor
Flight engineer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 19 December 1922, Alves, Morayshire [Read more]

Flg Off J H Warner
Navigator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 19 May 1914, Horncastle, Lincolnshire [Read more]

Sgt J Wilkinson
Wireless operator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 2 March 1922, Antrobus, Cheshire [Read more]

Plt Off A N Whitaker
Bomb aimer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 8 September 1909, Blackburn, Lancashire [Read more]

Sgt C McA Jarvie
Front gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 9 May 1922, Glasgow [Read more]

Flt Sgt J McDowell
Rear gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 13 August 1910, Glasgow [Read more]

AJ-H

Plt Off G Rice
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Born 4 January 1917, Hinckley, Leicestershire
Died 24 November 1981, Taunton, Somerset [Read more]

Sgt E C Smith
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 26 August 1919, Cambridge
KIA 16 September 1943 [Read more]

Flg Off R Macfarlane
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 12 December 1921, Glasgow
KIA 20 December 1943 [Read more]

Wrt Off C B Gowrie
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 14 April 1918, Tramping Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
KIA 20 December 1943 [Read more]

Wrt Off J W Thrasher
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 30 July 1920, Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada
KIA 20 December 1943 [Read more]

Sgt T W Maynard
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 6 September 1923, London
KIA 20 December 1943 [Read more]

Sgt S Burns
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 27 December 1920, Dudley, Worcestershire
KIA 21 December 1943 [Read more]

AJ-T

Flt Lt J C McCarthy DFC
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DSO
Born 31 August 1919, Long Island, New York, USA
Died 6 September 1998, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA [Read more]

Sgt W G Radcliffe
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 24 September 1919, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Died 5 July 1952, British Columbia, Canada [Read more]

Flt Sgt D A MacLean
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born 2 April 1916, Toronto, Canada
Died 16 July 1992, Toronto, Canada [Read more]

Flt Sgt L Eaton
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 16 March 1906, Manchester
Died 22 March 1974, Manchester [Read more]

Sgt G L Johnson
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born 25 November 1921, Hameringham, Lincolnshire  [Read more]

Sgt R Batson
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 5 December 1920, Ferryhill, Co Durham
Died 25 November 2006, Leeholme, Co Durham [Read more]

Flg Off D Rodger
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 23 February 1918, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada
Died 1 September 2004, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada [Read more]

AJ-C

Plt Off W Ottley DFC
Pilot
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 4 March 1922, London [Read more]

Sgt R Marsden
Flight engineer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 8 May 1920, Scarborough, Yorkshire [Read more]

Flg Off J K Barrett DFC
Navigator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 9 September 1920, London [Read more]

Sgt J Guterman DFM
Wireless operator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 1 August 1920, Ramsgate, Kent [Read more]

Flt Sgt T B Johnston
Bomb aimer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 19 July 1921, Bellshill, Lanarkshire [Read more]

Sgt H J Strange
Front gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 25 April 1923, Birkenhead [Read more]

Sgt F Tees
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid. PoW
Born 16 June 1922, Chichester, Sussex
Died 15 March 1982, Letchworth, Hertfordshire [Read more]

AJ-S

Plt Off L J Burpee DFM
Pilot
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 5 March 1918, Ottawa, Canada [Read more]

Sgt G Pegler
Flight engineer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 27 September 1921, Ringwood, Hampshire [Read more]

Sgt T Jaye
Navigator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 3 October 1922, Crook, Co Durham [Read more]

Plt Off L G Weller
Wireless operator
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 1 September 1915, London [Read more]

Flt Sgt J L Arthur
Bomb aimer
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 3 July 1917, Toronto, Canada [Read more]

Sgt W C A Long
Front gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 11 September 1923, Eastleigh, Hampshire [Read more]

Wrt Off J G Brady
Rear gunner
Killed on Dams Raid
Born 16 April 1916, Ponoka, Alberta, Canada [Read more]

AJ-F

Flt Sgt K W Brown
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded CGM
Born 20 August 1920, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada
Died 23 December 2002, White Rock, British Columbia, Canada [Read more]

Sgt H B Feneron
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 14 May 1920, London
Died 18 November 1993, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire [Read more]

Sgt D P Heal
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born 5 August 1916, Portsmouth, Hampshire
Died 7 February 1999, Southampton, Hampshire [Read more]

Sgt H J Hewstone
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 24 July 1909, London
Died 28 May 1980, Havering, Essex [Read more]

Sgt S Oancia
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born 5 March 1923, Stonehenge, Saskatchewan, Canada
Died 6 May 1999, Carleton, Ontario, Canada [Read more]

Sgt D Allatson
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 7 November 1923, Eastwood, Essex
KIA 16 September 1943 [Read more]

Flt Sgt G S McDonald
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 20 July 1921, Grand Forks, British Columbia, Canada
Died 13 May 2012, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada [Read more]

AJ-O

Flt Sgt W C Townsend DFM
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded CGM
Born 12 January 1921, Gloucestershire
Died 9 April 1991, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire [Read more]

Sgt D J D Powell
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 21 January 1922, Birmingham
KIA 16 September 1943 [Read more]

Plt Off C L Howard
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFC
Born 12 January 1913, Freemantle, Western Australia
Died 26 December 1989, Perth, Western Australia [Read more]

Flt Sgt G A Chalmers
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born 12 February 1921, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire
Died 6 August 2002, Harrogate, Yorkshire [Read more]

Sgt C E Franklin DFM
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded Bar to DFM
Born 12 November 1915, London
Died 25 January 1975, Birmingham [Read more]

Sgt D E Webb
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born 12 September 1922, London
Died 8 December 1996, Yarmouth, Isle of Wight [Read more]

Sgt R Wilkinson
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Awarded DFM
Born 1 September 1922, South Shields, Tyne and Wear
Died 27 July 1980, Noble Park, Victoria, Australia [Read more]

AJ-Y

Flt Sgt C T Anderson
Pilot
Survived Dams Raid
Born 9 December 1913, Wakefield, Yorkshire
KIA 23 September 1943 [Read more]

Sgt R C Paterson
Flight engineer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 20 September 1907, Edinburgh
KIA 23 September 1943 [Read more]

Sgt J P Nugent
Navigator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 9 August 1914, Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire
KIA 23 September 1943 [Read more]

Sgt W D Bickle
Wireless operator
Survived Dams Raid
Born 6 March 1922, St Ann’s Chapel, Calstock, Cornwall
KIA 23 September 1943 [Read more]

Sgt G J Green
Bomb aimer
Survived Dams Raid
Born 13 April 1922, Malling, Kent
KIA 23 September 1943 [Read more]

Sgt E Ewan
Front gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 3 January 1922, Wolverhampton
KIA 23 September 1943 [Read more]

Sgt A W Buck
Rear gunner
Survived Dams Raid
Born 30 November 1914, London
KIA 23 September 1943 [Read more]

The Dams Raid: a historical perspective

Digging about on the RAF Museum website, as one does, I came across what seems like a very interesting resource, the online version of the Journal of the RAF Historical Society. The society was established in 1986 and runs two or three seminars every year devoted to the whole range of RAF history. It also publishes a journal, and the first 36 numbers of these are all available online. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be either an index or a full list of contents, so I haven’t yet explored every single issue. However, I can say that issue no. 34 could be useful to anyone with an interest in the Dams Raid, as it contains a 26 page article by Wg Cdr T M Webster entitled ‘The Dam Busters Raid – Success or Sideshow?’
This is an interesting, factual account which starts well before the war, and the involvement of Barnes Wallis. Based largely on the book by John Sweetman, it deals with the identification of the Ruhr dams as important industrial targets and the various ideas which were developed for attacking them. Then it follows through the chronology of the planning, the raid itself and its aftermath.
The conclusion? Perhaps not surprisingly, it is that:

allying this precision [the accuracy of the bombing] to the dramatic post-raid reconnaissance photographs, the undoubted bravery of the crews involved and a pre-determination to use the raid for propaganda purposes it is hardly surprising that the Dams Raid remains the RAF’s most famous single operation and No 617 its most famous squadron.
All in all, the Dams Raid was an all-round success and not a slideshow.

You can download the whole (8MB) PDF here.

67 years on

This year, 2010, 16 May will fall on a Sunday. On another Sunday 16 May, in 1943, 133 aircrew in 19 Lancaster aircraft took off from RAF Scampton on what would prove to be the RAF’s most famous bombing operation of the Second World War, the attack on the dams of the Ruhr. Two of the targets were breached and many millions of gallons of water were discharged, causing mayhem in the area and disrupting the German war machine for many months.
However, the cost in lives was very high. On the ground, 1,341 people died – troops defending the dams, civilians living nearby, prisoners working in forced labour camps. Of the aircraft that took part, eight did not return and 53 of their crews died. The other three were captured.
On this 67th anniversary of the raid, we show pictures of the gravestones of six of the pilots and links to pictures of their crews.
Thanks to Lyndon Harper for the use of his pictures.
Flt Lt Bill Astell, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Flt Lt Norm Barlow, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Plt Off Lewis Burpee, buried Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery
Flt Lt John Hopgood, buried Rheinberg War Cemetery
Sqn Ldr Henry Maudslay, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
Plt Off Warner Ottley, buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
The other members of these crews can be seen in a post on the WW2Talk Forum, as below:
I do not, at present, have access to any pictures of the graves of Sqn Ldr Melvin Young and his crew, who are all buried together in Bergen General Cemetery in Holland. Anyone who can help me with pictures is asked to contact me.
Plt Off Vernon Byers’s aircraft was shot down in the Waddenzee area off the coast of Holland. Of this crew, the only body recovered was that of the rear gunner, Sgt James McDowell, and he is buried in Harlingen General Cemetery in Holland. I would also welcome any pictures of his grave.

Steady, steady – bomb gone! (part 2)

Hardcore Microsoft Flight Simulator enthusiasts may already know about this, but others might not: Ross McLennan has spent a number of years developing a highly realistic Lancaster cockpit in which you can take part in the whole Dams Raid experience. I’m not an expert in this (and don’t even have a Windows computer on which I could use it) so I can’t comment on its accuracy or degree of fun. I’d welcome your comments!
It’s interesting to note that Ross’s simulated attack on the Möhne Dam follows the path outlined in most of the earlier books, from the east with a sharp starboard turn after crossing the Hever promontory. According to 617 Squadron historian Robert Owen this is no longer thought to be correct. The actual route is now thought to be directly from over the forest area in the south east coming over the larger spit, as seen in the lower map. This is the one I drew for my book, Breaking the Dams.
Attack route in Flight Simulator
Map showing what is now thought to be the actual attack route

Flg Off Ray Grayston, RIP

Pic: Lincolnshire Aviation History Centre

I’m sorry to have to report that Ray Grayston died on Thursday 15 April.
Grayston was the flight engineer in Les Knight’s Lancaster, AJ-N, the ninth and final aircraft of the first wave of Operation Chastise, tasked with attacking the Möhne and Eder Dams. Five mines had been used at the Möhne before it had been breached, which left only three for the Eder, as Bill Astell had crashed en route. David Shannon and Henry Maudslay dropped their mines but did not break the dam, so Knight’s weapon presented the last chance for success.

As the engineer, Grayston sat on Knight’s right hand side as the pilot brought the Lancaster down to the required height of 60ft, using the throttles to keep the speed at 220mph. After a dummy run, which was dangerous enough for rear gunner Harry O’Brien to record afterwards that he ‘never thought they would get over the mountain’ on the other side of the dam, Knight brought AJ-N into attack. With a bright moon on the starboard beam, the mine was released, bounced three times and hit the dam wall. Knight climbed steeply and, as the aircraft reached a safe height, saw an explosion which caused a ‘large breach in wall of dam almost 30ft below top of dam, leaving top of dam intact.’
Wireless operator Bob Kellow had his head up in the astrodome, looking backwards. It seemed, he said ‘as if some huge fist had been jabbed at the wall, a large almost round black hole appeared and water gushed as from a large hose.’
The climb after the attack had been hair raising. Bomb aimer Edward Johnson said later that it ‘required the full attention of the pilot and engineer to lay on emergency power from the engines and a climbing attitude not approved in any flying manuals and a period of nail biting from the rest of us not least me who was getting too close a view of the approaching terra firma from my position in the bomb-aimer’s compartment.’
Like many young men of his generation, Ray Grayston was fascinated by flying and volunteered for the RAF at the beginning of the war. In a TV documentary to mark the 60th anniversary of the Dams Raid he described how he loved riding a motorbike at speed, and that this was one of the things which encouraged him into the air force. Initially he served as ground crew but then, along with many others who were mechanically minded, he was selected to train as a flight engineer on the new generation of heavy bombers which needed more personnel.
In late 1942, Grayston teamed up with Knight and the rest of the crew in their final stages of training, and they were part way through a tour of operations in 5o Squadron, stationed at RAF Swinderby, when they were offered the chance to transfer into a new squadron being formed at nearby Scampton for a secret special mission. They went as a group, as Kellow later explained: ‘The offer presented to us sounded interesting and with our faith in each member’s ability we made up our minds there and then that we would accept the offer and move over as a crew to this new squadron.’
Like many Lancaster crews of the time, they were from different countries and walks of life. Knight and Kellow were Australians, the gunners were both Canadian and the rest were British. Knight was an exceptional pilot even though, as Grayston later recalled, he couldn’t ride a bicycle or drive a car.
They didn’t fly over Germany again until September 1943, four months after the Dams Raid when they were sent out with another new weapon, a 12,000lb ‘thin case’ bomb, to attack the Dortmund Ems canal. It was a terrible night, with heavy fog blanketing the heavily guarded canal. Four of the eight crews who took part had already been shot down when Knight, flying at about 100ft in fog, hit some trees and badly damaged both his port engines.
This is one of the stories which Paul Brickhill tells beautifully in his 1951 book,
The Dam Busters. With his tailplane and a starboard engine also damaged Knight managed to pull the Lancaster up to about 1,000ft and called his fellow Aussie Mick Martin, who had assumed command after the CO and deputy force head had both come to grief.

‘Two port engines gone. May I have permission to jettison bomb, sir?’ It was the ‘sir’ that got Martin. Quiet little Knight was following the copybook procedure, asking respectful permission to do the only thing that might get him home.
Martin said, ‘For God’s sake, Les, yes,’ and as the bomb was not fused Knight told Johnson to let it go. Relieved of the weight they started to climb very slowly…
The controls were getting worse all the time until, though he had full opposite rudder and aileron on, Knight could not stop her turning to port and it was obvious that he could never fly her home. He ordered his crew to bale out and held the plane steady while they did. When the last man [who was Grayston] had gone he must have tried to do the same himself,and must have known what would happen when he slipped out of his seat. There was perhaps a slight chance of getting clear in time, but as soon as he took pressure off stick and rudder the aircraft flicked on her back and plunged to the ground. Knight did not get to the hatch in time.
Grayston told the story again in a History Channel documentary, which you can still see online. He and the other five all landed safely. Three evaded capture but Grayston and O’Brien were captured and spent the rest of the war as PoWs. When the crew survivors met in later life they would toast the memory of the young pilot who had saved their lives.
Of the 133 men who took part in the Dams Raid only 48 survived the war. Over the last few years, this has dwindled to a handful and sadly now only Les Munro, George (Johnny) Johnson, Fred Sutherland and Grant MacDonald are still with us. Like them, Grayston had become something of a celebrity in his later years, and was regularly to be found taking part in documentaries, commemorations and signings. On all these occasions he was a model of courtesy, even when he was being asked to sign memorabilia by people only interested in making a profit from it on Ebay.
It’s something of a cliché to say that we won’t see the like of his generation again – but in Ray Grayston’s case it is certainly true. He was looking forward to seeing the remake of the 1955 film, and had been photographed at East Kirkby sitting with writer Stephen Fry in the cockpit of the Lancaster belonging to the Lincolnshire Aviation History Centre.
UPDATE: Daily Telegraph news article about Ray Grayston here and a formal obituary here.

Vincent MacCausland: letters and images

Nearly two years ago, I published a post about an interview with the sister of Vincent MacCausland which I had found online. This was printed in his hometown paper, the Prince Edward Island Guardian, on the 65th anniversary of the Dams Raid. Now a lot more material about him has come to light.
MacCausland was the bomb aimer in Dinghy Young’s crew in Lancaster ED887, AJ-A, and was therefore responsible for dropping the fourth mine of the night, the one which caused the initial small breach in the Möhne Dam, later broken completely by David Maltby and his crew.
Joel Joy has been collecting further information about MacCausland, and has come up with a number of new bits of information and photographs which he has kindly allowed me to publish here.
Vincent MacCausland joined the RCAF in 1940, and after training as an observer and then a bomb aimer completed a first tour in 57 Squadron. He received a commission and appears to have returned to 57 Squadron, which had by then moved to RAF Scampton, for a second tour in March 1943. He was then drafted into a crew of newly qualified personnel allocated to the experienced pilot Melvin Young, when their original bomb aimer was found to be unsuitable. Young was the commander of 57 Squadron’s C Flight, and when the call came out for experienced crews to join the new 617 Squadron to undertake a special secret operation, the entire flight was moved across the base. These were the crews captained by Melvin Young, Geoff Rice, Bill Astell and Sgt Lovell. (The last was only to stay a few days, and were transferred back to 57 Squadron.)
Intensive training followed. Young was put in charge of A Flight, which gave him a number of extra responsibilities, including organising much of the training schedules.
One of the remarkable discoveries made by Joel Joy is that some of Vincent MacCausland’s letters home are in a Canadian archive, the Canadian Letters and Images Project, based in Vancouver. They go back to 1940, when he first joined the RCAF.
Only one, written on 17 April 1943, survives from this period. In it he writes:
You are perhaps wondering what I am doing here. There is really no need to feel over anxious to know that I am back again for my second tour. I really was due back six months after Sept of 41 and had the privilege of joining a well experienced crew and on aircraft that one dreams about. To tell you the honest truth I would not have taken this on had I believed it was a doubtful move. I came up here a couple of days ago (Apr 14th) and we are on revision and conversion for the next month before going over with a few bundles for the squareheads I know that you will be feeling most anxious during those few months ahead but the time will soon pass and I know that God will be especially with us as were blessed in that first tour. I hope that we shall be writing at least two to three times per week and if you do the same, it will be much happier for us all.
Sadly, the blessings that were bestowed on him in his first tour would not follow him to his second. Having been so instrumental in the destruction of the Möhne Dam, Young was detailed to act as Gibson’s deputy at the Eder. After it too was blown by Knight’s successful mine drop, Gibson, Shannon, Knight, Maudslay and Young set off for home. Unfortunately the latter two – the squadron’s two flight commanders – didn’t get back. AJ-A was shot down crossing the Dutch coast near IJmuiden, and crashed into the sea. The bodies of all its crew were washed ashore during the following two weeks.
All seven are buried in the cemetery near Bergen.
Two more contemporary items are shown here. These are the missing and death notices published in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The first of these, from June 1943, gives the names of all the Canadians who went missing on Operation Chastise (including John Fraser, who was later discovered to have baled out and been sent to a PoW camp). The second, from December, gives the list of those confirmed dead.
Post edited, November 2010. The correct number for the aircraft AJ-A piloted by Sqn Ldr HM Young on the Dams Raid was ED887/G.

Dambuster Sgt Lawrence Nichols

Some of the most interesting things I have found out since I started serious Dambuster research are the pieces of information about some of the less well known participants in the Dams Raid. It’s extraordinary how little is known about many of the 133 aircrew who took part. Fifty-three men died on the raid and another 32 later on in the war, so it’s perhaps understandable that not a lot is known about them. Many of the 48 who survived the war lived out quiet lives, with few people knowing that they had taken part in such an iconic event.
In this blog, I have posted material that I have come across on the internet about some of the less well known participants, and I want to keep on doing so. Here is the latest: an undated local newspaper clipping about Lawrence Nichols, the 33 year old Currys shop manager from Northwood, Middlesex who became the wireless operator in ‘Dinghy’ Young’s aircraft, AJ-A, and who died along with his colleagues when it was shot down on the way back from the Eder dam. Like David Maltby, the experienced pilot Young had been allocated a new and relatively untested crew, most of whom had only flown on one operation. All seven are now buried in the cemetery in Bergen in the Netherlands, along with about 250 other Allied aircrew. There is more about Lawrence Nichols here.