In Memoriam - Those Air Force Pilots/Crews who died on this day in WW2.

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by spidge, Nov 20, 2009.

  1. spidge





    406029 Pilot Officer Arthur Raymond NOSEDA, DFC


    AWM 237 (65) NAA: A705, 166/30/1

    Commonwealth War Graves records W R Chorley: RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Page 16, Volume 1943.

    Aircraft Type: Mosquito

    Serial number: DZ 315

    Radio call sign: GB – L

    Unit: ATTD 105 SQN RAF


    Mosquito DZ315 took off from RAF Marham at 1615 hours on the 9th January 1943, detailed to bomb the marshalling yards at Rouen, France. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it failed to return to base.


    RAAF 406029 PO Arthur Raymond Noseda, DFC Captain (Pilot):poppy:

    RAF 1348237 Sgt John Watson Urquhart, (Navigator):poppy:

    The aircraft was last seen at 1730 hours when it was hit in the target area (believed to be light flak), crashed in flames and exploded. Both the crew were killed. They are buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, Locality Seine Maritime, France.


    The Citation for the award of DFC to the then WO Noseda of 105 Sqn is as follows:

    “In December 1942, WO Noseda was pilot of one of the force of aircraft engaged in a low level daylight attack on a target in north-west Germany. During the operation, which was executed at a height of 1000 feet, the leading aircraft was damaged by the intense anti-aircraft fire and lost speed owing to the failure of one of its engines. WO Noseda reduced the speed of his aircraft and escorted his leaders safely back to base.

    The Warrant Officer has completed many operational sorties and has displayed outstanding courage and determination.” (London Gazette 15/1/1943, page 330)

    RAAF 406029 PO Arthur Raymond Noseda. Aged 30, Son of Arthur and Jessie Noseda, of Claremont, Western Australia. (LL.B.)

    RAF 1348237 Sgt John Watson Urquhart. Aged 25, Son of George and Jean Watson Urquhart, of Redcastle, Ross and Cromarty. (M.R.C.V.S.)
    St.Sever Cemetery & Extension 406029 Noseda_AR.jpg St Sever Cemetery4.jpg St Sever Cemetery6.jpg
  2. spidge




    403586 Pilot Officer HEINRICH, Esmond Peter

    AWM 237 (65) Commonwealth War Graves records
    W. R. Chorley: RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Page 21, Volume 1943.

    Aircraft Type: Lancaster III
    Serial number: ED 471
    Radio call sign: VN - ?
    Unit: ATTD 50 SQN RAF

    Lancaster ED471 took off from RAF Skellingthorpe on the night of 17/18th January, 1943, detailed to bomb Berlin. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it failed to return to base.

    RAAF 403586 PO Esmond Peter Heinrich, Captain (Pilot) :poppy:
    RAF 1198997 Sgt Leslie James Bond, (Flight Engineer) :poppy:
    RCAF J/8127 FO Robert Harvie, (Navigator) :poppy:
    RAF 1114338 Sgt Jack Eastwood, (Air Bomber) :poppy:
    RAF 648382 Flt Sgt Arthur Gwilyn Thomas, (Wireless Air Gunner) :poppy:
    RCAF R/4326A Flt Sgt Iain Fraser, (Mid Upper Gunner) :poppy:
    RCAF R/74326 WO 11 John Alwin Moore, (Rear Gunner) :poppy:

    All the crew were killed and they are buried in the Kiel War Cemetery, Locality Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Kiel lies 83kms north of Hamburg.

    RAAF 403586 PO Esmond Peter Heinrich. Aged 20, Son of Otto Herman Gustav Heinrich and Daisy Georgina Heinrich, of Eastern Creek, New South Wales, Australia.

    RAF 1198997 Sgt Leslie James Bond. Sadly no age or NOK Listed.

    RCAF J/8127 FO Robert Harvie.
    Aged 22, Son of Dr. Robert and Ada Raper, nee Dalton, Harvie of Westmount, Quebec. He was born 26 September, 1920 in Ottawa.

    RAF 1114338 Sgt Jack Eastwood. Aged 31, Son of Ernest and Alice Eastwood, of Huddersfield.

    RAF 648382 Flt Sgt Arthur Gwilyn Thomas. Aged 23, Son of George H. and Jane Thomas, of Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan; husband of Lilian Thomas, of Twynyrodyn, Merthyr Tydfil.

    RCAF R/4326A Flt Sgt Iain Fraser. Aged 22, Son of John and Hannah Nicol Fraser, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

    RCAF R/74326 WO 11 John Alwin Moore. Aged 24, Son of Patrick John and Helena Moore, of Quyon, Province of Quebec, Canada.
    RAF Heinrich_EP.jpg Kiel War Cemetery 4.jpg Kiel War Cemetery.JPG
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
  3. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member


    J8127 F/O Robert Harvie was the son of Dr. Robert and Ada Raper, nee Dalton, Harvie of Westmount, Quebec. He was born 26 September, 1920 in Ottawa.

    His younger brother, J27573 F/O John Dalton Harvie, navigator on a No. 433 Squadron Halifax was sole survivor when it was lost 5 July 1944. Betrayed by Jacques Desoubrie he spent time at Fresnes prison in Paris before being one of the 168 Allied fliers sent to Buchenwald.

    In 1995 he published his life story, "Missing in Action: An RCAF Navigator's story"

    John Dalton Harvie's Obituary on The Gazette


  4. spidge


    Thank you Dave, Great info again.


  5. spidge


    (Not on this Day)

    404904 Flight Sergeant HENDERSON, William Douglas

    AWM 237 (65) NAA : A705, 166/17/22 Commonwealth War Graves records
    Aircraft Type: Lancaster
    Serial number: R 5843
    Radio call sign:
    Unit: 1654 Conversion RAF

    On the night of the 17/18th January 1943, Lancaster R5843 took off from RAF Swinderby, at 1647 hours, detailed to bomb Berlin, Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base.
    It was later established that the aircraft was shot down and all the crew were killed.

    RAF 139033 PO Leslie Jenkinson, (Pilot Instructor)
    RAF 655641 Sgt Fred Nuttall, (Pilot)
    RAF 1109741 Sgt Fred Raithby Scargall, (Navigator)
    RAF 1410336 Sgt Harry Reginald Wakley, (Observer)
    RAAF 404904 Flt Sgt William Douglas Henderson, (Wireless Air Gunner)
    RAF 1511886 Sgt Bernard Hannaway, (Air Gunner)
    RAF 1146100 Sgt Phillip Joseph Newman, (Air Gunner)

    All the crew are buried in the Sage War Cemetery, Oldenburg, Niedersachsen, Germany.
    Sage is a village, 24kms south of Oldenburg, a town 43kms west of Bremen.

    RAF 139033 PO Leslie Jenkinson Aged 29, Son of Louis and Florence M. Jenkinson; husband of Phyllis H. Jenkinson, of Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire.

    RAF 655641 Sgt Fred Nuttall Aged 24, Son of James Harold and May Nuttall, of St. Anne'S-on-Sea, Lancashire.

    RAF 1109741 Sgt Fred Raithby Scargall. Sadly no age or NOK

    RAF 1410336 Sgt Harry Reginald Wakley. Aged 21, Son of Harry and Ellen May Wakley, of Cardiff

    RAAF 404904 Flt Sgt William Douglas Henderson. Aged 32, Son of William Albert and Catherine Margaret Henderson; husband of Queenie Kathleen Henderson, of Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia.

    RAF 1511886 Sgt Bernard Hannaway Sadly no age or NOK

    RAF 1146100 Sgt Phillip Joseph Newman Sadly no age or NOK
    Henderson_WD (2).jpg 4_Overview #2.jpg 6_Overview #4.jpg 3_Overview #1.jpg
    CL1 likes this.
  6. spidge


    Remember the Pilot of this Bomber Command Mosquito, S/L Arthur Geoffrey Oxlade as he was killed on D-Day. Will post his loss later however we must bow to the Wooden Wonder. One Wing, One Engine, One Wheel. He flew it back from operations and landed it and both he and his navigator were not injured.

    Click the link:

    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
    CL1 likes this.
  7. spidge


    (Not on this Day) Crew Photo.jpg
    424729 Flight Sergeant BOYLE, Brian Phillip
    AWM 237 (65) NAA: A705, 166/6/466 Micro Film No 463 AFH
    Commonwealth War Graves records W R Chorley: RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Page 150, Volume 1944.

    Aircraft Type: Lancaster
    Serial number: JB 736
    Radio call sign: PM – N
    Unit: ATTD 103 SQN RAF
    Lancaster JB736 took off from RAF Elsham Wolds at 2116 hours on the night of 30/31st March 1944, detailed to bomb Nuremburg, Germany. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it failed to return to base.
    RAF 135076 FO James Guy Johnston, Captain (Pilot) (Killed)
    RAF 1566687 Sgt William James Gwynne, (Flight Engineer) (Killed)
    RCAF J/23906 FO Joseph Jean Andre Ducharme, (Navigator) (Killed)
    RAF 137611 FO John Christopher Patrick Doyle, (Air Bomber) (Killed)
    RAF 1097466 Sgt Gordon Thomson, (Wireless Air Gunner) (Killed)
    RAF 1590719 Sgt Frank Fealy, (Mid Upper Gunner) (POW # 3442 – Camp 357)
    RAAF 424729 Flt Sgt Brian Phillip Boyle, (Rear Gunner) (Killed)

    On the outward flight the aircraft was hit by flak and crashed north east of Bilkheim at 0100 on 31st March. The village of Bilkheim is 8kms SSW of Westerburg. Six of the crew were killed and Sgt Fealy was a POW.
    Those killed of this crew are buried in the Rheinberg War Cemetery, Locality Kamp Lintfort, Nordrhein-Westfal, Germany. Rheinberg is 24kms north of Krefeld and 13kms south of Wesel. 48 Australians were lost on that Op in multiple squadrons.

    Sgt Fealy who sustained burns to both legs, later reported “the aircraft was hit and communications between self and the rest of the crew was cut. As I made my way to the next communication point, the aircraft lurched and finally dived. It depended on my own initiative whether I should bale out, which I did through a hole in the bottom of the aircraft where the H2S scanner had been blown away. Estimated height was 5/8000 feet. I believe none of the others baled out.”

    Besides the six killed on this aircraft, another 106 from that raid were buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery alone. UK (80), Canada (20), Australia (11) and New Zealand (1)

    The crew were posted to 103sq at Elsham Wolds in February 1944 and did their first Op to Stuttgart on the 15th March 1944, their second to Frankfurt on the 18th March 1944 and their final Op to Nuremburg, being one of the costliest in men and aircraft)

    Frank Fealy was born in Leeds on the 25/11/1924 and enlisted in the RAF when he turned 18. He was repatriated in May 1945, promoted to Warrant Officer and demobbed shortly after.

    There was still much sorrow in The Sydney Morning Herald “In Memoriam” section of the newspaper on (Wednesday 31st March 1948, the 4th Anniversary of that disastrous raid. There were many remembering their family members who were lost over Nuremburg that night however one stuck out from the Australian in this crew, Sgt Brian Phillip Boyle who must have written his mother about a friend in his crew (It reads)

    “GWYNNE”-A tribute To the memory of Sgt. William James Gwynne, also four other members of the crew, pals of the late Sgt Brian Boyle. Inserted by Brian's Mother”

    There were also separate Memoriams from the Mother and Family of Sgt Boyle.

    RAF 135076 FO James Guy Johnston. Aged 28, Son of William and Mary Guy Johnston, of Eglinton, Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

    RAF 1566687 Sgt William James Gwynne. Aged 21, Son of William James Gwynne and Annie Gwynne, of Omagh, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

    RCAF J/23906 FO Joseph Jean Andre Ducharme. Aged 25, Son of Elias Ducharme and of Evelyn Ducharme (nee Deegan), of Montreal, Province of Quebec, Canada.

    RAF 137611 FO John Christopher Patrick Doyle. Aged 29, Son of Patrick Doyle, and of Polly Doyle (nee Byrne).

    RAF 1097466 Sgt Gordon Thomson. Aged 22, Son of Sarah Thomson; nephew of E. I. Hargreaves, of Kendal, Westmorland.

    RAAF 424729 Flt Sgt Brian Phillip Boyle. Aged 19, Son of Edward Phillip and Eileen Margaret Boyle, of North Curl Curl, New South Wales, Australia.

    Attached Files:

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  8. spidge


    Flight Lieutenant Lewin has become the 271st Australian I have found who was killed in the RAF.
    402118 Sergeant GOURLEY, William Henry James
    AWM 237 (65) NAA: A705, 163/118/187 Commonwealth War Graves records
    W R Chorley: RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Page 101, Volume 1941.
    Aircraft Type: Halifax
    Serial number: L 9529
    Radio call sign: MP -
    Unit: ATTD 76 SQN RAF
    Halifax L9529 took off from RAF Stanton Harcourt at 1034 hours on 24th July 1941, detailed to bomb La Pallice, France. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it failed to return to base.
    RAF 84304 Flt Lt Austin Elleker Lewin, Captain (Pilot) (Killed) (Of Australia)
    RAAF 402118 Sgt William Henry James Gourley, (2nd Pilot) (Killed)
    RAF 560615 Flt Sgt Charles Henry Horner, (Observer) (Killed)
    RAF 974527 Sgt B Phillips, (Wireless Air Gunner) (POW – 23 CAMP 357)
    RAF 981272 Sgt Percy James Vickery, (2nd Wireless Air Gunner) (Killed)
    RAF 565372 Sgt W A Finlayson, (Flight Engineer) (POW – 48 CAMP L6)
    RAF 42359 FO N W McLeod, (Air Gunner) (POW – 3650 CAMP L3)

    L9529 was seen to be attacked by enemy fighters and gradually lost height. It crashed between La Pallice and La Rochelle, France. Four of the crew were killed. Sgt’s Phillips, Finlayson and FO McLeod were POW’s.
    Flt Lt Lewin, Flt Sgt Horner and Sgt Vickery are buried in the L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer Communal Cemetery, Locality Vendee, France. L’Aiguillon is a seaside town 50kms from La Rochelle by road and 21kms south of the town of Lucon.

    Sgt Gourley is buried in the Pornic War Cemetery, Locality Loire-Atlantique, France. Pornic is on the north side of Borgneuf Bay and is 51kms WSW of Nantes and 20kms SSE of St Nazaire. He had baled out and landed in the sea however his body was later recovered by the Germans.

    Sgt Finlayson later reported “ Sgt Gourley baled out and landed safely in the sea. It was a considerable distance from land and he did not know if Gourley reached the shore.” FO McLeod reported that he believed Gouley had drowned.”

    RAF 84304 Flt Lt Austin Elleker Lewin.
    Aged 24, Son of Francis Ellerker and Margaret Stella Lewin (Nee Holland) of Elwood, Victoria, Australia.

    RAAF 402118 Sgt William Henry James Gourley.
    Aged 23, Son of Florence May Gourley of Haberfield, New South Wales, Australia.

    RAF 560615 Flt Sgt Charles Henry Horner.
    Aged 30, Son of Richard and Daisy Horner; husband of Dorothy Mary Horner, of Paulsgrove, Portsmouth.

    RAF Sgt Percy James Vickery.
    NO AGE LISTED, Son of Edward Vickery, and of Alice Emma Vickery, of Newport, Monmouthshire.

    Photo is of Sgt William Henry James Gourley RAAF
    Pornic_Gourley_WHJ.JPG Pornic War Cemetery 402118 Gourley_WHJ 2.JPG Pornic Cemetery Pornic War Cemetery (Rich Payne).jpg Pornic War Cemetery Gourley Crew Lewin.jpg Pornic War Cemetery Gourley Crew Horner.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2018
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  9. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria.

    WW2 pilot's remains found after 75 years

    The remains of a distinguished Spitfire RAF pilot were found by a metal detectorist 75 years after he was killed in a mid-air crash.

    Sqn Ldr Daniel Cremin, 25, died in 1942 when his plane came down over Cornwall.

    Mark Cremin, said a sealed coffin of his father's remains was sent to his family and buried in Wiltshire but it "may have just been sandbags".

    Sqn Ldr Cremin's bones have now been interred in his original grave after being discovered last year.
    spidge likes this.
  10. spidge


    (Not on this Day)


    Date of Death: 25 July 1943


    AWM 64 (1/293) AWM 64 (1/294) AWM 237 (63)

    NAA: A705, 166/4/54

    Aircraft Type: Lancaster

    Serial number: W 4987

    Radio call sign: AR –

    Unit: 460 Sqn RAAF


    Lancaster W 4987 took off from RAF Binbrook at 2308 hours on the night of 24/25th July

    1943 to attack Hamburg, Germany. Bomb load 1 x 4000lb and 2 x 1000lb bombs. 48 x

    30lb and 510 x 4lb incendiaries. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it

    did not return to base. Twenty six aircraft from the squadron took part in the attack.


    RAAF 413522 Flt Sgt Aubrey George Ashley, Captain (Pilot):poppy:

    RAAF 412860 Flt Sgt Frederick Cecil Taylor, (Navigator):poppy:

    RAF 1065899 Sgt John McFarland Acheson, (Bomb Aimer):poppy:

    RAF 1334423 Sgt James Vivian Joyce, (Wireless Operator):poppy:

    RAF 1416068 Sgt Dennis William Metcalfe, (Flight Engineer):poppy:

    RCAF R/86190 Flt Sgt Antoine Joseph Elphege Perron, (Air Gunner):poppy:

    RAAF 414293 Flt Sgt Francis Smith Forsyth, (Air Gunner):poppy:

    Post war it was established that the aircraft was hit by flak and crashed near Cuxhaven.

    All the crew were killed and they are interred in the Becklingen War Cemetery, Soltau,

    Germany, which is approx 30 miles north of Wessermunde, Germany. Ashley_AG Photo Aubrey family.jpg 460_Sqn_Badge.jpg Ashley_AG (Large).jpg Taylor_FC (Large).jpg Forsyth_FS (Large).jpg Becklingen Cemetery 101 [1600x1200].jpg Becklingen Cemetery 099 (Large).jpg Becklingen Cemetery 131.jpg

    RAAF 413522 Flt Sgt Aubrey George Ashley. Aged 25, Son of Roy Bernard and Rose May Ashley, of Neutral Bay, New South Wales, Australia.

    RAAF 412860 Flt Sgt Frederick Cecil Taylor. Aged 27, Son of Charles John and Edith May Taylor, of Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia.

    RAF 1065899 Sgt John McFarland Acheson.
    Aged 27, Son of William John and Lottie Acheson, of Liverpool.

    RAF 1334423 Sgt James Vivian Joyce

    RAF 1416068 Sgt Dennis William Metcalfe.
    Aged 22, Son of Dennis Alfred and Dorothy Mabel Metcalfe, of Tottenham, Middlesex.

    RCAF R/86190 Flt Sgt Antoine Joseph Elphege Perron.

    RAAF 414293 Flt Sgt Francis Smith Forsyth.
    Aged 20, Son of James and Isabella Forsyth, of Mackay, Queensland, Australia.
  11. Coopermum

    Coopermum Member

    Hi - completely random reply as I have absolutely no idea about codes.......sorry!
    In this post you mention that a photo was found which stated that two of this crew were alive and adrift in a dinghy for two days. Do you happen to know where that info came from please, and if the photo exists somewhere? Ronald Postans was my Dads cousin and I've been doing a bit of (very amateur) research to keep my Dad interested. His relatives in England knew nothing of this - only that he was missing in action. Many thanks, Coopermum
  12. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Born 3 December 1918, Montmartre, Saskatchewan, Canada.

    Son of Victor and Charlotte (nee Gratton) Perron of Montmartre, Saskatchewan, Canada; husband of Marie Dorothea Isabelle (nee Comeau) Perron of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.
    spidge and CL1 like this.
  13. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member


    Been looking at 'Sgt James Vivian Joyce' and trying to add some details - all I can find at present is a possible in the 1939 Register

    1939 England and Wales Register
    Name: James V C Joyce
    Gender: Male
    Marital Status: Single
    Birth Date: 1 Oct 1921
    Residence Year: 1939
    Address: Chantmarle House
    Residence Place: Dorchester, Dorset, England
    Occupation: Footman
    Schedule Number: 38
    Sub Schedule Number: 6
    Enumeration District: WLEO
    Registration district: 264/1
    Household Members:
    Then follows a list of all members of this large household

    BBC - Dorset - Features - Chantmarle Manor

    There are other Joyce families in and around Dorset, his date of birth would seem about right

    What do you think


    The house owner - St John Hornby - Wikipedia

    Charles Harold St John Hornby (25 June 1867 – 1946) was a founding partner of W. H. Smith, deputy vice-chairman of the NSPCC, and founder and owner of the Ashendene Press.

    They had homes at Shelley House, Chelsea, London, and Chantmarle, Dorset.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2018
  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I also began wondering if he was 'illegitimate' and so started searching for a Joyce born in 1921, somwehere around Dorset whose birth certificate may have his mothers maiden name as 'Joyce' - one that stands out is

    England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916-2007
    Name: Joyce
    Registration Date: 1921
    Registration district: Poole
    Inferred County: Dorset
    Re-registration Year: 1921
    Mother's Maiden Name: Joyce
    Volume Number: 5a
    Page Number: 434

    Interesting that the record shows no forenames

  15. dp_burke

    dp_burke Junior Member

    Thats the record of birth for an infant which died at birth. Hence no name. Theres a corresponding death in the death index if you run search for Poole district deaths named Joyce
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  16. spidge


    (Not on this day)

    Australian F/L Anthony Fisher Burcher (Rear Gunner) survived the loss of their aircraft on the Dams raid to become POW with their bomb aimer John Fraser.


    Anthony (Tony) Fisher Burcher DFM
    Part 1
    It was in 1955 when I met up with Tony Burcher again after he was posted to RAF Butterworth as the Station Signals Officer. We had last been stationed together at the end of 1953 when we were patrolling around the coast of Korea. But the story started a few years earlier! Anthony Fisher Burcher was born on the 15th March 1922 in the Riverine District of New South Wales. He was to become one of the famous Dam Busters.
    Tony began his education at Vaucluse Public School, after which he attended Sydney High School followed by St Patrick’s College where he studied agriculture and experimental farming, gaining a diploma in the process. He went on to become employed as a wool sorter with
    Sounders Wool Co of Harrington Street, Sydney.

    On the 30th July 1940 he enlisted as a RAAF Reservist at No. 2 Recruiting Depot, Sydney. On the 12th December 1940 he reported to No.2 Air Crew Training School and on the 1st February 1941 promoted to Leading Aircraftsman. He was posted to No. 3 Wireless School, Winnipeg (Canada) on the 22nd February and then to No. 1 Bombing and Air Gunnery School in Ontario on the 4th August. He was promoted to Acting Sergeant on the 1st September and embarked for the UK on the 29th September to report on arrival to RAF Yatesbury to complete his wireless training as a Signals Telegraphist.

    Following Yatesbury he was posted to the Operational Training Unit at RAF Cottesmore and finally, on the 20thMay 1942, he joined No.106 Squadron whose CO was no other than Wing Commander Guy Gibson.
    After completing 27 operational sorties as rear gunner, Sgt Burcher was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM).
    The citation reads:
    ‘As air gunner, Sergeant Burcher has completed an Operational Tour during which he has displayed great enthusiasm and keenness. He has participated in attacks against German and Italian targets, and mining sorties off France and the Baltic. He has also flown as rear gunner in daylight raids on Danzig and Le-Creusot. In July 1942, when returning from Saarbrűcken, his aircraft was attacked by five enemy fighters. His excellent commentaries enabled the pilot to evade two of them and his well directed fire drove off another two. He also assisted in the destruction of the fifth. Throughout his operational tours he has displayed courage, cheerfulness and determination worthy of the highest praise.’

    On the 7th November 1942, Sgt Burcher was posted to the Central Gunnery School, RAF Sutton Bridge and on the 13th November was discharged as an airman and commissioned as a Pilot Officer (General Duties) on the 14th November.
    During his time with 106 Squadron, Tony had picked up something of a reputation for indulging in rowdy behaviour, which was certainly well deserved!
    He once told me that Guy Gibson, who was well known for his keen approach to the running of the squadron that made him more respected rather than liked, had put Tony on a charge one time for fighting in the mess. This resulted in a displayed notice which read ‘Sergeant Burcher is not to be served alcohol for the next month’. Tony’s friends soon overcame this by buying the drinks for him, which led Gibson to alter the notice to read ‘Sergeant Burcher is not to drink alcohol in the Mess’. This of course led to his mates to simply pass drinks to him through the window!
    Two weeks later the notice was removed.

    On the 14th January 1943 he was posted to RAF Wigsley as an instructor on No. 1658 Conversion Unit. Despite his effusive reputation as one of the ‘Boys’, Guy Gibson apparently had no hesitation in selecting him to join a new squadron as the first of his letters reveals:

    I was at this station with Mickey (Martin) when Guy (Gibson) rang up and asked Mickey if he would like to return to squadron duties. He explained to Mickey there was a special ‘do’ on. He then said “I understand, by the way, Tony Burcher is over there with you. Bring him back as a gunner.” When we all assembled for the first time at RAF Scampton, I realized that both Mickey Martin’s gunners were with him so I attached myself to John (Hoppy) Hopgood’s crew. Hoppy had been our Flight Commander when I was with 106 Squadron.

    We were only told we would be doing low level training in formation across country during both day and night, terminating in some low level bombing, with the accent on low level formation flying. We knew we were training for some kind of low level job! Most of us thought we were after the battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau or Tirpitz. We didn’t dream of dams, and we didn’t realise at the bomb was going to be slung under the aircraft either, even when the specially modified aircraft were
    flown in on the day before final training flights were to take place. We thought we were going to fly conventional aircraft!
    Further letters continue with story:

    We didn’t know until the day before the aircraft were actually flown in because we did our training on the ordinary conventional aircraft. The bomb was described as looking like the front roller of a steam roller, which is about what it looked like. To me it looked like a giant jam tin. We didn’t know what to make of it. When we did some training flights with the thing, we just didn’t know what it was about. All practice flights were only carried out on the last couple of days before the raid. All the practice bombs were dropped from an aircraft flown by a test pilot from A. V. Roe. We found out later that the first ones disintegrated when they hit the water.

    First of all they thought the casing was too thin but later realised it was the height they were dropping it from, so from then on we had to fly at no more than 60 feet. At that height you couldn’t use the altimeter because it wasn’t sensitive enough, That’s when they brought in the idea of using two lights aligned together to give the correct height.
    The pilots were excellent, there’s no doubt about it. The navigators were good too, but the bomb aimers were the map readers, and they were particularly good. They were able to map read when flying at low level and that takes good map reading skill.

    106 Squadron 1942
    A.F. Burcher DFM

    There was a big security build up at the base. Letters were censored, telephone calls monitored and we knew that we daren’t say anything. Guy had threatened to read any letter that contained any classified information to the station over the tannoy. He also stated that if any
    information, even that slightly relating to the squadron, was mentioned over the telephone, he’d read the whole conversation out.
    My girlfriend was a member of the WAAF, as was David’s (Shannon), and we were unable to talk in any way about what was going on with them. In David’s case this was even more unbearable as Ann was on the same station. However to be quite frank I was unable to tell her anything even if I wanted to as I knew nothing at all, security was that tight. We were told the target at briefing on the day of the raid.

    I think it gave us a certain amount of relief because we thought we were going out after ships. We visualised having to fly at zero feet against two or more heavily defended ships. We knew how heavily defended they were because previously when I was on Hampdens, I went out when the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst went up the channel and I actually saw the Halifax’s bombing them. We were told to orbit outside and wait to go in if it was found to be necessary.
    They (the ships) had an umbrella of 109’s over them and the Halifax’s were being chopped to pieces. I have never seen so much flak in all my life and that includes the raids to have to fly at only 60 feet over the things, I wouldn’t have fancied my chances of coming home that much!
    When we saw it was the dams, which we thought were not very highly defended, if anything there was some relief, at least there was from my point of view’

    Part 2

    The 16th of May 1943 had been a beautiful balmy day and in the evening when we took off, there was a full moon, almost daylight! Before we took off the medics issued us with cod liver oil tablets; we were told they would keep us awake. We found out later that they were caffeine and benzidine tablets.

    I was a little concerned that we were going to fly very low, even though we had done all these practice flights over England. We knew the terrain over Holland and North West Germany which we were flying over was going to be pretty flat. There weren’t that many hills and I don’t think I felt more worried than on any other previous raid.
    My mum used to send me malted milk tablets over to where ever I was posted. Like a lot of people over in Australia she had heard tales about us all starving in England and poor old mum used to send Comfort
    Funds Parcels over to us and always enclosed a jar of malted milk tablets.
    I’d built up a store of them in my quarters but had never taken any with me on any trip in fact I had never eaten any of them before.
    But on the night of the raid I was walking down to the flight line with Brian (Goodale) who was Dave’s (Shannon) w/op when something prompted me to go back and pick up one of the jars of these tablets. I don’t know why, probably a premonition I would need them. Later on, when I was captured and hungry, they came in very handy.
    As we crossed the coast of Holland we had a bit of light flak, as usual.

    Usually when we crossed the coast going into Germany, we were picked up by searchlights and had a fair amount of heavy AA, but on this occasion we had no worries at the height we were flying. Heavy flak was bursting above us between15 and 20,000 ft, so that was the least of our worries at the height we were flying. When the aircraft is flying at zero feet then the enemy defences can only hear the aircraft when they are on top of them making it difficult to get their sights on them. Also the searchlights had to go at a very low trajectory and they found it difficult to pick us up. So really the fact that we were flying on the deck meant we were well protected, flying at the highest 100ft but usually more like 50 ft or less.

    I knew John Hopgood from when I was with 106 Squadron. He was a very popular man, a very nice chap, likeable, quiet and very reserved. He was an excellent pilot so I had the greatest confidence in him. We were told we had to keep chatter to a minimum, it had only to be informative chatter. There was very little talk to do as a gunner; the only commentary I could give, of course, was if we were attacked by a night fighter, which we weren’t that night.

    After crossing into Germany we were caught by a searchlight and I opened up, firing tracer from my guns, and shot it out.
    We were actually hit at the same time by a shell burst in the area of the cockpit and the front air gunner was, I believe, killed at this point.
    At the very least he had been mortally wounded as nothing more was heard from his position before we went in (on the attack). I got some pieces of shrapnel in my stomach and lower leg but they were only scratches really, they just drew blood. John Minchin, the w/op might have been hit then, or later on, when we actually made the bombing run.’
    Around this time after briefly consulting the rest of the crew, the pilot made the decision to press on to the Möhne Dam. At the same time it became obvious the pilot had been injured, possibly suffering a head wound that was bleeding badly.
    ‘I remember hearing Charlie (Brennan, flight engineer) saying “Well, what about your face? It’s bleeding like.....” and John interrupting
    him mid sentence saying “just hold a handkerchief over it”. So I imagine for the remainder of the raids time Charlie would have been standing next to John (Hopgood) in an attempt to try and stem the bleeding and keep his eye sight clear. I have no idea as to the nature of the wound and can only assume it to have been a head wound of some nature.
    We were number 2 to Guy’s aircraft. He was to go in and we were next to go in then Mickey (Martin) would come after us. I didn’t personally see the first bomb dropped, or the result,because I was in the rear turret and could not see anything ahead of the Lancaster. I could only see from 90 degrees on either side but others of the crew saw it! It had been discussed that whoever went in first might get them by surprise but they would certainly be waiting for the next bloke. We knew that once Guy went through, the Germans would know where we were coming from, from what direction and height, so we were in a pretty dicey situation.
    We had to get down to the actual bombing height which was between 60 and 80 ft. That was done by
    co-ordinating the two lights onto the water. The bomb aimer (JW Fraser) had to set his sights up but before, then the flight engineer had to start the little two stroke engine which started spinning the bomb (the bomb spin motor used was a Vickers Jassey hydraulic motor powered by the aircraft’s upper turret hydraulic system). We came under heavy flak from the guns. They were very accurate and set a pattern between the two towers on the dam. We had to fly between the towers and when they realised where we were coming from they put a wall of fire in front of us which we then had to fly through ...that’s what got us!

    We had a glycol leak from the earlier hit and lost a lot of power due to that hit, but somehow John kept the engine going. It was not actually feathered as some people have stated but was working on reduced revs.
    When the bomb was released I felt a terrific shuddering throughout the aircraft. I saw these flames shooting past my turret. I could see this flak shooting past us so I turned the turret on the beam (of the aircraft) waiting until the guns came within range, I could only go to 90 degrees of the aircraft’s axis.
    Suddenly, with all the flak going around us and all these flames, my turret stopped moving! One of the port engines drove the turret via its hydraulics mechanism and within seconds of this happening I heard someone, either John or Charlie, I’m not sure which say “Christ, the engines on fire!” Then I remember John saying
    “Feather it! Press the extinguisher”.
    Calm like it’s an exercise. I remember very clearly there was no panic, no rush. After a matter of seconds I remember seeing the flames get even stronger, then minutes after that I heard John say “Right, prepare to abandon aircraft”. At most 5 minutes after that
    he ordered everybody to get out.’

    (Lancaster AJ-M came down some three miles from the Möhne Dam. Time spent waiting for the final order would probably seem to go on forever, 5 minutes would have been a very ‘long’ time!).

    ‘Again with no panic, fear or any other emotions showing, he sounded like he had every time I’d flown with him, totally calm and at ease, like nothing was wrong at all. I hand cranked the turret back. Normally that would take a few minutes but I got it back very was the fastest wound turret you would have ever seen.
    I got out (of the turret) and went back into the
    aircraft’s fuselarge and put on my parachute. We were always drilled to normally say “Prepare to abandon aircraft”, and then before jumping you would plug into the intercom and say you were ready where upon you would be given the final order to bail out.

    I plugged in my helmet and said “I am abandoning aircraft” and John replied “For Christ’s sake, get out ”. That was the last I heard from John.
    I was about to jump when I saw John (Minchin) crawling along the floor his leg dragging uselessly behind him. God knows how he got over the main spar of the aircraft, that in itself was a feat of courage. He was on his hands and knee(s) and was in a hell of a state. I didn’t know what to do! Then I saw he was dragging his parachute with him. It was a detachable parachute and I took it from him and attached to him. By this time I was on the rear step and had opened the jump door on the side of the aircraft. He was no longer moving so I thought there was only one thing I could do. I grabbed the D ring on the parachute and (pushed) him out whilst pulling the ring to open his parachute. I don’t know to this day whether I did the right thing or not and I still agonise about it and have nightmares.

    I don’t know whether John (the pilot) realised it or not, but by now he was in a steep climbing turn to starboard, going to the west of the target. By this time we only had two starboard engines working
    and the port wing was just a mass of flames. You can’t climb in a Lancaster when it’s lost two engines, let alone with all the other damage we had suffered. I can only assume John was trying to gain height so we could all get out even at the expense of his own life.

    I later heard rumours from the Germans that Charlie was found next to John in the wreckage of the cockpit, and I think that would have been right. I can’t see Charlie leaving John until he was also ready to go.
    Speaking later to other aircrews (this was probably at the Premier of the film, ‘The Dam Busters’ held 16/17th May 1955 and attended by many survivors of the raid), it was reckoned that it was about 300 ft when the Lancaster’s fuel tanks went up and the aircraft disintegrated’ in mid-air.
    That was around the time I helped John Minchin to jump! I was squatting on the step near the door when suddenly there was a great rush of air and the next thing I felt was a hell of a ‘belt’ across my back. I had hit the top of the Lancaster’s tail fin!

    Normally you would go out underneath the tail fin but I actually hit it, so I assume I was going up into the air rather than falling down.
    That was one of the things that saved me that night because my parachute must have dragged out after me as I had pulled the D ring before I left the aircraft. Normally a stupid thing to do, the Lancaster was in a banking turn to starboard and that was probably why I hit the fin. The next thing I knew was I was being jerked up in the air and I just literally hit the ground at the same
    instant the jerk happened. A combination of things saved my life that night; the fact that I got that little bit of extra time by pushing John Minchin out and also the fact the parachute jerked me upwards when it opened.

    A parachute jump is said to be the equivalent of a 12 foot fall. As it turned out I had a broken back, and according to the (German) doctors, if I had impacted from a twelve foot fall I would have snapped my spine completely. I had a broken knee cap as well and landing in the middle of a newly ploughed field also helped save me as it cushioned my fall, as well as landing in a little bit of a valley which gave me a bit of extra height. If John had flown the Lancaster straight ahead I would have landed in the path of the flood waters and most likely would have drowned. Everything was on my side that night!
    The story of being a POW for the remainder of the war and post war transfer to the RAF with time spent in FEAF is continued in the next issue of ‘Eastward’.

    2 Dambuster Hopgood Crew.jpg
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  17. Hi spidge. This is my Grandfather. More importantly, he was my Mum's blood father who sh never met. Do you have any further information, or indeed advice, as to how I can gain more knowledge. I appreciate the grave photo. Mum may not have that. Again, anything.
    Cameron Stewart
    Son of Vivien Stewart, ne Garbis, ne Bohane.

  18. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Although it's only 8 pages long, F/O Bohane's service file has been digitized by the NAA.

    View digital copy


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  19. 509thPIB

    509thPIB Well-Known Member

  20. spidge


    Hi Cameron,

    Only information I can offer you is what has been digitised on the NAA archives. View digital copy



    Attached Files:

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