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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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617 Squadron crest
16/17.05.1943 617 Squadron Lancaster III ED865 AJ:S Plt Off Burpee DFM

Operation: Chastise

Date: 16th/17th May 1943 (Sunday/Monday)

Unit: 617 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ED865

Code: AJ:S

Base: RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire

Location: Gilze-Rijen aerodrome, Holland.

Pilot: Plt Off. Lewis Johnstone Burpee DFM. J17115 RCAF Age 25. Killed

Flt Eng: Sgt. Guy Pegler 573474 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Nav: Sgt. Thomas Jaye 1299446 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt. James Lamb Arthur R119416 RCAF Age 25. Killed

WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Leonard George Weller 142507 RAFVR Age 28. Killed

Air Gnr: Sgt. William Charles Arthur Long 1600540 RAFVR Age 19. Killed

Air Gnr: WO2 Joseph Gordon Brady R93554 RCAF Age 28. Killed

REASON FOR LOSS:

Lancaster III ED865 AJ:S took off from Scampton at 00:11 hours as part of the third and final wave of Operation Chastise. Arriving safely at the Dutch coast, Plt Off. Burpee attempted to avoid the searchlights and flak, but the Lancaster was hit and caught fire, crashing onto the aerodrome at Gilze-Rijen, causing a massive explosion to the buildings.

ED865 was hit by light Flak of 5./gem. Flak Abt. 442 and 3./lei. Flak Abt. 848, crashed and exploded on Gilze-Rijen airfield at 01:53 hrs. Note: Lt Siegfried Elsässer, a pilot in E./NJG2 at Gilze-Rijen noted in his private diary: "Lancaster low-level attack on airfield. Shot down by light flak, mine exploded". (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January - 22 June) 1943 Part 1 - Theo Boiten).

Further information submitted by Norman Nokes - May 2016: No problem with navigation based on dead reckoning at wavetop height. Plotter unaware of early evening breeze which would cause deviation. Plt Off. Burpee momentarily gained height to confirm course.

Wg Cdr Guy Gibson wrote to Mrs Jaye on the 20th of May 1943 in his role as Station Commander of 617 Squadron to inform her officially of the loss of Tom and the rest of the crew. Wg Cdr Gibson was later to lose his life on the 19th of September 1944.

With the help of the Barnes Wallis Memorial Trust, a propeller blade from Lancaster ED865 AJ:S was found and is now on display at Hangar 1 in the Newark Air Museum alongside other Lancaster and Dambusters memorabilia

From left to right: Sgt. Jaye (David and Derek Storey, Plt Off. Weller (Christine Weller), Flt Sgt Long (Tony Penman)

The photograph of Flt Sgt Long has the following inscription written on the reverse. "William Long. Long Road Bournemouth was named after him for bravery in the M Dam raid during last war where he lost his life. He was a most wonderful boy."

617 Squadron lost a total of eight aircraft during this operation:
Lancaster III ED864 AJ:B Flown by Flt Lt. William Astell DFC. Killed with all 7 crew.
Lancaster III ED887 AJ:A Flown by Sqn Ldr. Henry M. Young DFC. and bar. Killed with all 7 crew.
Lancaster III ED910 AJ:C Flown by Plt Off. Warner Ottley DFC. Killed with 5 other crew, 1 pow.
Lancaster III ED925 AJ;M Flown by Flt Lt. John V. Hopgood DFC. and bar. Killed with 4 other crew, 2 made pow.
Lancaster III ED927 AJ:E Flown by Flt Lt. Robert N.G. Barlow DFC. Killed with all 7 crew.
Lancaster III ED934 AJ:K Flown by Plt Off. Vernon W. Byers Killed with all 7 crew.
Lancaster III ED937 AJ;Z Flown by Sqn Ldr. Henry E. Maudslay DFC. Killed with all 7 crew.

Some of the crew graves at Bergen-Op-Zoom Cemetery

Burial details:

All the crew were originally buried at Breda, since when they have been re-interred in Bergen-op-Zoom Cemetery. The average age of this crew was 23.

Plt Off Lewis Johnstone Burpee DFM. Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery. Grave 23.B.3. Born 5th March 1918 in Ottawa, Ontario Son of Lewis Arthur and Lilian Agnes (née Orme) Burpee. Husband Lillian Emily from Ottawa, Canada.

DFM was awarded to Flt Sgt Lewis Johnstone Burpee whilst with 106 Sqn, promulgated London Gazette 18th May 1943

Sgt. Guy Pegler. Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 24.B.5-7. Born in October 1921 in Ringwood, Hampshire. Son of Claud Edwin Arthur and Charlotte Eva (née Guy) Peglar from Bath, Somerset, England.

Sgt. Thomas Jaye. Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 24.B.5-7. Born on the 3rd of October 1922. Son of James and Helena Jaye of Crook, Co. Durham, England. Sgt. Thomas Jaye was the son of James and Helena (Lena) Jaye and brother of Norman Jaye of 9, Willow Avenue, Crook, Co.Durham, England.

Thomas Jaye worked as an electrical engineer. Thomas Jaye, known as Tom, spent his last leave before his final mission staying with his cousin Derek and family in Durham before continuing to see his mother at Crook. Service history: Enlisted 1941, No 1RC. 3.3.1941, No 7 RC. 4.3.1941, Kenley 18.4.1941, Bircham Newton 28.6.1941, PAA 14.10.1941, No31 PD 25.10.1941, No 3 PRC 8.4.1942, No 25 Operational Training Unit 14.7.1942, 106 Squadron 26.12.1942, Joined 617 Squadron on 29.3.1943

WO2. James Lamb Arthur. Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 24.B.5-7. Born 3rd July 1917 in Coldwater, Simcoe, Ontario. Son of Reverend Alfred John BA BSc BD and Dora (née Lamb) Arthur of the rectory, Coldwater, Ontario, Canada.

Promoted to WO2 on the 9th May 1943

Plt Off Leonard George Weller. Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery. Grave 27.A.6. Son of Arthur Edward and Marian Augusta Weller of Hornsey, Middlesex and husband of Dorothy Charlotte Weller of Harpenden, England. Father to Christine. Leonard Weller was a toolmaker by trade before joining the RAF.

Sgt. William Charles Arthur Long. Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery. Coll. Grave 24.B.5-7. Son of William and Ethel Mary Long of Bournemouth, Hampshire, England.

WO2 Joseph Gordon Brady. Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery. Grave 23.A.1. Born on the 16th April 1916 in Alberta,. Son of Michael Joseph and Anna Marguerite (née Donavan) Brady from Ponoka, Alberta, Canada.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. Photo credits Sgt Jaye to David and Derek Storey, photo credits and information on Plt Off Weller to Christine Weller (daughter). Grave photo of Plt Off. Burpee to David Burpee. Further information on navigation submitted by Norman Nokes - May 2016. Thanks to Tony Penman for the photograph of Flt Sgt Long (Mar 2021). Other update by Aircrew Remembered (Mar 2021).

RS 26.03.2021 - Addition of image for Flt Sgt Long and addition of Flak claim details

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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