01/07/2017
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Dambusters log book sells at auction

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Royal Air Force Flight Sergeant, Leonard Sumpter (1911-93) was a member of 617 Squadron and took part in Operation Chastise, better known as The Dambusters Raid.

He served as the bomb aimer of Lancaster ED929/G AJ-L. The Observer’s and Air Gunner’s Flying Log Book belonging to Sumpter, that recorded his service during World War II, contains over 140 pages of hand-written entries from 15 October 1941 to 2 September 1945.

The log book covers Operation Chastise, plus other important operations, and features a number of significant signatures, including those of Guy Gibson VC, Henry ‘Dinghy’ Young, David Maltby, David Shannon and James Tait. There are details of flights, types of aircraft flown, names of pilots and other crew members, various observations and remarks and numbers of hours flown. It starts with Leonard’s training in Canada and completion of his Air Observers Advanced Navigation Course, Bombing Course and Gunnery Course before turning to his posting to 57 Squadron in September 1942. This covers bombing operations over Genoa, Turin, Stuttgart, Berlin, Nuremberg, St. Nazaire before his subsequent transfer to 617 Squadron at RAF Scampton, in April 1943.

The Dambusters Raid of 16 May 1943 was recorded by Sumpter as departing at 21.50 in Lancaster L-929 and listing his fellow crew members of Shannon, Walker, Goodale, Buckley, Henderson and Jagger with the latter entry later annotated by Sumpter, killed o.a.s. 4.5.44’. The log book features the remarks Op. No. 14 via Holland to the Hun. Satisfactory attack on Eder Dam 18 miles west of Kassel. Average ht. 100 feet.’

Sumpter’s flights resumed on 2 June 1943 and details many missions as part of Shannon’s crew including a bombing operation over Bologna, a sweep over the North Sea in search of a lifeboat, his posting with 617 Squadron to RAF Coningsby in September 1943 and his participation in Operation Garlic on 14 and 15 September 1943. This was a failed attempt at a low-level raid on the Dortmund-Ems Canal in which Maltby was killed, Sumpter remarking ‘Ops recalled. Circled S/Ldr Maltby’s crash. Ops. Dortmund-Ems Canal. Visibility nil but target found’.

There were many other low and high level bombing exercises, as well as several operations over a ‘Special Target’ on 16 and 22 December 1943, an operation over Limoges (‘complete devastation’) and one over the Antheor Viaduct in February 1944, as well as St. Etienne (‘considerable damage’) a Michelin rubber works (‘large fires’), a powder explosive works in south France (‘Demolished’) during March 1944.

Leonard’s last flight is recorded on 2 September 1945 in a Lancaster and he concludes the entry with his signature, ‘L J Sumpter F/L his mark’, beneath the word ‘Finis’ and a total of 900 hours and 10 minutes flying time. There are several other pages of summaries of operations towards the end of the log book. There are numerous signatures including Guy Gibson VC, Henry Melvin ‘Dinghy’ Young, David Maltby, David Shannon and James Tait – who conducted 101 bombing missions, including the one that finally sank the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944.

This extremely rare, and historically important, Log Book belonged to one of the Dambusters crew members and recorded one of the most famous raids carried out during World War II. It sold at Autograph Auctions for a hammer price of £7,000 plus auction commission.

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