The Ferryhill Dambuster
Sgt R Batson
Lancaster serial number: ED825/G
Call sign: AJ-T
Second wave. First aircraft to attack Sorpe Dam. Mine dropped successfully but failed to breach dam. Returned to base.
Ronald Batson was born on 5 December 1920 in Ferryhill, Co Durham, the older son of Joseph and Elizabeth Batson. He was a grocer’s assistant before enlisting in the RAF in March 1941.
After qualifying as an air gunner, he was posted to 106 Squadron Conversion Flight in early September 1942. He quickly teamed up with Joe McCarthy whose logbook confirms that Batson and Bill Radcliffe first flew with him on the same day, 11 September 1942, in a Manchester on a training flight. Their first operation was on 5 October. Batson was the only one of McCarthy’s crew to fly on every single operation in 97 Squadron with his skipper. By late March 1943, they had amassed 31 trips.
On the Dams Raid, Batson was in the front turret of AJ-T. On the way back from the Sorpe, he spotted a goods train and asked McCarthy’s permission to attack it. The crew hadn’t realised, however, that this wasn’t an ordinary goods train but an armoured flak train, whose gunners responded with vigour. It was probably a shell from this which punctured a front tyre, and caused a problem a few hours later when landing at Scampton.
Batson went on to fly with McCarthy throughout the rest of his tour, and was recommended for a DFM in February 1944. The award was approved in June, with the citation reading:
BATSON, Ronald. 1045069 Flight Sergeant, No 617 Sqn.
Sorties 37. Flying Hours 264.30. Air Gunner.
“Flight Sergeant Batson has completed 37 operational sorties as Mid-upper gunner and has been operating continuously since October 1942. He has flown against many of the most heavily defended targets in Germany including Berlin, the Ruhr, Hamburg and Cologne and took part in the low-level attack on the Sorpe Dam. His enthusiasm and fighting spirit have invariably been of the highest order and he has proved his ability to face the heaviest opposition with complete calm and resolution. It is considered that the exemplary manner in which this NCO has executed his duties with the result that his captain has been able to place complete confidence in him merits the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.”
12 February 1944
Remarks by Station Commander – “This air gunner has been engaged in operational flying for well over a year. His enthusiasm for operations has never flagged and he has set a fine example to all other air gunners. Strongly recommended.”
By the time the McCarthy crew came off operations in July 1944, Batson had reached the rank of Warrant Officer and had completed more than 60 sorties. He was posted to a training unit for the remainder of the war.
Ronald Batson had one brother, Douglas, who also volunteered for the RAF. He was killed in a freak accident on 23 August 1944, when a USAAF B24 Liberator bomber crashed into a cafe in Freckleton, Lancashire. He is buried in Duncombe Cemetery, Ferryhill, Co Durham. How ironic that one brother flew on more than 60 operations over occupied territory and survived, while the other died while eating in a Lancashire snack bar.
After the war Ronald Batson returned to Durham, and he died there on 25 November 2006.