The Story of Dambuster AJ-E

Of the 19 Lancaster aircaft that took part in the Dambuster Raid on the night of 16-17 May 1943, eight did not return to their base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. One of these was ED927 AJ-E (Easy), piloted by 401899 F/Lt Robert Norman George Barlow, an Australian from Carlton, Victoria.

F/Lt R N G Barlow, pilot of AJ-E

In order to minimise attacks by night fighters, the Lancasters taking part on Operation Chastise were required to fly at very low level. This reduced the chances of anti-aircraft guns being able to line up on the attacking aircraft but this method of getting to the targets was not without additional risk.

In the Second Wave of aircraft, New Zealander, Flight Lieutenant Les Munro had to turn back after flak damaged the radio of his aircraft (AJ-W) and he was not able to communicate with other aircraft - necessary for the operation. Another aircraft (AJ-H) flown by Pilot Officer Rice, lost its bomb after clipping the ocean surface prior to reaching the Dutch Coast. A third aircraft, AJ-K, flown by Pilot Officer Byers was shot down shortly after crossing the Dutch Coast and crashed into the Waddenzee. Barlow's aircraft managed to get through the coastal defences but was one of two aircraft to hit powerlines on their way to the dams. The other Lancaster, AJ-B, was flown by Flight Lieutenant Astell. He and his crew were in the First Wave with the leader Guy Gibson. Like Barlow and his crew, all those on Astell's aircraft were killed.

AJ-E struck the high-tension cables at approximately 2350 hours after crossing into Germany from Holland and on an easterly course. The aircraft ploughed into a field several hundred metres further on, where it burned fiercely. in the crash, the bomb was thrown clear and, surprisingly, it did not detonate.  It was recovered by the German military who quickly uncovered its secrets.

Barlow's crew are buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.

Flight Lieutenant Robert Norman George Barlow, DFC, RAAF
Pilot Officer Samuel Leslie Whillis, RAFVR
Flying Officer Philip Sydney Burgess, RAFVR
Pilot Officer Alan Gillespie, DFM, RAAF
Flying Officer Charles Rowland Williams, DFC, RAAF
Flying Officer Harvey Sterling Glinz, RCAF
Sergeant Jack Robert George Liddell, RAFVR

Satellite image showing crash site of Lancaster AJ-E
Barlow's headstone. The bottom reads "In loving memory of my husband who gave all for his country".

Graves of the crew of AJ-E including F/O Glinze

Unidentified part from AJ-E recovered from the crash site. The item still has its original shape, although a matching piece on the bottom (which would have mirrored the top serface) has been broken off. At left is a hinge. This item could have held a cylinderical object.

This item from AJ-E is the top the one of the aircraft's hydraulic reservoirs that provided fluid for the gun turret, probably the rear. Although the steel neck (bottom left) has a lot of corrosion, the brass cap (top right) is in good condition and still has its black paint. At top left is the gauze filter that was inside the neck - also in good condition. At bottom right is a leather washer.

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