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“Dambuster” Bob Hay
Jan 25, '21

Flt Lt R C Hay DFC

Bomb aimer

Lancaster serial number: ED909/G

Call sign: AJ-P


Robert Claude HAY was born in Renmark, South Australia on 4th November, 1913

His parents were John Robert Clare HAY & Margaret Kate O'LORENSHAW

He married Honoria Edna Millicent THOMSON in Queensland on 4th January, 1938 - one daughter (name unknown)

Robert died on 13th February, 1944 and is buried in the Cagliari (St Michele) Communal Cemetery, (Ref I B 5)

Honours & Awards: DFC & Bar & Africa Star

Dambuster Raid and Beyond

Aged 30, with a wife and daughter back in Australia, Bob Hay was slightly older than the rest of Micky Martin’s crew. Born in Renmark, South Australia on 4 November 1913, Robert Claude Hay was the son of John and Margaret Hay. He attended Renmark High School and graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1935, where he also excelled in sports. The college swimming pool is now named in his honour.

He joined the RAAF in the summer of 1940, trained in Australia and Canada and arrived in England a year later. His first posting was to 455 (Australia) Squadron, where his time coincided with future colleagues Micky Martin and his crew. Like them, in April 1942 he was posted to 50 Squadron to fly on heavy bombers when 455 Squadron moved to Coastal Command.

He served a full tour of operations, flying mainly as navigator with one of the squadron’s best known pilots, Sqn Ldr Hugh Everitt, in a crew which also contained fellow Aussie and future 617 Squadron colleague, Fred ‘Spam’ Stafford.

By the time 617 Squadron was formed, Hay had been commissioned and been awarded the DFC. As an Australian from 50 Squadron he slotted easily into the crack Martin crew, and his slight age advantage and extensive experience made him the obvious choice for the important role as the squadron’s Bombing Leader.

This new job meant that within days of his arrival, he flew to Manston with Gibson to watch a test drop of the new Upkeep weapon at Reculver. The first, dropped by a Wellington, was successful, but the second, dropped by a Lancaster, broke up. Flying back in a small Magister, he and Gibson had a lucky escape when its single engine failed. Gibson managed to crashland in a field full of devices designed to stop enemy gliders landing.

Hay was one of the four who were told the target on the night before the raid, along with Melvin Young, Henry Maudslay and John Hopgood. Although the rest of the squadron didn’t know for certain when the operation would take place news that they had been summoned to a meeting in Charles Whitworth’s house led to fevered speculation on the base.

Earlier that day, Hay and most of the rest of Martin’s crew had been on board AJ-P after it had been loaded with its mine. Intelligence officer Fay Gillon was also inside the aircraft, being given a tour. Suddenly, with a crash, the mine dropped onto the ground and everyone on board and outside beat a hasty retreat in case it exploded. The weapon hadn’t been fused, so it did not explode but its delicate mechanism may have been damaged, as when it was finally dropped at the Möhne Dam, it veered to the left and exploded at the side.

Möhne Dam

First wave. Third aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine veered left after dropping and exploded at side of dam.

Hay received a bar to his DFC for his role on the raid, and played his part in the celebrations that followed. He can be seen in the raucous photo taken at the Hungaria Restaurant, wedged between Tom Simpson and Toby Foxlee, with a glass in his hand.

After the raid, Martin’s crew eventually went back on operations, although Leggo and Chambers eventually left to train as pilots. A new CO, Leonard Cheshire, arrived and Hay spent a lot of time working on training his bomb aimers to use a new device, the Stabilised Automatic Bomb Sight (SABS).

Several months passed until February 1944 when, under Cheshire’s leadership, a detachment set off to bomb the Antheor Viaduct in southern France, an important rail link to Italy. 
Paul Brickhill devotes a whole chapter of The Dam Busters to what happened to Martin’s crew on this operation describing in vivid detail his bombing run and the way the aircraft rocked as it was hit by a cannon shell which exploded in the ammunition tray under the front turret.

Martin was calling the roll round his crew. The tough little Foxlee was all right. Bob Hay did not answer. Whittaker gave him a twisted grin, swearing and hunched, holding his legs. The rest were all right. He called Hay twice more but there was only silence, so he said ‘Toby, see if Bob’s all right. His intercom must be busted.’ Foxlee swung out of his turret and wormed towards the nose. He lifted his head towards Martin. ‘He’s lying on the floor. Not moving.’ (The Dam Busters, pp154-5.)

Eventually Martin managed to land his battered Lancaster in Sardinia, on a small airfield run by the Americans. Hay’s body was removed from the aircraft and he was buried the next day in a cemetery in Cagliari. He was the only one of Martin’s Dams Raid crew who did not survive the war. Martin was himself quite shaken by the episode, and did not fly again on operations with 617 Squadron. A few months later, however, he had recovered his poise and was back in a Mosquito squadron.

After Hay’s death, the Principal of Roseworthy Agricultural College wrote:

We were shocked with the news of the loss of Flt Lt Robert Claude Hay, DFC and Bar and African Star, a much respected and loved member of the College staff and the Gold Medalist in 1935. Before his enlistment in 1940 he was assistant horticulturist at the college. Both as a member of the staff and as a student Bob Hay, with his happy, carefree disposition, more nearly symbolised the life of an agricultural college student than anyone I’ve known.

Hay had married Honoria (Edna) Thomson in 1938. They had one daughter.


Jack Leggo, Micky Martin, Tammy Simpson, Bob Hay and Toby Foxlee in London after being decorated at Buckingham Palace, June 1943. [Pic: Australian War Memorial],_South_Australia

Frequency and Resonance


I first knew “Pip” in 1984 when he came to the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and was in my Hall of Residence (Freeman Hall) Castle Leazes known to us as “Leazditz Castle” after Colditz form WW2!

He was studying for a BSc Hons in Agricultural Plant Science, Faculty of Agriculture. He was the life and soul of our gang!

Come the second year we had to look for other accommodation. Hen Frank and Pip were looking for a fourth person to share so I joined them. I quickly found out that I was sharing a room with Pip. We became lifelong friends and still are.

As I was year older we became brothers. Many fond memories followed: the most relevant was coming back after particularly “heavy session” up the Chillingham Arms (Now called The Chillingham!) in Heaton Pip decided to play some music on his giant Pair of Wharfedale Audio Speakers! The vinyl record was World War Two Movie themes when it got to the “Dam Busters March” we found ourselves with the sofa up turned, the clothes horse as a cockpit cover and a wooden floor brush as the front gun!

Hen was the Pilot, me as co-pilot, Pip as front gunner and Frank as top gunner. We used beer glasses to mimic the sound of of inflight microphones.

It was so loud the neighbour across the street banged our door to complain!

Pip and I visited the Möhnesee Dam February 1985 when I was living in Verl, Gütersloh. It was the week of half term;

Bewegliche Feiertage:

Rosenmontag: Montag, 18. Februar 1985

Faschingsdienstag: Dienstag, 19. Februar 1985

.....and his 30 birthday the 25. February 1985!

Hay spells out

Stabilising Automatic Bomb Sight (SABS). This had been invented in 1941 to enable aircrew drop big bombs more accurately, but for it to work an aircraft had to run straight and level for ten miles in the period immediately before the bomb was dropped. It was claimed that if the sight was used properly a bomb could be dropped from 20,000 feet with an accuracy of under a hundred yards.

617 Squadron’s “Bombing Leader” was Flt Lt Bob Hay, bomb aimer in Micky Martin’s crew. Each squadron had a “Leader” for each of the specialist jobs in an aircrew – Bombing, Signals, Navigation, Engineering and Gunnery. Their job was to co-ordinate specialist training and other matters across the squadron, sorting out problems and schedules, liaising with the Flight Commanders and so on.

Hay therefore had to deal with the man Brickhill calls “Talking Bomb”, a Sqn Ldr Richardson who arrived at Coningsby to train the crews in the use of the SABS. It was hard work and required intense practise, but eventually the crews got quite good at its use, with Hay himself setting the standard with an average deviation of just 64 yards.

Hay was therefore called upon to write an article for the 5 Group’s internal newsletter, 5 Group News, in order to spread the word amongst other squadrons in the group. This article has recently come to light, and the text has been reproduced  on the Stirling Aircraft Forum website. You can read the full article there, but here is a short extract:

The Secret of 617 Squadron’s High Standard of Practise Bombing – the S.A.B.S. Pilot/Navigator/Air Bomber Team (By Flt Lt Hay)

The excellent results gained by crews of 617 Squadron using the S.A.B.S. have only been achieved by the fullest, most practical use of the ‘bombing team’. Before any bombs are dropped, some 4 hours training on the specially adapted A.M.B.T. are carried out by the pilot and air bomber to give manipulation practise to the latter and to familiarise the pilot with the B.D.I. (Bombing Direction Indicator).

The SABS was used successfully on a number of raids but sadly Bob Hay was not around long enough to share in any glory. He was killed in February 1944, when Martin’s aircraft was badly damaged by anti-aircraft guns on an attack on the Antheor viaduct in France, and is buried in Sardinia. He was the only member of Martin’s Dams Raid crew who did not survive the war.

The Secret of 617 Squadron’s High Standard of Practise Bombing – the S.A.B.S. Pilot/Navigator/Air Bomber Team (By Flt Lt Hay)

The excellent results gained by crews of 617 Squadron using the S.A.B.S. have only been achieved by the fullest, most practical use of the ‘bombing team’. Before any bombs are dropped, some 4 hours training on the specially adapted A.M.B.T. are carried out by the pilot and air bomber to give manipulation practise to the latter and to familiarise the pilot with the B.D.I. (Bombing Direction Indicator). The navigator is trained to carry out computation of true height and airspeed, and settings for a given course of attack with the instruments and computers at his disposal. Some 2-4 hours are then spent in the air doing ‘dummy runs’, firstly on objects ‘on track’, then choosing targets and ‘turning on’, and finally on to targets and setting up sight in accordance with settings computed from known navigational data. The sight is only accurate when correct height above target is set. Thus the pilot must fly at the indicated height he states he will be at, the navigator must correctly compute this to the true height above target, and the air bomber set this accurately.

True height is dependent upon:

i. Sea Level Pressure at Target. This is gained by setting the aerodrome height for practise bombing or, operationally, from Form 2330. It is the Q.F.F. which is set.

ii. Indicated Height Above Sea Level. All 617 Squadron altimeters have been accurately calibrated for every 1,000’ for 140 and 180 m.p.h. I.A.S. and from the appropriate card the navigator allows for this error, which may be up to 300’.

iii. Temperature. ‘Thermometer, Air, Direct Reading, Mk I’, now fitted, doesn’t give an accurate reading for temperature of the outside air as a) the stem is heated by cabin temperature and b) the outside air bearing against the bulb is under pressure varying with airspeed. Both factors tend to give a ‘warmer’ reading than true. Again, the navigator computes from a special computer to get an accurate air temperature.

With these factors and the use of an ICAN computer, true height (c) can be computed. True height above target will need a deduction of target height above sea level and there will be a further allowance (addition) to be made where stick bombing is being used.

When the pilot advises I.A.S. with aircraft trimmed and bomb doors open, the navigator computes a T.A.S. which is used against a Trail scale for the appropriate bomb number. Errors of + or – 5 m.p.h. make negligible ground errors. Most errors in range can be traced to (1) flying at other than the indicated height stated by the pilot, (2) incorrect computation of height and/or T.A.S. by the navigator or (3) incorrect settings or bad manipulation by the air bomber.

The sight will automatically correct for drift and ground speed if switched on with the target in the graticule and held there by proper manipulation of the sight by the air bomber, and by the pilot following the direction of his B.D.I., until such time as the point of release is attained. Those who remember the A.B.S. and who used it to its utmost efficiency realised that the length of run could be considerably reduced if settings were applied before the run. As the heading of attack is generally known, the navigator can pass a drift and G/S to the air bomber just prior to the run. So, after practise, the air bomber need only wind his sighting head back for a 25 second run, whereas 40-50 seconds may be required without these settings.

Let us listen to a typical 617 Squadron bombing run:

Pilot: “Turning onto a heading of 250°.”

Nav: “250° - drift 4° port, G/S setting 17.”

Air bomber: Acknowledges, directs pilot on and calls “Run started” at the appropriate moment.

After 30 seconds of concentration, but silence, by pilot and air bomber, we hear:

Air bomber: “Bombs gone. Good run here, drift 3° port, G/S 16.5.”

Once the bomb hits the ground:

Air bomber: “Bomb plotted, ten yards overshoot.”

Pilot: “Sorry, my fault, I was 120’ too high!!”

When results are received from the Range, the team assembles about the plotting table to further sort out factors causing any errors.

Frequency and Resonance

We live in Herne Bay.....

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis CBE FRS RDI FRAeS (26 September 1887 – 30 October 1979), was an English scientist, engineer and inventor. He is best known for inventing the bouncing bomb used by the Royal Air Force in Operation Chastise (the "Dambusters" raid) to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley during World War II.

Garros and Hay

A curious coincidence:


Jan 25, '21
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