Gibson logbook, hat and letters on display

Anyone in London during the next month will have a rare opportunity to see some of Guy Gibson’s personal effects – his log, a hat and some letters. They are on show in the (you might think unlikely) venue of the Lords Cricket Museum in St John’s Wood.
You wonder why this particular museum has been chosen but, as a MoD official press release explains:
Few are aware that Lord’s Cricket Ground was once a constituent part of the wartime RAF. After the Battle of Britain the Nation turned its attention to taking the war to Germany, but it was realised that existing RAF selection establishments were unable to cope with the sudden demand for thousands more aircrew.
It was decided to create an [AircrewReceiving Centre] at Lords in London because of its central position in the rail transport network.
Civilian volunteers for air crew training were recruited and given a basic medical and attested at centres near their home. Later they would receive a letter telling them to report to Lord’s. On arrival, they were assembled into flights, each under the command of a Corporal, kitted out and accommodated in a number of requisitioned blocks of flats nearby. Collectively, the assets were known as RAF Regents Park. The ARC opened on 14 June 1941 with the first intake of cadets on 30 June 1941.
The recruits would be marched to the canteen of the nearby London Zoo for their meals. During a two to three week period, they received basic instruction on service life; underwent a rigorous medical and a series of tests designed to weed out unsuitable candidates and identify the most suitable aircrew role for those remaining. From Lord’s they were posted to appropriate Initial Training Wings around the country to continue further training in their selected roles.
With the decreasing need for aircrew in the latter stages of WW2, ARC Lords was closed on the 31st Aug 1944. During the period from 1941 more than 115,000 civilians and 44,000 in-service volunteers for air crew passed through its doors. Many thousands of these young men were later to lose their lives on operations.
Was it a coincidence that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster overflew Lords last Sunday in a salute? The simple answer is, I don’t know, but I will do my best to find out!
(Hat tip David Layne at Lancaster Archive Forum.)

Anyone in London during the next month will have a rare opportunity to see some of Guy Gibson’s personal effects – his log, a hat and some letters. They are on show in the (you might think unlikely) venue of the Lords Cricket Museum in St John’s Wood.
You may wonder why this particular museum has been chosen but an official MoD press release explains:

Few are aware that Lord’s Cricket Ground was once a constituent part of the wartime RAF. After the Battle of Britain the Nation turned its attention to taking the war to Germany, but it was realised that existing RAF selection establishments were unable to cope with the sudden demand for thousands more aircrew.
It was decided to create an [AircrewReceiving Centre] at Lords in London because of its central position in the rail transport network.
Civilian volunteers for air crew training were recruited and given a basic medical and attested at centres near their home. Later they would receive a letter telling them to report to Lord’s. On arrival, they were assembled into flights, each under the command of a Corporal, kitted out and accommodated in a number of requisitioned blocks of flats nearby. Collectively, the assets were known as RAF Regents Park. The ARC opened on 14 June 1941 with the first intake of cadets on 30 June 1941.
The recruits would be marched to the canteen of the nearby London Zoo for their meals. During a two to three week period, they received basic instruction on service life; underwent a rigorous medical and a series of tests designed to weed out unsuitable candidates and identify the most suitable aircrew role for those remaining. From Lord’s they were posted to appropriate Initial Training Wings around the country to continue further training in their selected roles.
With the decreasing need for aircrew in the latter stages of WW2, ARC Lords was closed on the 31st Aug 1944. During the period from 1941 more than 115,000 civilians and 44,000 in-service volunteers for air crew passed through its doors. Many thousands of these young men were later to lose their lives on operations.

Some of the aircrew who flew on the Dams Raid must therefore have spent their first days in the RAF at this ARC, eating meals at London Zoo.
Was it a coincidence that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster overflew Lords last Sunday in a salute? The simple answer is, I don’t know, but I will do my best to find out!
(Hat tip David Layne at Lancaster Archive Forum.)

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David and Ann Shannon’s headstones

Although David Shannon was an Australian, he stayed on in England after the war, joining Shell as an executive. He spent some time in both Colombia and Kenya before returning to the UK. He died on 8 April 1993, shortly before the planned 50th anniversary reunion of those who took part in the Dams Raid.
Shannon’s romance with Ann Fowler, a WAAF officer serving with 617 Squadron, and their subsequent marriage is a recurring theme in Paul Brickhill’s book, The Dam Busters. Ann Shannon died a couple of years before her husband and they are both commemorated with stones in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels in Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire. The size of the stones would indicate that they were both probably cremated.
Shannon’s obituary in The Times can be read here.
Pictures kindly sent to me by reader Paul Hilton.

Clifton-hampden-Shannon1clifton-hampden-shannon2

Happy birthday!

dam-busters-lo-resThe man who, unwittingly, set me off on the track of writing a book about the Dambusters was the actor George Baker, whose birthday is today. In an interview on the BBC Radio Today programme in December 2005 he told the story of how he had been cast to play the part of my uncle, David Maltby, in the 1955 film The Dam Busters. During the making of the film Gp Capt Charles Whitworth, the technical adviser, relayed to him the information that David was sometimes so wound up after operations that he released the tension by shooting china plates with his service revolver. This was a story that no one in my family had ever heard before, and it therefore seemed to me to be important to tell more of the family history before time took its inevitable toll on us all. 
In an email to me a few months later he told me how hard casting director Robert Leonard and film director Michael Anderson had worked to ensure the actors looked like their real-life characters. This was sometimes a bit confusing for poor old Charles Whitworth:

On the desk in front of them [Leonard and Anderson] they had a photo of [David Maltby] and one of me and I must admit that there was a considerable similarity. Then when I met Group Captain Whitworth he fell into the habit of calling me Dave, which was really quite disconcerting. 
[Whitworth] would often refer to an incident thinking that I had been there. This is how the story of the plate shooting came to be told, quite obviously the men of the squadron became extremely tense before and after an operational flight but other indications from the Group Captain told me that [David Maltby] was a very funny man and a delightful companion. I feel very honoured to have had the chance to portray him in the film.

Happy birthday, Mr Baker!

Question time

For some time Ron Lapp from Winnipeg has been trying to find out the answer to a question of detail about the Dams Raid:

 When the Lancaster nose turret guns were fired, as they certainly were on the Dams raid, were the empty cases and links collected somehow, or did they just fall to the floor of the nose and get collected later?  I have seen a picture showing the expended cases and links on the bottom of the nose, but I am not sure if this was common practice.  I have also read that canvas bags or a flexible sleeve may have been used, but have not seen pictures of either of these possible collection methods.  In the case of the Dams raid, with a gunner in the nose turret and the bomb aimer at his position, I would not think that the bomb aimer would want to be distracted by having spent cases and links falling over him during the bomb run.

Fortunately, I knew someone who would have the answer: Fred Sutherland, the front gunner in Les Knight’s aircraft, AJ-N – the aircraft which dropped the mine which broke the Eder Dam. Fred obliged with an almost immediate definitive response: 

There were bags under each gun to catch the spent cases. There were several reasons for this. First, each gun fired 20 rounds a second and even with a short burst the empty cases soon built up a great pile.
Then there was at times, the violent evasive action where the empties could get air borne and foul up the works.
In the front turret which was designed for one person they would have showered down on the B/A. After a long burst [of fire] the cases became very hot.

So, there we have it. Another small mystery resolved!

Bruce Hosie: any pictures out there?

I’ve recently been contacted by New Zealander John Saunders, the great-nephew of a 617 Squadron airman from later in the war, Flg Off Bruce Hosie RNZAF. 

Just to say how much I’ve enjoyed your recent book – ‘Breaking the Dams’ – just neat neat stuff. I have read a few of the 617 & Dambusters books but this one has something special – the personal touch I think. Congratulations !
I’m trying to track down a photo of my great-uncle, Bruce Hosie. Bruce was a young Wireless Operator/Gunner on 617 Sqn in 1944 but was killed on the Oct 44 raid on the Kembs Dam down near Basel. He was my grandmother’s younger brother … and is still remembered back home in NZ. He had done a previous tour on 75 Sqn (NZ) and was posted to 617 in Jan 44 – and did most of his time on Jimmy Cooper & then Bob Knight’s crews…he did the first of the Tirpitz raids…then came back from leave to end up on a scratch crew for the Kembs deal. He was shot by the local Nazi Chief after their aircraft crashed in Rheinwheiler and is buried near Metz. 

The Kembs Dam was on the Rhine in the very south of Germany, near a threeway border with both France and Switzerland. The plan was to attack it with the giant Tallboy bombs from both low and high level. Bruce Hosie’s aircraft, which was piloted by Sqn Ldr Wyness, was badly damaged and he ditched in the Rhine, hoping to reach the safety of the Swiss bank. They did not make it, however, and four of the crew were captured. In what was a clear abuse of the Geneva convention all of them were shot by local Nazi chiefs, and their bodies dumped in or near the river.