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
     
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  2. The Cooler King

    The Cooler King Elite Member

    Flying Officer SPAFFORD, FREDERICK MICHAEL
    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
     
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  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
     
  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Last edited: Jun 8, 2020
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  8. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member

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  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    The reason is that Burpee crashed in Holland.His aircraft was in the reserve force whose target was to attack the Sorpe should the attack had gone to plan which it did but Burpee's aircraft was lost en route over Holland before he could be directed on to the Sorpe by Gibson.The reserve force was away just after midnight with Pilot Officer Burpee flying S Sugar from Scampton at 0011 hours .The route over Holland was at about 80 feet.The aircraft was slightly off course to the north with its track planned to skirt the Luftwaffe base at Gilze-Reijen .Faced with light flak and dazzled by searchlights Burpee dropped lower but struck some trees on the Luftwaffe base,crashing, causing his bomb to explode and inflicting considerably damage to the airfield amenities.As a consequence the airfield radar unit equipment was put out of action for some time

    Lewis Burpee's aircraft was the 5th down at 0153 hrs from the force and crashed without any survivors.The crew were initially buried at Prinsenlage a few kms west of Bread but in 1948,they were reinterred at at the Bergen-Op- Cemetery,
     
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  10. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member

    Harry
    Many thanks. L.J. Burpee was the father of one of my brother in laws best friends.
     
  11. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    That's interesting,the man referred to would be Lewis Burpee's son,Lewis Burpee junior who was born on Christmas Eve 1943 in Canada.Lewis Burpee's Engish wife Lillian travelled to Canada to live with her in laws after Lewis Burpee FTR.

    Lewis Burpee served on No 106 Squadron with Gibson based at RAF Syerston just south of Newark on the the A 46.I would think Mrs Burpee must have been a Newark area girl.

    Low and low flying and its hazards.I am reminded what Gibson said to Les Munroe after enquiring why had brought his bomb home.Monroe said his aircraft suffered damage and the intercom was u/s after being hit by a flak ship off Holland and a decision was made to return early.Gibson just remarked, you must have been flying too high and without a further word left Munroe.
     
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  12. CharlesF

    CharlesF New Member

    A lot of the text used in the short biographies shown above would seem to have been copied directly from my blog, Dambusters Blog . I have spent many years researching and writing these profiles, one for every one of the 133 men who flew on the Dams Raid. I don't mind people copying material from the blog -- in fact I specifically say this on the blog's front page -- but I do ask that anyone doing so is courteous enough to acknowledge the source. Thank you -- CharlesF
     
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