26th Oct, 2020

Emotional unveiling of memorial to Leamington Dambusters pilot and his crew

Ian Hughes 20th May, 2019

A CORNER of a foreign field will now for ever have a permanent reminder of a heroic Leamington pilot.

Family, dignitaries and RAF representatives gathered to remember the sacrifice of Henry Maudslay and his crew who lost their lives in the famous ‘Dambusters’ mission during the Second World War.

A memorial was unveiled to Squadron Leader Maudslay and his six-strong crew at Emmerich am Rhein, on the German Dutch border, on Friday (May 17) – the anniversary of when their Lancaster bomber was shot down in the early hours of the morning in 1943.

Among those who attended was Johannes Doerwald, who as a 16-years-old German gun carrier was credited with shooting down the plane.

Little could Herr Doerwald, now in his 90s, then realise that more than 75 years later he would be at the very place where the plane crashed to pay his respects, meet relatives of the crew, and deliver a speech on peace and reconciliation.

The RAF 617 Squadron crew on board the bomber, code name AJ-Z, ED937/G, had flown in Operation Chastise to blow up dams in the industrial Ruhr valley, which became immortalised as the Dambuster raid when the targets were destroyed using the bouncing bomb devised by Barnes Wallis.

During the raid on May 16, Henry’s Lancaster aircraft was damaged and later brought down by anti-aircraft fire. Henry was just 21-years-old, and was among 53 airmen who died in the raid.

AJ-Z had attacked The Eder Dam without success and was believed to have been severely damaged when a mine exploded on top of the dam directly underneath the Lancaster.

In the famous film, The Dam Busters, AJ-Z was depicted as crashing into a hillside, but in reality Henry managed to guide the damaged plane back as far as the Dutch border.

But it then strayed off course and flew over a heavily fortified oil installation, and was brought down by enemy fire. It crashed in a farmer’s field killing all aboard – five Englishmen and two Canadians.

The memorial is down to the efforts of German war historian Marcel Hahn, with help from British aviation enthusiast Mark Welch, who have both long been fascinated by the fate of AJ-Z.

Of the seven planes shot down on land – one other was lost at sea – only AJ-Z was without a memorial until Friday.

A blue plaque can be seen on the Vicarage Road birthplace of Henry Maudslay in Lillington.

 

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