Ponoka’s Joseph Gordon Brady (left) and his crew that flew a mission to Germany. Also in the photo are Bill Long

Ponoka’s Joseph Gordon Brady (left) and his crew that flew a mission to Germany. Also in the photo are Bill Long

Dambusters gunner honoured on anniversary

One of Ponoka’s fallen soldiers is going to be remembered in Nanton May 11.

One of Ponoka’s fallen soldiers is going to be remembered in Nanton May 11.

The Bomber Command Museum is hosting the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid where Warrant Officer second class Joseph Gordon Brady died during a top secret military offensive called Operation Chastise in the Second World War.

Brady was the first fallen soldier that Broncs World Tour organizer Ron Labrie studied for the cenotaph project.

This year Nicole Schuur, a student at Ponoka Secondary Campus studied Brady’s life and has been able to garner much information on him. “Dambusters is a pretty amazing story…What they had to do and the nature of the mission is so crazy.”

Brady worked at the Bird Drug Pharmacy, which is now the Jolly Farmer pub and joined the Royal  Canadian Air Force March 15, 1941 at 24-years-old. His weight and height — 5 foot 6 inches and 133 pounds — was ideal for the position of rear gunner in the Avro Lancaster bombers, explained Schuur.

Operation Chastise was a plan to take out three dams May 17, 1943, on the Ruhr in Germany, the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams were strategic hits for the military as they helped industrial production. Planes were supposed to fly at extremely low altitudes, no more than 60 feet, and then drop a “bouncing bomb” at just the right point in the water for the explosive to bounce to the dam.

Schuur was impressed with the work and praise these special bombers received in their careers. “He was part of the best of the best.”

“They trained for six months and they didn’t know what they were bombing,” she added.

Brady was part of 617 Squadron who were to take on this mission and his crew, commanded by Lewis Johnstone Burpee, was supposed to take out the Sorpe Dam along with four other planes. Unfortunately they flew too close to the Dutch shoreline and drew heavy fire.

“Germans bombed them because they flew too close to the German lines,” said Schuur.

As a result they were taken down just south of Gilze-Rijn, Netherlands. Only two hours after their mission began the crew of seven died and only Brady’s and his captain’s body were ever found.

His remains are buried in the Bergen-op-zoom war cemetery in the Netherlands, which Schuur was able to visit during the Broncs World Tour recently.

The Nanton commemoration is going to be held at the Bomber Command Museum with stories of the Dambusters Raid being told. Lancaster bombers’ engines are going to be started up in honour of Dambusters as well. More details can be found at www.bombercommandmuseum.ca.