This year saw the 70th anniversary of the famous Dam Buster raid, one of the most memorable operations of the Second World War.
The story of the youngest Dam Buster pilot is told in historian Alan Griffin’s book Leamington Lives Remembered.
Squadron Leader Henry Eric Maudslay was born in Vicarage Road, Lillington, in July 1921. He was a member of 617 Squadron which flew in Operation Chastise in May 1943, using the famous bouncing bomb to attack the industrial region of German.
The squadron is now best known by the name of the film that dramatised the operation - The Dambusters.
Henry Maudslay’s family had been involved in various branches of engineering for several generations. One of his ancestors, Henry Maudslay, was the father of the machine tool industry and one of the greatest engineers of the Industrial Revolution. Reginald Maudslay, young Henry’s father, was the founder of the Standard Motor Company in Coventry (he died when Henry was 13). Another member of the Maudslay family was managing director of the Maudslay Motor Company, another Coventry car maker.
After leaving prep school in Gloucestershire, Henry went to Eton where he excelled at athletics and as a rower. He was, by all accounts, a modest and unassuming young man.
His family had moved from Leamington to Sherbourne, near Warwick, and when Henry completed his Eton education at the start of the Second World War they were living at Willersey, near Broadway.
Henry volunteered for the RAF and was called up in July 1940. Within two years he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Then in January 1943 he was selected by Wing Commander Guy Gibson to be a squadron leader in the newly-formed 617 squadron for the Dam Buster operation.
After successfully breaching the Mohne Dam four of the squadron’s planes, including Henry’s, pressed on to the more difficult target, the Eder Dam.
Henry released a bomb but it struck the parapet of the dam without touching the water and blew up instantaneously, almost directly beneath the aircraft. The plane limped away but was later shot down near the border with Holland. All the crew perished. They are buried in the Reichswald Forrest Cemetery in western Germany.
Read the full story of Henry Eric Maudslay in Leamington Lives Remembered by Alan Griffin, published by Feldon Books, priced £6.95.