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 Gunner)MEIKLE, THOMAS ALFRED
    Service Number 52913
    Died 16/09/1943
    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force
    D F M

    Originally from 138 Squadron, award DFM (29.12.1942) (Flight Sgt) , 617 Squadron from July 1943, air gunner - Lancaster EE144 - Ladbergen (Dortmund-Ems Kanal) hit by flak and crashed Altendorf, Germany.

    Meikle DFM.jpg
  2. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Service Number 407380
    Died 16/09/1943
    Aged 25
    Royal Australian Air Force
    D F C, D F M
    Son of James Bourke Spafford and Vida Muriel Spafford.

    Plt Off F M Spafford DFM - Bomb aimer. Lancaster serial number: ED932/G - Call sign: AJ-G. First wave: First aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine exploded short of the dam.

    He was commissioned in January 1943, and he finished his tour in March. Gibson started flying in 617 Squadron with a different bomb aimer, but he wasn’t satisfactory. Spafford was then sent for, possibly recommended by his ex-50 Squadron colleague Harlo Taerum, already flying with Gibson. He obviously hit it off with his new captain, who described him in Enemy Coast Ahead as ‘a grand guy and many were the parties we had together; in his bombing he held the squadron record.’
    On the Dams Raid itself, Gibson attacked first and although his mine was dropped correctly and skipped several times, it sank and exploded some 50 yards short of the target. On his safe return, Spafford was awarded the DFC, and was interviewed by the press and on the radio, describing ‘the secrecy and hazards of No.617’s training for low-level flying, the elaborate briefings, and the attack which was carried out in bright moonlight against enemy fire.’ (Australian Dictionary of Biography).

    When Gibson left, Spafford transferred to new CO George Holden’s crew, although like Taerum and Hutchison he was technically ‘tour expired’. He was killed when Holden was shot down on the raid on the Dortmund Ems Canal, on 16 September 1943, and is buried in Reichswald Forest cemetery.

    Spafford DFC.jpg
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  3. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Sergeant (Air Gunner) BURROWS, NORMAN RUPERT
    Service Number 1503094
    Died 17/05/1943
    617 Sqdn.
    Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

    Sgt N R Burrows
    Rear 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.

    Norman Burrows was born in 1914 in the Toxteth area of Liverpool, the oldest of three children.
    He flew for the first time with Henry Maudslay on 27 January 1943, on a raid to Dusseldorf, and became his regular rear gunner, taking part in a further nine operations. On one raid, to Cologne on 2 February 1943, when they bombed from 19,000 feet conditions were so cold that his guns froze. The complete crew were transferred to 617 Squadron on 27 March 1943.
    Towards the end of the pre-raid training all the Dams Raid crews practised dropping dummy Upkeep mines at Reculver, off the Kent coast. Maudslay and his crew had been allocated Lancaster AJ-X (ED933) for the raid. Burrows was in its rear turret on 12 May when Maudslay came in at an altitude so low that, when the mine was dropped, the splash of water and shingle damaged the tailplane. This must have severely shaken up the gunner.
    The aircraft limped back to Scampton, but the repairs couldn’t be done in time. Fortunately another specially modified Lancaster, ED937, arrived the following day, and Maudslay was allocated it for the raid. It was given the code name AJ-Z.
    After being damaged at the Eder Dam, AJ-Z got as far as Emmerich near the Dutch-German border before being shot down. The body of Burrows, separated from his comrades by the length of the fuselage, was at least identifiable on its own, and he and the rest of the crew were buried in Dusseldorf North cemetery. After the war, they were all reinterred in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

    Burrows - Dambusters.jpg
  4. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Warrant Officer Class II (Wireless Op./Air Gunner) COTTAM, ALDEN PRESTON
    Service Number R/93558
    Died 17/05/1943
    Aged 30
    617 (R.A.F.) Sqdn
    Royal Canadian Air Force
    Son of Edwin A. and Margaret A. Cottam, of Jasper Park, Alberta, Canada.

    Wt Off A P Cottam Wireless operator - 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.

    Alden Cottam was born in the small town of Jasper in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, on 29 August 1912. He joined the RCAF in February 1941 and qualified as a wireless operator/air gunner.
    He joined Henry Maudslay’s crew for an operation to Essen on 21 January 1943. He was posted to 617 Squadron in 25 March as part of Maudslay’s crew.
    He died along with the rest of this crew when they were shot down near Emmerich, limping back in an aircraft damaged during the attack on the Eder Dam.
    Alden Cottam is now buried alongside his comrades in Reichswald Cemetery.

    Cottham - Dambusters.jpg cottam.jpg
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  5. Reebecca

    Reebecca New Member

    Thomas was from the Toxteth (dingle)part of Liverpool and was the eldest of 5 children. He was supposed to have lied about he age as he was too young when he joined the RAF. He is my great uncle
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  6. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    A thread most fitting to this day.

    (A nice Bitburger at a decent price at the little cafe as I recollect from two visits.The Mohne dam is not free from vandalism.The last time I was there,I noted the quality bronze plaque commemorating the construction and commissioning of the dam had been defaced.)

    Per Ardua ad Astra

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