The forgotten story of Norfolk man’s role in audacious ‘Dambuster’ raid
PUBLISHED: 14:08 09 May 2020 | UPDATED: 14:08 09 May 2020
He was part of one of the most audacious raids of the Second World War.
And although 77 years may have passed since Charles Roberts lost his life in the Dambuster mission over Nazi Germany, the memory of his brave actions lives on.
Flt Sgt Roberts, from Northrepps near Cromer, was the navigator on one of the eight Lancasters that never returned from the raid, after 19 such bombers had set off.
Following on from the VE Day 75 celebrations, the Northrepps Poppyland branch of the Royal British Legion had planned to hold a memorial service to mark the anniversary of the raid on 16–17 May, but that has now been cancelled due to the lockdown.
But David Russell, from the branch, said ‘Charlie’ Roberts would still be remembered.
Mr Russell said: “During the AJ-A Lancaster’s run in to attack the dam, Roberts’s role was to stand in the cockpit looking out of the starboard blister at the reflection of the of the two lights set as to when they touched the aircraft was at the correct height of 60 feet above the water.
“He would have called ‘up’- ‘down’ or ‘steady’ during the approach as the pilot adjusted the height.”
The Dambuster raid saw bouncing bombs destroy the walls of reservoirs in the Ruhr Valley, flooding a vast area.
The AJ-A Lancaster was shot down over Holland on its return. A memorial stone now stands near the crash site on a beach at Castricum aan Zee, and Mr Roberts and his crewmates were buried at Bergen General Cemetery in the Netherlands.
Mr Russell said Mr Roberts was inexperienced at the time of the dams raid in 1943, but did not appear to have made any significant errors. His Lancaster took part in the attack on the Möhne Dam, which was destroyed in the raid.
Mr Roberts was born on January 19, 1921 to Augustus and Dorcas Roberts of Northrepps, and he was educated at Paston Grammar School North Walsham.
He later trained to be a chartered accountant in Cromer.
Mr Roberts joined the RAF in 1940 and was initially chosen for pilot training. He went to Rhodesia for flying school and ended up qualifying as a navigator.
He had been engaged to a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), who worked at RAF Scampton air base packing parachutes.