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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 No. 617 Squadron Lancaster III ED925 AJ-M Fl/Lt. John V. Hopgood DFC

Operation: Möhne Dam Möhnesee Germany

Date: 16/17th May 1943

Unit: No. 617 Squadron

Type: Lancaster MkIII

Serial: ED925

Code: AJ-M

Base: RAF Scampton

Location: Ostönnen Germany

Pilot: Fl/Lt. John Vere Hopgood DFC and bar. 61281 RAFVR Age 21. Killed (note)

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Christopher Charles Brennan 942037 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Nav: F/O. Kenneth Earnshaw J/10891 RCAF Age 24. Killed

Air/Bmr: P/O. John William Fraser J/17696 RCAF PoW No: 136 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (note)

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John William Minchin 1181097 RAFVR Age 27. Killed (note)

Air/Gnr: P/O. George Henry Ford Goodwin Gregory DFM. 141285 RAFVR Age 26. Killed

Air/Gnr: P/O. Anthony Fisher Burcher DFM. AUS/403182 RAAF Age 21. PoW No: 1341 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (note)

(For credits on photographs used please see acknowledgements)


Taking off from RAF Scampton at 21:39 hrs to bomb the Möhne Dam. His aircraft was on the second wave. However some 20 minutes prior to reaching the target the aircraft was hit by flak the pilot was injured, and it is thought that the front gunner, Sgt. Gregory had been killed during this. The pilot asked the crew if they should continue to the dam as he thought the Lancaster was totally controllable - the crew that were able to reply affirmed this.

Just 10 minutes later they were then hit again by the intense flak, one engine caught fire. The pilot released his bomb to try and gain height to enable his crew to bale out. 3 crew did manage to leave the aircraft but Sgt. John Minchin who was badly injured never survived the drop.

The “special” bomb missed the target but hit and destroyed the power station. Sadly the blast from the bomb crippled the aircraft and crashed at 00:34 hrs at Ostönnen.

The tail gunner heard Hopgood's last known words on the intercom before he left - "For Christ's sake get out!". ED925's fuel tanks exploded and the wreckage ploughed into a field.

This wonderful portrait was painted by Simon Atack who's great work is published by the 'Military Gallery'. Please check out his wonderful work (we apologise to Simon as we had received this copy via a third party and had wrongly assumed they had requested permission for its use)

Fl/Lt. John Hopgood DFC Citation October 27th 1942: "participated in a number of successful attacks on enemy and enemy occupied country. On one occasion he made a low level attack on Rostock and also bombed Wanemunde from only 2,000 feet in face of intense opposition." Bar citation January 12th 1943: "This officer has completed many successful operations since being awarded the DFC, One night in August, 1942, he was detailed to bomb objectives at the port of Gdynia. This attack, which was pressed home with the greatest determination, achieved excellent results. On another occasion in October, 1942, during the daylight attack on Le Creusot, Fl/Lt. Hopgood participated in a particularly daring attack on the electrical transformer station, which was bombed effectively from a height of only 500 feet."

P/O. John Fraser operated his parachute inside the aircraft and was pulled out - surviving as a PoW. He had been married for just 18 days prior to the operation. It seems that post war he returned with his wife to Canada, but sadly killed in an air accident in 1962. He named his son John Hopgood after the pilot who had died trying to save his crew and named his daughter Shere where the pilot was brought up.

P/O. Anthony Burcher baled out at just 400 ft - surviving as a PoW. Born in Sydney on the 12th March 1922. Captured at Soest, Germany on the 17th May 1944. Engaged at the time to LAC W. Barnes 2021912 WAAF, but also that a Miss Howells was also to be engaged to P/O. Burcher. Released and back in the United Kingdom May 1945.

Sgt. John Minchin was assisted into his parachute by P/O. Anthony Burcher, but he was so badly injured he never survived the drop. He had married his wife, Jessie on the 28th May 1942 - she later remarried and settled in Southampton. His brother, 22 year old, Sgt. Ronald Buckland Minchin 1312801 RAFVR whilst with 295 Squadron was killed just weeks later. The Halifax EB135 towing Horsa Glider I LG833 on operation Beggar/Turkey/Buxxard over the Bay of Biscay was claimed shot down by the Luftwaffe - all the crew were classed as missing - believed killed. Sgt. Ronald Minchin is remembered on Panel 159 on the Runnymede Memorial. The Halifax was making a ferry trip to Salé in Morocco - the 3 Army Air Corp crew from the Glider were also lost.

Burial details:

Fl/Lt. John Vere Hopgood. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 17. E. 2-6. Son of Harold Burn Hopgood and Grace Hopgood, of Seaford, Sussex, England.

Sgt. Christopher Charles Brennan. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 17. E. 2-6. No further details, are you able to assist?

F/O. Kenneth Earnshaw. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 17.E.2-6. Understood to be from Bashaw, Alberta, Canada. Born on the 23rd June 1918 in Bridlington, Yorkshire. No further details - are you able to assist?

Sgt. John William Minchin. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Collective grave 17.E.2-6. Son of Bertram and Eliza Minchin, husband of Jessie Kate Minchin, of Bedford, England. Sadly the family also were to suffer the loss of his brother - Sgt. Ronald Buckland Minchin of 295 Squadron - killed on the 27th June 1943.

P/O. George Henry Ford Goodwin Gregory. Rheinberg War Cemetery. Coll. grave 17. E. 2-6. No further details, understood to be from Govan, Glasgow, Scotland.

Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered July 2015. With thanks to, John Barrett for grave photos, Frank Hothery, Dave Birrell of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada, John Robertson, John Kinnear, Bob Baxter, Simon Atack. Other photographs supplied from the collection of Michel Beckers. Also to Shere Fraser Lowe for name correction on his father, P/O. John William Fraser. Also to Molly for brief details on F/O. Gregory - July 2018.

MB/KTY 15.09.2015 Name correction added.

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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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