Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Operation "Chastise" May 16-17,1943+74 years

What was to become 617 Squadron was formed on March 21, 1943 as Squadron "X".They were formed for a "special job", with most of the crews coming from 106 Sqdn with their commander Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, who had just completed his last operation of his third tour (two on Bomber's, and one on Night fighter's) and was due a rest. Also on completion of his third tour, Gibson was awarded a bar to his DSO.

When this special squadron was formed there were five principles:

1. The majority of aircrew were to have completed one or two operational tours, and the remainder to be specially selected.

2. Special attention was to be paid to the efficiency of ground officers and in particular the Armament Officer.

3. The ground crews were to be provided, as far as possible, from Group resources, and all were to have experience on Lancaster aircraft.

4. Aircraft were to be provided from existing squadrons, but would later be replaced by specifically modified versions of the Lancaster.

5. The squadron was to be given priority over everything else, and all endeavours were to be made to form it into an efficient unit by the earliest possible date.

When Gibson took command of the new squadron, his first job was to select 21 pilots and crews, 147 men in all. The majority of ground crews came from 57 Squadron, and some ground crews were invited to the new squadron by the aircrews themselves.

The aircrews Gibson selected began to arrive at RAF Scampton on March 24, and the last arrived on April 17. Four of the pilots came from 57 Squadron, three from 97 Squadron, four from 50 Squadron, three from Gibson's old squadron 106, two from 49 Squadron, one each from 44 Squadron, 61 Squadron, 207 Squadron and 467 Squadron.

On March 26, 1943, Squadron "X" officially became 617 Sqdn.

At the end of April, 1943, 617 Squadron received the first of its new specially modified Lancaster's. They were all B.Mk.III's and had the designation Type 464 Provisioning, which came from the Vickers project number (as the weapon and its associated equipment had been designed by Vickers). The first Type 464 to arrive ED909 was allocated to Flt Lt Mick Martin, with the code AJ-P (AJ was the squadron identification code, and P "Popsy" was the individual aircraft letter). While undergoing training with the new type of Lanc it was discovered that the standard radio and receiver were unsatisfactory, so they were replaced by VHF sets as used by Fighter's.

On Saturday May 15, 1943 all aircrews were finally told of their target, which stopped all speculation on what the target was to be.

On Sunday May 16, 1943 the raid was "on" for that night.

The codenames for the targets were:

"Pranger" Attack target X (Mohne Dam)
"Nigger" Target X breached, divert to target Y (Eder Dam)
"Dinghy" Target Y breached, divert to target Z (Sorpe Dam)
"Mason" All aircraft return to base
"Apple" First wave listen out on Button B
"Codfish" Jamming on button A, change to button C
"Mermaid" Jamming on all R/T control by W/T
"Tulip" No2 take control over target X
"Cracking" No 4 take control over Y
"Gilbert" Attack last resort targets as detailed
"Goner" Mine released

617 Squadron attacked in three waves. These were:

 First wave of 9 Lancaster's in three sections spaced at 10 minute intervals, each of which consisted of three aircraft led by Gibson, and which was to attack the Mohne Dam.

Second wave of 5 Lancaster's led by Sqdn Ldr McCarthy. This wave was attack to the Sorpe Dam, and would also act as a diversionary force for the first wave.

Third wave of 6 Lancaster's led by Flt Sgt Townsend, this was a reserve, which was under the control of Group HQ.

Those lost on Operation "Chastise" May 16-17, 1943 were:

Lancaster Type 464 Provisioning ED864 AJ-B, lost over Germany:

Pilot                             Flt Lt W. Astell
F/E                               Sgt J Kinnear
Nav                              P/O F.A.Wile RCAF
W/Op                           A Garshowitz RCAF
Bomb Aimer                F/O D Hopkinson
Air Gunner                   Fgt Sgt F.A.Garbas RCAF
Air Gunner                   Sgt R Bolitho

Lancaster Type 464 Provisioning ED865 AJ-S, lost over Gilze Rijen Airbase, Holland:

Pilot                             P/O L.J. Burpee RCAF
F/E                              Sgt G. Pegler
Nav                             Sgt T. Jaye
W/Op                          P/O L.G. Weller
Bomb Aimer              WO J.L.Arthur RCAF
Air Gunner                 Sgt. W.C.A. Long
Air Gunner                 WO J.G. Brady RCAF

Lancaster Type 464 Provisioning ED887 AJ-A, crashed into the sea off Dutch coast:

Pilot                           Sqn Ldr H.M.Young
F/E                             Sgt D.T. Horsfall
Nav                            Flt Sgt C.W. Roberts
W/Op                         Sgt L.W. Nichols
Bomb Aimer              F/O V.S. MacCausland RCAF
Air Gunner                Sgt G.A. Yeo
Air Gunner                Sgt. W. Ibbotson

Lancaster Type 464 Provisioning ED910 AJ-C, crashed near Hamm, Germany:

Pilot                        P/O W. Ottley
F/E                          Sgt. R. Marsden
Nav                        F/O J.K. Barrett
W/Op                     Sgt. J. Guterman
Bomb Aimer         Flt Sgt. T.B. Johnston
Air Gunner           Sgt. H.J.Strange
Air Gunner           Sgt F. Tees (PoW)

Lancaster Type 464 Provisioning ED925 AJ-M, crashed at Ostonnen, Germany:

Pilot                       Flt Lt. J.V. Hopgood
F/E                         Sgt. C. Brennan
Nav                        F/O K. Earnshaw RCAF
W/Op                     Sgt. J.W. Minchin
Bomb Aimer          P/O J.W. Fraser RCAF (PoW)
Air Gunner            P/O H.F.G. Gregory
Air Gunner            F/O A.F. Burcher RAAF (PoW)

Lancaster Type 464 Provisioning ED927 AJ-E, crashed at Haldern, Germany:

Pilot                         Flt Lt R.N.G. Barlow RAAF
F/E                           P/O S.L. Whillis
Nav                          F/O P.S. Burgess
W/Op                       F/O C.R. Williams RAAF
Bomb Aimer            P/O A. Gillespie
Air Gunner               F/O H.S. Glinz RCAF
Air Gunner               Sgt. J.R.G. Liddell

Lancaster Type 464 Provisioning ED934 AJ-K, crashed in the Waddenzee off Dutch coast:

Pilot                         P/O V.W. Byers RCAF
F/E                           Sgt. A.J. Taylor
Nav                          F/O J.H. Warner
W/Op                       Sgt. J. Wilkinson
Bomb Aimer            P/O A.N. Whitaker
Air Gunner               Sgt. C.M. Jarvie
Air Gunner               Flt Sgt. J. McDowell RCAF

Lancaster Type 464 Provisioning ED937 AJ-Z, crashed at Emmerich in Germany:

Pilot                        Sqn Ldr H.E. Maudslay
F/E                          Sgt. J. Marriott
Nav                         F/O J.H. Warner
W/Op                      Sgt. J. Wilkinson
Bomb Aimer           P/O A.N. Whitaker
Air Gunner              F/O W.J. Tytherleigh
Air Gunner              Sgt. N.R. Burrows


Victoria Cross: Wg Cdr G.P. Gibson DFC, DSO

Distinguished Service Order:
Flt. Lt. L.G. Knight
Flt Lt. J.C. McCarthy DFC
Sqn Ldr. D.J.H. Maltby DFC
Flt. Lt. H.B. Martin DFC
P/O D.J. Shannon DFC

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal
Flt. Sgt. K.W. Brown
Flt. Sgt. W.C. Townsend DFM

Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross
F/O B. Goodale DFC
Flt. Lt. R.C.Hay DFC
Flt. Lt. R.E.G. Hutchinson DFC
Flt. Lt. J.F. Leggo DFC
F/O D.R. Walker DFC

Distinguished Flying Cross
Flt. Lt. J. Buckley
Flt. Lt. J. Chambers
P/O G.S. Deering
P/O J. Fort
Flt. Lt. H.S. Hobday
Flt. Lt. C.L. Howard
Flt. Lt. E.C. Johnson
Flt. Lt. R.A.D. Trevor-Roper DFM
P/O F.M. Spafford DFM
P/O T.H. Taerum

Bar to Distinguished Flying Medal
Flt. Sgt. C.E. Franklin DFM

Distinguished Flying Medal
Flt. Sgt. G.S. Chalmers
Flt. Sgt. D.P. Heal
Sgt. G.L. Johnson
Flt. Sgt. D.A. McLean
Flt. Sgt. V. Nicolson
Sgt. S. Oancia
Flt. Sgt. J. Pulford
Flt. Sgt. T. D. Simpson
Flt. Sgt. L.J. Sumpter
Sgt. D.E. Webb
Flt. Sgt. R. Wilkinson

The images are from my own archive, and from my tour of Woodhall Spa and RAF Scampton in 2015.

References used were  The Men who breached the Dams by Alan Cooper.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Avro Shackleton's and other aircraft as crewed by my late Grandfather

Before moving on to the Shackleton Grandad was sent to 236 OCU at RAF Kinloss so as to get used to the Shackleton and its systems. He crewed many "Shacks"while at Kinloss but the most he crewed was VP293 U "Uncle" an MR.1  He would meet VP293 again while with 206 Sqdn. After Kinloss he was back on Malta and back on Lancs until 38 Sqdn received their Shackleton's in 1953. The first Shackleton he crewed was WL787 S "Sugar" as seen below. Incidentally my Grandads duty on Shackleton's was signaler/observer.

As well as WL787 he crewed many other "Shacks" as well as a few Lancs which were still on strength. The last entry in his logbook of crewing a Lanc was on December 14, 1953 which was Lancaster GR.3 RF313 Y "York". Also during December he was a passenger in a Vickers Valetta from Llandow in Wales to Aldergrove in Ireland (returning the same day). For the rest of the time on Malta he was crewing various Shacks on a variety of tasks such as low-level bombing exercise, navigation exercises, instrument rating tests and continuation training. In February, 1954 Shackleton MR.2 WL797 W "Whiskey" took part in fighter affiliation and live firing exercises. One thing he didn't like was "circuits and bumps" as he found them boring. In May, 1954 Grandad took part in formation flying over the Royal Yacht "Britannia" when  the Queen visited the Island in 1954, while the Queen was visiting Grandad was in an S.55 Helicopter doing an SAR demonstration for her and other dignitaries. 
In December, 1954 Granddad was posted back to the UK and to 206 Sqdn at St.Eval in Devon, and back on Shackletons but this time the MR.1, and where he again met up with VP293 this time coded A "Apple". While with 206 he took part in Operation "Grapple" Britain's Hydrogen bomb tests in the Malden and Christmas Islands in the Central Pacific with Shackleton WG529 F "Freddie".. Their job was to provide security of the exclusion zone. After "Grapple" the crew did a tour of the Pcific and bringing back many items which also included a Grass skirt for my Grandmother. In August, 1956 they were back in the UK and back to normal duties. While with 206 Sqdn Granddad also took part in an exercise with him as Signaler in Avro Anson Mk.21 VV260. In February, 1957 Granddad went to Culdrose and the Armament Trials and Development Unit crewing Bristol Brigand TF.1 RH747 (as seen below) and Avro Shackleton MR.3 WR971 Q "Queenie".

Avro Shackleton MR.3 WR971 as stored at Fenland Aviation Museum in Norfolk. Photo credit: Benn George.

From 1957 to 1969 there is a big gap in Grandad's career. We know he was in Germany in the late 1950's but not sure in what capacity. But following on in 1969 he went to 618 Gliding School at West Malling and was there until 1971. 

Below are images of all that exists of VP293 "Zebedee" taken by my good friend Mr Colin Lount 

And a shot of VP293 coded as a A "Apple" when with 206 Sqdn Photo Credit: Aaron Hiscock.

Below are photos from the family collection. These were either taken by Granddad or by my late Dad. 

Avro Shackleton MR.1 VP262 A-D of 120 Sqdn

Avro Shackleton MR.2 WG555 RAE at Farnborough

Above and Below Avro Shackleton AEW.2 WL747

Avro Shackleton AEW.2 WR963

Below are some images taken by my Grandfather while on Shackleton's

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Avro Lancaster GR.3 SW336 38 Sqdn

Pictured below is a Lanc my Grandfather crewed while he was on 38 Sqdn at Luqa in Malta during the early 1950's. SW336 V "Victor" was one of 47 Lancaster's ordered from A.V.Roe at Yeadon (Leeds). And were powered by Merlin 224 engines (which were Packard built Merlin 24's). These Lancs also featured Lincoln type undercarriage, wheels and tail fins.

Avro Lancaster GR.3 SW336 of 38 Sqdn over Luqa, Malta. If you look carefully you can see the attachment for the airborne lifeboat.
SW336 was sold for scrap to British Aluminium in July, 1956. Also below I've added the log book entries which relate to SW336.

After crewing SW336, my Grandfather crewed another Lanc coded V, this time RF308, which suffered an accident while on strength with 37 Sqdn, who shared the airframe with 38 Sqdn on Luqa. Her undercarriage collapsed after she swung on take-off. 

As can be seen above. My Grandfather crewed RF308 on only one occasion before her accident. RF308 was one of 370 Lancs built by Armstrong-Whitworth. These were also powered by Merlin 224's, and featured Lincoln type tail fins. 

38 Sqdn badge and Motto Ante Lucem which means Before the Dawn
My late Grandfather 

The Lancaster "The Lanc" Bomber Command's "Shining Sword"

First a disclaimer. Now I'm no historian (well just an armchair one). So if I've made any mistakes in this article please forgive me. And I'll amend it with all credit to those who provided further information.

(c) Darren Greenwood 2012
The History

The Avro Lancaster was a four-engined development of the earlier Avro Manchester twin-engined Heavy bomber. The prototype Lanc BT308 first flew on January 9th 1941 from Woodford in Manchester. BT308 originally featured the triple tail-fin design of the previous Manchester, but this idea was later dropped, and the two outer tail fins were enlarged. BT308 later flew in this configuration on February 12, 1941, it was such an improvement that the aircraft flew with both port engines shut down, proving that the larger tail fins could keep the aircraft flying straight and level. 
The second prototype DG595 first flew on May 13th 1941. With the production of the Manchester now stopped, the Lanc was approved and production began. The first production version was L7527, and first flew on October 31, 1941. This aircraft was powered by Merlin XX's. 
The first RAF squadron to receive the Lanc was No.44 (Rhodesia) Squadron at Waddington on Christmas Eve of 1941. 97 (Straits Settlement) Squadron was the second squadron to equip with the Lanc at Coningsby from January 1942.

Going Operational

On March 3rd 1942 the Lanc took part in its first operation on Heligoland Bight on a mine laying operations. All four Lancs returned back to RAF Waddington. 
The first night operation with Lancs was on March 10/11th 1942 when two Lancs from No.44 Squadron took part in an operation on Essen, each carrying 5,000Ib of incendiaries. Along with the Lancs were Handley-Page Hampdens, Avro Manchesters, Short Stirlings and Vickers Wellingtons, making up a total of 126 bombers in total.
The first daylight operation for Lancs was on the MAN factory at Augsburg on April 17th 1942, when Lancs from 44 and 97 Squadrons took part. The operation was led by Squadron Leader John D. Nettleton who would later receive the VC, and be the first of 10 Lanc crew to receive the VC. 
Lancs also took part in the first "Thousand Bomber" operation of May 30/31 1942, which was code named Operation Millennium. Out of 1,047 bombers, 868 reached the objective Cologne.

Operation Chastise (The Dambusters)

Perhaps the Lancs most famous exploit is Operation Chastise, which was an operation against the Ruhr Dams on May 16/17 1943. This operation was carried by the newly formed No.617 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson. For this raid the 19 Lancs had been specially modified to carry the "Upkeep" mine devised by Barnes Wallis. Of the 19 aircraft that took part in the operation, 8 were lost, and only 3 of the 56 crew survived to be PoW's. For this operation Guy Gibson was awarded the VC, with 34 other medals being awarded to the aircrew who had taken part in the operation. There were 5 DSO's, 10 DFC's four Bar's, 2 Conspicuous Gallantry Medals, 11 DFM's and one Bar. Thirteen RCAF and two RAAF personnel lost their lives on the operation.

An Avro Type 464 Provisioning Lancaster as modified for Operation Chastise in May, 1943.
Against the Tirpitz

Another famous achievement for which the Lanc is synonymous with, is the three operations against the German battleship Tirpitz. Along with 617 Squadron, 9 Squadron was also a special duties squadron, specializing in dropping the 12,000Ib "Tallboy" high capacity bomb on strategic targets. In September Operation Paravane was mounted. The Lancs flew from Yagodnik in the Soviet Union, some aircraft were lost on route to Yagodnik, and the remaining aircraft took off from Yagodnik on September 15, 1944 to bomb the Tirpitz in her Norwegian fjord of Kaafjord. The element of surprise was lost when a German ground unit gave previous notice of the Bomber's direction, and a smokescreen was set up. But the Tirpitz was bombed and one "Tallboy" did hit the Tirpitz, and had gone through the forward deck and through the waterline on the starboard side before exploding, while a second near miss had also incurred damage. 
By mid-October the damage had been patched, and the Tirpitz was moved to Tromso, which now brought her in the range of RAF bases in northern Scotland, particularly RAF Lossiemouth. The Lancs were now heavily modified and fitted with more powerful Merlin 24's The mid-upper turret was removed, as was the pilot's armour, guns and ammunition from the forward turret. Also the ammunition was reduced for the rear turret for weight reduction. Extra fuel tanks were also fitted in the fuselage to give the aircraft sufficient range. The combined force of 40 Lancs (20 from 9 Squadron, 19 from 617 and 1 from No.463 Squadron on photographic duties) left their RAF bases for Scotland, and on October 29 left RAF Lossiemouth for Tromso on Operation Obviate. The weather over the target had deteriorated, and this made bombing difficult, and the crew dropped their "Tallboys" by gun flashes they could see through cloud. A third operation took place during November 1944. On November 12, 1944 the Lancs set off on Operation Catechism, this time the weather was perfect, and the Tirpitz was hit several times, and rolled to port before capsizing. The Tirpitz was no more.

Loading a 12,000Ib "Tallboy" on Avro Lancaster ED763 "Honor"

Grand Slam

The "Grand Slam" was a 22,000Ib High Capacity bomb. The first use of this weapon was on March 14, 1945 against the Bielefeld Viaduct. Another operation in which the "Grand Slam" was used, is the operation against Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" at Berchtesgaden, carried out on April 25, 1945. The last operation using "Grand Slam" was a night operation against an oil target in Tonsberg in Norway on April 25/26 1945.
Post-War use

After the Consolidated Liberator had ceased RAF use, the Lanc became the principal Coastal Command Maritime Reconnaissance type. The last example of the Lanc to be retired by the RAF was MR3 RF325, which was used by the School of Maritime Reconnaissance at RAF St Mawgan, and was retired on October 15, 1956. The Lanc also served with other countries Post-War. Serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force for 20 years, and operating in various roles including Air-Sea Rescue. The Lanc also served with the Air Forces of Argentina and Egypt, and the French Navy. The Soviet Air Force also used the Lanc along with the Royal Australian Air Force and the Swedish Air Force who used a Lanc as an engine test bed. Many Lancs were also used in development trials, and put onto the UK civilian registers in the UK and Canada.

An Avro Lancaster B.Mk.I as operated by the Argentine Air Force, which operated 15 of the type.
An Avro Lancaster B.Mk.VII formerly NX627
Avro Lancaster 10P FM207

As above in glorious color. 
An Avro Lancaster B.Mk.I as operated by the Egyptian Air Force, which operated 9 of the type.

Above and below is the sole Lancaster operated by the Swedish Air Force. 8001 formerly RA805.

An Avro Lancaster MR.3 as used by 1 S.M.R at RAF St.Mawgan in the early 1950's


This version was powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin XX, 22 or 24 engines. This was the most numerous version built. The first B.Mk.1 first flew on October 31, 1941.

B.Mk.1 (Special)

This modified B.Mk.1 was modified to carry loads in excess of 12,000Ib, the biggest of which was the 22,000Ib "Grand Slam". To carry this weapon had the bomb underslung in a doorless cut away bomb bay, and was also powered by Merlin 26 engines. The designation "Special" was applied to aircraft modified for specific duties. What is interesting to note about this version is that what wasn't needed internally was stripped out to save weight. The navigator had a wicker seat among other things. They were also powered by the more powerful Merlin 24, which had the power to lift the Lanc, and the 22,000Ib HC bomb "Grand Slam" into the air. Because the Lancs were faster after dropping the munition, the crews nicknamed these versions "Clapper Kites". On account that they could go like the Clappers.


This version was built by Armstrong Whitworth, and it was powered by Bristol Hercules VI (and later) Hercules XVI radial engines. The B.Mk.II was built to overcome the problem of Rolls-Royce Merlins not being manufactured fast enough to satisfy demand. The main drawback with this version was that when fully bombed up it could not reach the same operating height as it's Merlin powered comrades, and this version also had a higher fuel consumption. Only 300 of this type were built, and served mainly with 115 Squadron RAF, although some did see service with 61 Squadron and 408 Squadron RCAF.


This version was powered by Packard built Merlin 28, 38 or 224 engines. The Packard built Merlin 28 delivered 1,300hp and also differed in carburetion. The Merlin 38 (which was equivalent to the Merlin 22) delivered 1,390hp, and the Packard Merlin 224 (which was equivalent to the Merlin 24). The Packard Merlin was first trialled on Lancaster B.Mk.I R5849 and W4114 (which became the first prototype B.Mk.III). The B.Mk.I and B.Mk.III were similar in performance, but the new designation was because of different servicing procedures. The B.Mk.III also had better fuel consumption.

B.Mk.III (Special)

Or Type 464 Provisioning. 23 were modified to carry the 9,250Ib "Upkeep" mine for Operation Chastise in May 1943.

 B.Mk.VII (FE)

This version was built by Austin Motors. Most of them were modified for service in the Far East to operate with Tiger Force. They had an electrically operated Martin turret. 150 B.Mk.VII's had been earmarked for Tiger Force, and were powered by Merlin 24's. But with the surrender of Japan, this version saw no action in the Far East theatre.


This version was built in Canada by Victory Aircraft in Ontario. They were powered by Packard Merlin engines. Later versions had a Martin turret in the mid-upper position.

Other variants.


This version was used in the Photo Reconnaissance role. It had all turrets removed.

ASR Mk.3

This version was used on Air Sea Rescue duties. It carried an airborne lifeboat.


This version was used in the Maritime Reconnaissance role.


A modified B.Mk.III. They were powered by Merlin 85's or 87's and nine B.Mk.III airframes were modified to B.Mk.VI standard. 

DV170 Mk III converted to Mk VI. Used by Rolls Royce for Merlin trials : series 65, 85, 38, 68, 100, 102 & 621 300+ f/hrs testing. Dismantled (probably at Hucknall), by road to Newton 10Dec47, scrapped by 58MU

DV199 Mk III converted to Mk VI. Merlin 100 trials. Arrival date may be 16Jul43. Dismantled (Hucknall?), by road to Newton 12May47, scrapped by 58MU

JB675 Mk III converted to Mk VI prototype at Hucknall Nov43. At Hucknall for development of Merlin 68, 102, 150, 620 (fitted outboard for tests for Canadair 4), 621, 630, 641. Dismantled, by road to Cosford, scrapped Jul48

JB713 Mk III converted to Mk VI by R-R. Cat E (Missing) 19Aug44 on operations with 635 Sqdn

ND418 Mk III converted to Mk VI by R-R. 9 ops with 635 Sqdn. Dumped by Oct47

ND479 Mk III converted to Mk VI. Crashed while landing at Boscombe Down after engine failure

ND558 Mk III converted to Mk VI at R-R Hucknall. To Woodbridge 12Nov48 & SoC

ND673 Mk III converted to Mk VI. 23 ops with 635 Sqdn. Dumped at Farnborough /46

ND784 Mk III converted to Mk VI. Engine testbed : ASX in bombbay Mamba fitted in nose by AST, Hamble Oct47 Remains reported on Foulness Island Jun60

The B VI was withdrawn from operational service in November 1944.