A FORMER Barry newspaper editor has just returned from a second mini-pilgrimage – this one to the crash site and grave of Barry’s only Dam Buster.
Barri Hurford Jones, former editor of the old Barry Herald and editor of the Barry & District News, visited The Netherlands, recently.
Mr Hurford Jones, now of Alveston, Bristol, said he recalled The Gang who used to gather in Barry and him not being allowed membership.
He said: “They were an energetic and socially-responsible group of young boys growing up in Barry. Their names were Duncan and Peter Camm, Hedley Roberts, Gordon Inky King, Ginger Evans, Graham Titch Price, Ernie Stephenson and Gordon Yeo. The Gang met in the doctors’ house Ravenscourt on King Square because my aunt and uncle Peg and Percy Camm were housekeepers there. It was 1940 and at the age of nine I was considered too young to be a member.
“One by one the members of The Gang were called up into the armed forces. All served abroad and all returned home except one, Gordon Yeo. Gordon joined the RAF in 1941, was promoted to sergeant and posted to join 617 Squadron, the famous Dam Busters, as a front gunner.
“His aircraft AJ-A Apple was in the first wave of Lancasters to attack the Möhne Dam on the night of 16th May 1943, dropping their bouncing bomb from low level and scoring a direct hit. Shortly afterwards, the first of the three dams gave way and vast quantities of water flooded the Ruhr valley to make a severe dent in the German war effort. The raid was therefore a strategic success.
“Setting course for home, AJ-A Apple was shot down by anti-aircraft fire crossing the coast of Holland. It was one of the eight that failed to return, resulting in the loss of 56 lives.
“A local Dutchman, John Heideman, wrote to the Barry & District News asking for assistance with a book he was writing on the loss of AJ-A Apple. Although no longer living in Barry, I was pleased to be able to supply some details and recently had the honour of being taken by him to the crash site - a sandbank near the beach at Castricum - and to the cemetery at Bergen where all members of the crew are buried.”
He added: “It was an emotional experience. My wife and I were invited later to address students at an Alkmaar college and we made the front page of the local newspaper.
This was my second mini-pilgrimage. The first was in 2013 to the grave in Sicily of a former teacher, John Dunstan Appleby. I have satisfied a personal ambition in paying homage at the graves of two brave Barry men.”