Preparation
  Sergeant Richard Bolitho - 617 Squadron  
 

Sergeant Richard Bolitho  - RAFVR

 
 Sergeant Richard Bolitho was serving as Rear Gunner on board Lancaster Mk.III ED-864 coded AJ-B during Operation Chastise on May 16/17, 1943. The aircraft left Scampton at 2159 hours as part of the final section of the first wave of Operation Chastise to bomb the Mohne Dam.

 Along with Pilot Officer Knight and Squadron Leader Maudslay and crews, they proceeded into Germany. The other two crews altered course but F/L Astell became slightly off course and on reaching a canal crossing, which was actually the correct place, turned South down the canal as though to search for the correct position. ED864 crashed into a high-tension mast carrying 1000,000-volt wires, bursting into flames and crashing into fields behind some farmhouses; itís bomb on fire, rolled onwards before exploding. At the same time machine guns continued to fire into the burning aircraft. Eyewitnesses who ran to the crash scene were unable to get close owing to the ammunition still discharging. A very deep bomb crater about 12 meters wide was left. Many buildings nearby had roofs torn off and windows smashed but miraculously a statue of St.Joseph holding the baby Jesus, on the edge of the crater remained untouched. A memorial stone and plaque lie as a permanent memorial to Flight Lieutenant Astell and his crew.

 The crew consisted of:

Name

Service

Trade

Hometown

Age

F/L William Astell - DFC

RAFVR

Pilot

Manchester

21

Sgt. John Kinnear

RAFVR

Flight Engineer

East Newport, Fife

21

P/O Floyd Wile

RCAF

Navigator

Truro, Nova Scotia

24

F/O Don Hopkinson RAFVR Bomb Aimer Royton, Lancs.

22

Sgt. Abram Garshowitz

RCAF

W/Op/AG

Hamilton, Ontario

20

F/Sgt Francis Garbas

RCAF

Front Gunner

Hamilton, Ontario

20

Sgt Richard Bolitho

RAFVR

Rear Gunner

Londonderry, N. Ireland

23

 All of the crew lie in Reichswald Forest War Cemetary.

 Sergeant Richard "Dickie" Bolitho RAFVR (1211045) was born in 1920 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland and was the only child of William, a commercial traveller in seeds, and Jeanie (Cuthbertson). Richard was brought up at Jeanieís family home, "Braehead" in Londonderry. In 1927 the family moved to England, buying a hotel on Castle Boulevard in Kimberley, Nottinghamshire and Richard moved in with his aunt Emily who owned a fruit and vegetable shop. He attended the Church Hill School.

Service History

Joined RAF in 1940

No2 RC 25.11.1940

No 4 RC. (.12.1940

RAF Calshot.10.1.1941

No 1 RW.26.4.1941

No7 ITW.10.5.1941

51 Group Pool.28.6.1941

ADRC.5.8.1941

RDU.6.10.1941

No 14 ITW.10.1.1942.

No9.AGS.5.6.1942

No19.OTU.27.8.1942

No1654.CU.15.10.42

9 Squadron.23.12.1942

57 squadron.22.1.1943

617 squadron.25.3.1943.

 His last leave was spent with P/O Wile, W/O Garshowitz and Sergeant Kinnear at home in Kimberley, Nottinghamshire. Richard and the rest of the crew were to fly their first operation with Flight Lieutenant Astell on the 25th of January 1943.

 Richard Bolithoís name is inscribed on the war memorial for Kimberley, Nottinghamshire and in 2008 a special plaque was commissioned.

 

The Original Crew. L to R (front) A. Garshowitz, R.Bolitho (Back) F.Wile, M.Stephenson, D. Hopkinson

 

 

 
  Photos courtesy of Basil Haslett, research by Linda Ibrom.