After a man has been found guilty of the theft of Dambuster’s log book, the search for the treasured item continues.
Last week, the news broke that Alexander Bateman was found guilty of stealing a log book formerly belonging to an RAF airman who served with the legendary Number 617 ‘Dambusters’ squadron.
The log book belonged to Canadian airman Flt Lt John W Fraser, who flew as part of Flt Lt John Hopgood’s crew on Operation Chastise – the 1943 Dams Raid. Fraser was the bomb aimer on Lancaster ED925/G, call sign AJ-M.
While on the mission, Hopgood’s Lancaster sustained severe damage and suffered the loss of one engine, with a second knocked out during his attack gun. Some of the crew became casualties, with Hopgood himself wounded, and his front gunner, George Gregory, killed. However, Hopgood persisted with his attack. He was the second aircraft of the first wave tasked with hitting the Möhne Dam and was hit by flak a second time as he made his run, knocking out a second engine.
After belatedly releasing their bouncing bomb, Hopgood attempted to gain height to allow his crew to bale out, before eventually crashing on the far side of the dam. Their bomb bounced over the structure, exploding next to a power station. Fraser was one of just two crew members to survive, being captured after a 200 mile, 10 day, bid for freedom. He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner.
Following his death in 1962, Fraser’s effects were passed on to his widow, who Bateman stole the log book from. A keen military historian, Bateman contacted the victim and asked if she could send him anything belonging to her late husband, to assist him with his research. The victim duly sent her husband’s log book.
Several years later, the family requested for the log book to be returned, however, Bateman declared that he had been gifted the log book by Fraser’s widow, and produced a Christmas card which he claimed was from her. Inside, was a note inside stating that the log book had been gifted to Bateman by Fraser’s widow.
Bateman then stopped returning calls and, the day before a national newspaper published a story about the dispute, reported a burglary at his address in which intruders were alleged to have stolen the log book. However, writing experts concluded after their analysis of the card that it was almost certainly not written by the victim.
Acting Detective Sergeant Henry Childe stated: “Bateman lied about his willingness to return the treasured RAF log book, which belonged to the widow of one of the ‘Dambusters’ air men.”
With a welcome legal conclusion to the sordid affair, one things remains outstanding however. As despite officers proving the had been log book stolen by Bateman, and his subsequent conviction, the treasured item has yet to be recovered and there are few leads to assist officers.
“Sadly, the log book has never been found and Bateman has refused to tell us what happened to it”, stated Detective Sergeant Childe.
Anyone with information regarding the missing log book is encouraged to contact Detective Sergeant Henry Childe, Metropolitan Police, on 020 8345 4552. Alternatively, they can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.