75th Anniversary of the Dambusters Raid and a very Special Visit

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by The Cooler King, May 16, 2018.

  1. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Pilot Officer (Air Bomber) GILLESPIE, ALAN
    Service Number 144205
    Died 16/05/1943
    Aged 20
    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    D F M
    Son of Robert and Margaret Gillespie, of Carlisle.

    Plt Off A Gillespie DFM Bomb aimer - Lancaster serial number: ED927/G - Call sign: AJ-E - Second wave. Crashed on outward flight.

    Alan Gillespie was born on 16 November 1922 in Hesket, Westmorland.
    When Barlow set about putting together a crew who would accompany him on to 617 Squadron Gillespie and Whillis, who had been with him since their training days, were obvious choices. Both were commissioned two days before the Dams Raid. Whether they had time to move from the Sergeants’ to the Officers’ Mess is not recorded. 

    It was therefore as a newly fledged Pilot Officer that Alan Gillespie met his end. Flying in the nose of the Lancaster at treetop level, he may have seen the pylon they hit near Haldern a split second before impact. 

    Alan Gillespie and his comrades were buried first in Dusseldorf, but after the war they were reinterred in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. The DFM he had won a few weeks before was presented to his family posthumously.

    Gillespie Dambusters.jpg
     
    CL1 likes this.
  2. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Flight Lieutenant BARLOW, ROBERT NORMAN GEORGE
    Service Number 401899
    Died 16/05/1943
    Aged 32
    617 (R.A.F.) Sqdn.
    Royal Australian Air Force
    D F C
    Son of Alexander and Frances May Barlow; husband of Audrey May Barlow, of St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia.

    Flt Lt R N G Barlow DFC Pilot - Lancaster serial number: ED927/G - Call sign: AJ-E - Second wave. Crashed on outward flight.

    Robert Norman George Barlow was born on 22 April 1911 in Carlton, a suburb of the Australian city of Melbourne.

    In September 1942, Barlow was posted as a Lancaster pilot to 61 Squadron, based at RAF Syerston and began a successful first tour of operations. His regular crew included flight engineer Leslie Whillis and bomb aimer Alan Gillespie, both of whom would later accompany him to 617 Squadron.
    By March 1943, Barlow and his crew had completed a full tour, and he was recommended for the DFC. The citation read:

    Throughout his many operational sorties, this officer has displayed the highest courage and devotion to duty. He has participated many attacks on Essen, Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne, and on two occasions he has flown his aircraft safely back to base on three engines. During periods of the most extensive operations Flt Lt Barlow has set a magnificent example of courage and determination.

    Barlow and his crew had been assigned to the Second Wave, detailed to attack the Sorpe Dam. Because they were under instruction to maintain radio silence, nothing more was heard from them. But we know that they reached the border between the Netherlands and Germany for it was near Haldern, 5km east of the Rhineside town of Rees, that they crashed, ten minutes before midnight. It appears that they hit one of the pylons which stretch across the fields in the locality, although it is possible that the aircraft had first been hit by flak. AJ-E came to rest in a small meadow on the edge of a copse. All on board were killed instantly, their bodies badly burned.

    Barlow Dambusters.jpg
     
    CL1 likes this.
  3. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Pilot Officer (Flight Engineer) WHILLIS, SAMUEL LESLIE
    Service Number 144619
    Died 16/05/1943
    Aged 31
    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    Son of Charles and Edith Whillis, of Newcastle-on-Tyne; husband of Gladys Winifred Whillis, of Fenham, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

    Plt Off S L Whillis Flight engineer - Lancaster serial number: ED927/G - Call sign: AJ-E - Second wave. Crashed on outward flight.

    Samuel Leslie Whillis, known as Leslie to his family, was born in Newcastle on Tyne in 1912, the second son of Charles and Edith Whillis. He joined the RAF shortly after the outbreak of war, and served as ground crew until 1942. Two days before the raid, both Whillis and Gillespie received commissions, backdated to April 1943. Not much more than two hours after take off, Whillis and the rest of his ex-61 Squadron comrades crossed the Rhine, and then hit a pylon and crashed, killing all on board.
    Whillis’s wife Gladys kept his medals, a letter from Gibson concerning his loss and various other mementoes. They were later sold at auction and are now on display in the Bygones gallery in Torquay.

    Whillis Dambusters.jpg
     
    CL1 and Tolbooth like this.
  4. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) ASTELL, WILLIAM
    Service Number 60283
    Died 17/05/1943
    Aged 23
    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    D F C
    Son of Godfrey Grant Astell and Margery Helen Astell, of Manchester.

    Flt Lt W Astell DFC Pilot 617 Squadron - Lancaster serial number: ED864/G - Call sign: AJ-B. First wave. Crashed on outward flight.

    On 1 December 1941 he was involved in a horrendous flying accident: another aircraft cut in ahead of him while he was landing, and he fractured his skull and suffered severe burns to his back. Back on operations the next summer, he was shot down over the Western Desert and crash landed behind enemy lines. He managed to evade capture and got back to his base some five days later. For this operation he was awarded the DFC.
    He eventually returned to England in September 1942 and was destined to become a flying instructor, but managed to get himself trained to fly Lancasters and was then posted to 57 Squadron at RAF Scampton, arriving in January 1943.

    On the night of the raid, Astell took off in the final trio of the first wave, led by Maudslay, with Les Knight as the third member. They ran into unexpected light flak, from the same position that had damaged Hopgood’s aircraft about 20 minutes earlier. Through this Astell flew at 0015, and although his gunners vigorously retunred fire he did not survive the ordeal. When eight miles north-west of Dorsten, Kellow watched the aircraft become swiftly engulfed in flames about two miles astern, and shortly afterwards he and Hobday reported an explosion on the ground.
    Astell had hit an electrical pylon near Marbeck, where a line of HT cables lay in the path of the attacking force. The Upkeep mine Astell’s aircraft was carrying exploded about ninety seconds later. The next day the bodies of the crew were taken to Borken and buried in the City Cemetery. After the war, they were all reinterred together in the Reichswald Forest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

    Astell Dambuster.jpg
     
    CL1 likes this.
  5. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Flight Sergeant (Air Gunner) GARBAS, FRANCIS ANTHONY
    Service Number R/103201
    Died 17/05/1943
    617 (R.A.F.) Sqdn
    Royal Canadian Air Force

    Sgt F A Garbas Front gunner 617 Squadron - Lancaster serial number: ED864/G. Call sign: AJ-B. First wave. Crashed on outward flight.

    Garbas Dambuster.jpg
     
    CL1 likes this.
  6. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Sergeant (Air Gunner) STRANGE, HARRY JOHN
    Service Number 1395453
    Died 17/05/1943
    Aged 20
    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    Son of Margaret Elizebeth Strange, and stepson of Robert William Lynn, of Holloway, London.

    Sgt H J Strange Front gunner 617 Squadron - Lancaster serial number: ED910/G. Call sign: AJ-C. Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

    Along with five others in his crew, he died when the aircraft was shot down near Hamm on 17 May 1943.
    Harry Strange and his comrades were originally buried in by the Germans in Hamm, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

    Strange Dambuster.jpg
     
    CL1 likes this.
  7. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Pilot Officer (Navigator) WILE, FLOYD ALVIN
    Service Number J/16872
    Died 17/05/1943
    Aged 24
    617 (R.A.F.) Sqdn
    Royal Canadian Air Force
    Son of Harris A. and Annabelle B. Wile, of Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada.

    Plt Off F A Wile Navigator 617 Squadron. - Lancaster serial number: ED864/G - Call sign: AJ-B. First wave. Crashed on outward flight.

    Wile and his colleagues were all to die on 617 Squadron’s first operation, when their Lancaster was damaged by flak and collided with a pylon near Marbeck. They were buried first in Borken, and reinterred after the war in the Reichswald Forest Military Cemetery.

    Wille Dambuster.jpg
     
    CL1 likes this.
  8. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Sergeant (Flight Engineer) KINNEAR, JOHN
    Service Number 635123
    Died 17/05/1943
    Aged 21
    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force
    Son of William and Helen Kinnear, of East Newport, Fife.

    Sgt J Kinnear Flight engineer - 617 Squadron - Lancaster serial number: ED864/G - Call sign: AJ-B. First wave. Crashed on outward flight.

    Shortly after midnight on the raid, when they hit a pylon and crashed near Marbeck. The explosion was so fierce that it wasn’t until the next day that the wreckage was approached by the Germans. Along with his comrades, John Kinnear was buried first in the City Cemetery in Borken. They were all reinterred after the war, and lie together in the Reichswald Forest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

    Kinner Dambuster.jpg
     
    CL1 likes this.
  9. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Pilot Officer (Pilot) OTTLEY, WARNER

    Service Number 141460

    Died 17/05/1943

    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

    D F C
    Plt Off W Ottley DFC - Dambuster Pilot - Lancaster serial number: ED910/G - Call sign: AJ-C. Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.


    The Ottley crew undertook their first training flight in the new squadron on 8 April 1943. About five weeks later, they were designated to be the first crew in Operation Chastise’s Wave Three, the mobile reserve. Their duty was to be in the air over Germany after the earlier two waves had done their work, and then be diverted by 5 Group headquarters to attack whatever target it deemed necessary.

    
Ottley led off the wave, and AJ-C was airborne at 0009 on Monday 17 May. It crossed the Dutch coast at about 0130 and proceeded on the same route taken earlier by the First Wave towards Ahlen. At 0231, Group sent the code word “Gilbert” to AJ-C, and the signal was acknowledged. This meant proceed to the Lister Dam. A minute later a change of plan occurred, and the code word “Dinghy” was sent, instructing AJ-C: “Eder destroyed, attack Sorpe”.
    The second signal was not acknowledged, indicating that AJ-C had met its fate at about 0231. Ken Brown, flying AJ-F a few minutes behind, reported seeing him hit the ground at 0235. He recalled later: “Ottley, on my right, was hit and pulled up, his tanks exploded then his bomb – the whole valley was lit up in a bright orange.”


    AJ-C hit the ground at Heessen, five miles north-east of Hamm, which suggests that it was probably hit by flak west of Hamm itself. Tees’ turret was blown clear of the rest of the aircraft and he regained consciousness on the ground, very badly burnt, and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner.
    Ottley and the rest of the crew died instantly. They were originally buried in by the Germans in Hamm, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.


    Ottley Dambuster.jpg
     
    CL1 likes this.
  10. Jamie Holdbridge-Stuart

    Jamie Holdbridge-Stuart Senior Member

    CK, do you have ny piccys of Guy gibson's grave in Steenburgen, If not I can send you a couple?
     
    CL1 likes this.
  11. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    I do thanks Jamie, these to come latter in this thread! :)
     
  12. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Sergeant (Flight Engineer) KINNEAR, JOHN
    Service Number 635123
    Died 17/05/1943
    Aged 21
    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force
    Son of William and Helen Kinnear, of East Newport, Fife.

    Flg Off J K Barrett DFC Navigator, 617 Squadron. Lancaster serial number: ED910/G - Call sign: AJ-C. Third wave. Crashed on outward flight.

    Jack Kenneth Barrett was born in Hackney, London, on 9 September 1920, the only child of David and Ethel Barrett. He joined the RAF in 1940, and was sent to South Africa for training as a navigator. On qualification, he was awarded a commission.
    He was posted to 207 Squadron in February 1942, and by the end of March 1943, he had reached the end of his tour, and could have opted for a training position for a period. He was also recommended for a DFC, the citation for which read:

    Flying Officer Barrett has invariably displayed a high standard of navigation during operational flights. His good work has contributed to the success of the operations in which he has participated. On one occasion, when returning from a raid on Saarbrucken, one engine failed when leaving the target area and a second failed when over the French coast. Although the situation appeared desperate for a time, Flying Officer Barrett continued to give cool and effective navigational directions which greatly assisted the captain in landing the bomber safely. Throughout his operational career, this officer has displayed exceptional skill, courage and devotion to duty.

    Unfortunately the award did not come through before Jack Barrett set off on the Dams Raid shortly after midnight on the morning of 17 May 1943. Within three hours he was dead, shot down near Hamm.
    Jack Barrett and his comrades were originally buried by the Germans in Hamm, but were reinterred after the war in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

    Barrett Dambuster.jpg barrett 617.jpg
     
    CL1 likes this.
  13. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member

    Superb thread. Well done!
     
  14. Little Friend

    Little Friend Senior Member

    Agreed ! A wonderful thread. Thank you.
     
  15. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Flying Officer (Air Gunner) TYTHERLEIGH, WILLIAM JOHN
    Service Number 120851
    Died 17/05/1943
    Aged 21
    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
    D F C
    Son of A. P. and Julia Tytherleigh, of Hove, Sussex.

    Flg Off W J Tytherleigh DFC - Front gunner. Lancaster serial number: ED937/G Call sign: AJ-Z. First wave. Second aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine overshot. Aircraft damaged, and shot down on return flight.

    William John Tytherleigh, always known as “Johnny”, was born in Cambridge on 8 November 1921. He joined the RAF in 1940, and qualified as an observer/air gunner. On 2 February 1943, he joined up with Henry Maudslay, Robert Urquhart and Norman Burrows for the first time, on an operation to Cologne, and he flew a further eight times with this crew, until they were all transferred to 617 Squadron.
    On the Dams Raid, he was occupying the front gun turret of AJ-Z, which would have meant he was very close to the explosion when its Upkeep mine went off as it hit the parapet of the Eder Dam. As their damaged aircraft stuttered homewards, it flew too close to a flak battery on the outskirts of Emmerich, and they were shot down.
    When they got to the crash site, the Germans could not identify the individual remains of William Tytherleigh, Michael Fuller and Robert Urquhart, and they were buried together in a single grave. After the war, they were all reinterred in Reichswald Forest war cemetery.
    Like Urquhart, Tytherleigh had been recommended for a DFC at the time of his transfer from 50 Squadron. He had completed 42 operations. However, just as happened with his colleague, the recommendation got ‘lost’ for over two years, and it was not announced until June 1945.

    TYTHERLEIGH Dambuster 2.jpg tytherleigh22.jpg
     

Share This Page