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

Awards

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment