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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
16/17.07.1943 617 Squadron Lancaster III ED925 AJ:M Flt Lt. Hopgood DFC and Bar

Operation: Operation 'Chastise'

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

Unit No: 617 Squadron

Type: Lancaster III (Type 464 (Provisioning))

Serial: ED925

Code: AJ:M

Base: RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire

Location: Ostönnen Germany

Pilot: Flt Lt. John Vere Hopgood DFC and bar. 61281 RAFVR Age 21. KiA (1)

Flt Eng: Sgt. Christopher Charles Brennan 942037 RAFVR Age 27. KiA

Nav: Fg Off. Kenneth Earnshaw J10891 RCAF Age 24. KiA

Bom Aimer: Plt Off. John William Fraser J17696 RCAF Age 20. PoW No: 136 * (2)

WOp/Air Gnr: Sgt. John William Minchin 1181097 RAFVR Age 27. KiA (3)

Air Gnr (Front): Plt Off. George Henry Ford Goodwin Gregory DFM. 141285 RAFVR Age 26. KiA

Air Gnr (Rear): Plt Off. Anthony Fisher Burcher DFM. 403182 RAAF Age 21. PoW No: 1341 * (4)

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland

(For credits on photographs used please see acknowledgements)

REASON FOR LOSS:

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)

(1) Flt 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, Flt Lt. Hopgood participated in a particularly daring attack on the electrical transformer station, which was bombed effectively from a height of only 500 feet."

(2) Plt Off. 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.

(3) Sgt. John Minchin was assisted into his parachute by Plt Off. 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.

(4) Plt Off. 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 Plt Off. Burcher. Released and back in the United Kingdom May 1945.



Burial Details:


Flt Lt. John Vere Hopgood. DFC and Bar. Rheinburg War Cemetery Coll. Grave 17.E-2-6. Grave Inscription: ‘BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART: FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD’. Born on the 29th August 1921 in Hurst, Berkshire. Son of Harold Burn (deceased March 1940) and Grace De Vere (née Fison) Hopgood of Seaford, Sussex, England..

Sgt. Charles Christoper Brennan. Rheinburg War Cemetery Coll. Grave 17.E-2-6. Born on the 22nd February 1916 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Son of Christoper and Nellie (née Hudson) (deceased in 1931) Brennan of Yorkshire West Riding. Husband to Freda (née Pemberton) Brennan of Leeds, Yorkshire West Riding, England.

Fg Off. Kenneth Earnshaw. Rheinburg War Cemetery Coll. Grave 17.E-2-6. Born on the 23rd June 1918 in Bridlington, Yorkshire East Riding, England. Son of Joseph George and Janet Hannah (née Green) Earnshaw of Ohaton, Alberta. Husband to Mary Gladys (née Heather) Earnshaw of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Sgt. John William Minchin. Rheinburg War Cemetery Coll. Grave 17.E-2-6. Grave inscription: ‘AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER HIM’. Born on the 29th November 1915 in Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire. Son of Bertram George and Eliza (née Hall) Minchin of Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire. Husband to Jessie Kate (née Irving) Minchin of Bedford, Bedfordshire, 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

Plt Off. George Henry Goodwin Gregory. DFM. Rheinburg War Cemetery Coll. Grave 17.E-2-6. Born on the 24th July 1917 in Govan, Glasgow, Scotland. Son of Edwin Albert Letherby Deceased in January 1933) and Agnes May Magdalene (née Underhill) Gregory of Govan, Glasgow, Scotland.

The Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) was awarded to 755905 temporary Flt Sgt. Gregory whilst with 44 Squadron. London Gazette 22nd August 1941

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 Fg Off. Gregory - July 2018. Next of Kin details and other updates for the crew added by Aircrew Remembered (May 2024)

Other Sources listed below:

RS 31.05.2024 - Reviewed and updated

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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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', 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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