Flight Lieutenant Harlo Tauerum - 617 Squadron  

Flight Lieutenant Torger Harlo Taerum (DFC) - RCAF

 Flight Lieutenant Harlo Taerum was serving as Navigator on board Lancaster Mk.III EE-144 coded AJ-S during an operation to breach the Dortmund Ems Canal on September 15/16, 1943. The aircraft departed Scampton at 2356 hours and encountered difficulty when attempting to clear a church steeple in the town of Nordhoorn. After gaining altitude to clear the obstacle a flak gun opened up on the aircraft, the rear gunner fired back and disabled the gun but the Lancaster was mortally wounded as its starboard fuel tank caught fire. The aircraft rolled uncontrollably and crashed near the edge of town, the entire crew was lost.

 The crew consisted of:

Name Service Trade Hometown Age
S/L George Holden (DFC, DSO & MiD) RAFVR Pilot Twickenham, Middlesex 30
Sgt Dennis Powell RAFVR Flight Engineer Sidcup, Kent 21
F/L Torger Harlo Taerum (DFC) RCAF Navigator Calgary, Alberta -
F/L Robert Hutchison (DFC & Bar) RAFVR W/Op/AG Liverpool 25
F/O Frederick Spafford (DFC & DFM) RAAF Bomb Aimer - 25
P/O George Deering (DFC) RCAF Front Gunner Toronto, Ontario 24
F/O Henry Pringle (DFC) RAFVR M/U Gunner - -
P/O T. Meikle (DFM) RAFVR Rear Gunner - -


 Harlo Taerum along with Deering, Hutchison and Spafford flew as part of Wing Commander Guy Gibson's crew during the famous Dams raid in the spring of 1943. He played a critical role in the crew, directing the aircraft on course and at the precise altitude for the special mine to be deployed against the Mohne dam. For his actions he and and the nine other airmen flying with various 617 squadron crews that night were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, their collective citation reads:


"On the night of the 16th May, 1943, a force of Lancaster bombers was detailed to attack the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany.  The operation was one of great difficulty and hazard, demanding a high degree of skill and courage and close co-operation between the crews of the aircraft engaged.  Nevertheless, a telling blow was struck at the enemy by the successful breaching of the Moehne and Eder dams.  This outstanding success reflects the greatest credit on the efforts of the above mentioned personnel who participated in the operation, in various capacities as members of aircraft crew"

 Torger Harlo Taerum was the son of Norwegian immigrants who had settled on a farm near Milo, Alberta. Tragically, his father died while Harlo was at a young age and he was destined to carry a large burden with the family farm and helping his mother raise the rest of the family. Despite this setback, Harlo excelled in school and eventually the family relocated to Calgary.

 In 1940 he joined the RCAF and trained at No.1 Air Observers School in Malton, Ontario and No.1 Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, Ontario. He was originally posted to 50 Squadron where he and pilot Mick Martin were recruited by W/C Guy Gibson to join 617 Squadron.

 After the Dams raid, W/C Gibson visited Canada to promote the BCATP and visited with Harlo's mother in Calgary where he extolled the virtues of her son's skills to his family and the press. Sadly, just a few days after Gibson's visit Harlo lost his life. His mother was also to suffer the loss of her youngest son Lorne, a gunner with 550 Squadron that was lost on operations in 1945 at only 18 years of age.

Following the Dams raid Harlo and most of his crew were assigned to fly as Squadron Leader Holden's crew, he is buried with his crew in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

  Photo courtesy of the RCAF Museum.