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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 badge
16/17.05.1943 No. 617 Squadron Lancaster III ED934 P/O. Byers

Operation: Chastise

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

Unit: No. 617 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III

Serial: ED934

Code: AJ-K

Base: RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire

Location: Waddenzee West of Harlingen

Pilot: P/O. Vernon William Byers J/17474 RCAF Age 32. Killed

Fl/Eng: Sgt. Alastair James Taylor 575430 RAFVR Age 20. Killed

Nav: P/O. James Herbert Warner 128619 RAFVR Age ? Killed

Air/Bmr: Sgt. Arthur Neville Whitaker 144777 RAF Age ? Killed

W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. John Wilkinson 1025280 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles McAllister Jarvie 1058757 RAFVR Age 21. Killed

Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. James McDowell R/101749 RCAF Age ? Killed


On 16/17th of May 1943 Lancaster III ED 934 AJ-K “King” left Scampton at 21.30 hours as part of Operation Chastise to bomb the Sorpe Dam. 

ED 934 came to 617 Squadron on the 3rd of May with only 13 hours of flying time. 


                   Sgt. Charles McAllister Jarvie first on left during training we understand - can anyone assist in recognising the others?

The Lancaster was hit by flak at 23.00 hours, from batteries on the Isle of Texel, on the Dutch Coast while flying at 300 feet outbound. It is believed that the aircraft strayed off course and as P/O. Byers and his crew tried to get a fix on their position, were shot down by flak. It crashed into the Waddenzee West of Harlingen and was the first aircraft shot down on this operation with the loss of all the crew. The body of Flight Sergeant McDowell RCAF was recovered on June 22nd and he was laid to rest in the Harlingen General Cemetery.


Above left: Charles Jarvie with his mother Nellie and sister Helen prior to joining up. Right: Charles on right with friend - anyone able to assist in identification?

His crew mates have no known grave and are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial

In a letter home, written on May the 5th, just eleven days before his last, final operation, and quite likely to be the last time that he saw his mother, Alastair describes flying over the family home in Scotland!

575430 Sgt

℅. Sgts.Mess

R.A.F.Scampton, Lincs.

5th May 1943

"My dear mother,

Well I hope we didn’t scare you too much last Monday. I saw you and Aunt Julia just in front of the house but I could not pick dad out anywhere, so thought he would probably be at a pig sale.

I don’t know when my next leave is but we are getting a 48 hour next week and might go down to Bushey.All depends on the financial position which at the moment is pretty hopeless.

Vernon is getting a commission and Jimmy will get one later. I am going to hang on a bit before I try.

I had a letter from Phyllis who has certainly been stepping out in Inverness.

Well that’s all for the present



Presumably 'Vernon' and 'Jimmy' mentioned in this letter are Vernon Byers, the pilot and Jimmy Warner the Navigator. Phyllis was Alastair’s sister stationed at RAF Kinloss


                 Above: Sgt. Alastair James Taylor


             Memorial to the 'Dam Buster' at Woodhall Spa

Burial details:

P/O. Vernon William Byers. Runnymede Memorial Panel 175. Son of Frank and Ruby J. Byers of Codette, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Sgt. F/O. Alastair James Taylor. Runnymede Memorial Panel 166. Also on the Roll of Honour for Old Haltonians Apprentices. Further information: Son of Stephen and Sarah Ann Taylor and elder brother of Charles Taylor (who served in 100, 625 and 576 Squadrons during the war) of Alves, Morayshire, Scotland. Sergeant Taylor joined the RAF as an apprentice at RAF Halton on 17.1.1939. 9 FTS - 5.10.1940 - 4STT - 14.8.1942 - Awarded Flight Engineers badge - 21.10.1942 - No 1654 Conversion Unit, Wigsley - 01.01.1943 - 02.02.1943. Joined 467 Squadron Bottesford on 03.02.1943. Flew as Flight Engineer with P/O. Byers and his crew before being posted to 617 Squadron, Scampton on 28.3.1943. Death presumed on 16th May 1943

P/O. James Herbert Warner. Runnymede Memorial Panel 130. No further details as yet.

Sgt. Arthur Neville Whitaker. Runnymede Memorial Panel 134. No further details as yet.

Sgt. John Wilkinson. Runnymede Memorial Panel 169. Son of Thomas Wilfred and Ethel of Antrobus, Cheshire, England.

Sgt. Charles McAllister Jarvie. Runnymede Memorial Panel 154. Further information: Son of Charles and Nellie (nee Clark) Jarvie and younger much loved only brother of Helen Jarvie of Glasgow, Scotland. Joined the RAF in 1940. Trained at Padgate - 11.07.1940. No 6 RC - 13.08.1940 - No 1 E and WS - 30.08.1940 - Ullsworth - 14.10.40 - Ouston - 15.05.1941 - Acklington - 29.05.1941 - No 14 ITW - 30.07.1942 - No 4 AGS - 06.09.1942 - No 49 CU - 31.10.1942 - No 1661 C.U. - 467 Squadron - 09.11.1942. Sergeant Jarvie flew with the Vine crew till the 9th March 1943 joining the Byers crew on approximately the 10th March 1943. He and the rest of the crew were posted to 617 Squadron on 28.03.1943

Fl/Sgt. James McDowell. Harlington General Cemetery, Netherlands Plot E.Row 4. Grave 11. No further information, but from Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada.

Researched by Aircrew Remembered, researcher and specialist genealogist Linda Ibrom for relatives of this crew. With special thanks to the following relatives: Lorna Baines and the family of Sergeant Jarvie, Alastair Taylor and the family of Sergeant Taylor, Also thanks to History-Dambuster.Org.UK

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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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', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. 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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