Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Dambuster among those commemorated in 75th anniversary picture exhibition

By Claire Hayhurst

The only Dambuster from Ireland has been honoured in a poignant exhibition marking the 75th anniversary of the raids by the Royal Air Force.

Portraits by Dan Llywelyn Hall of all 133 members of 617 Squadron have been unveiled in two ceremonies, one at the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln and the other at the Dambusters Inn in Scampton.

The Dambusters conducted a night of raids with Sir Barnes Wallis's revolutionary bouncing bombs, releasing them 60ft above ground, on German dams in May 1943.

Some 19 Lancaster bombers flew from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire for the daring mission on May 16/17, 1943, to shatter dams in Germany's industrial heartland and cut off vital supply lines in the Ruhr Valley.

A total of 133 Allied aircrew left for the raid aboard the bombers, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, but 53 men were killed and another three were captured.

Among their number was Londonderry man Sergeant Richard 'Dickie' Bolitho, the only crewman from Ireland.

Bolitho was born in Derry City in 1920. His father, William Bolitho, originally from Cornwall, was a commercial traveller in the seed business.

On a visit to Ireland he met and later married Jane Cuthbertson, the daughter of a land steward, and Richard was their only child. In 1927 the family moved to England where they bought a hotel in Kimberley, Nottinghamshire.

Bolitho joined the Royal Air Force in 1940 but wasn't selected for aircrew training until early in 1942 and subsequently qualified as an air gunner.

Bolitho, a rear gunner, and his crew were selected for 617 Squadron.

The crew would all die near Marbeck in Germany after being shot down in the early hours of Monday, May 17, 1943.

They were originally interred in Borken, in north eastern Germany.

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Wing Commander John Butcher, Commanding Officer of 617 Squadron (left) meets with Britain's last surviving Dambuster, Squadron Leader George 'Johnny' Johnson

Richard is remembered on the war memorial from Heanor Grammar School, now relocated to Marpool Church, Nottinghamshire and on the Kimberley War Memorial in Nottinghamshire.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission list Richard as being buried at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery at Nordrhein-Westfalen.

In 1946, three years after his death, his parents returned to Northern Ireland where they moved to the coastal resort of Portrush and lived out their days there.

He is remembered by his family on the gravestone of his grandparents located in Derry City Cemetery.

Only two of the original Dambusters are still alive, 96-year-old George 'Johnny' Johnston, and Canadian Fred Sutherland.

Belfast Telegraph


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