Dam Busters Heroes: Jack Leggo and Robert Kellow (Thank you to local solicitor, Graeme Jensen)


Jack Leggo was born in Sydney in 1916 and according to his service record, attended Newcastle Boys High School and obtained his Leaving Certificate in 1932.

When war broke out he was employed as a clerk with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and he enlisted with the RAAF. on 19th August 1940.

In January 1941 he was posted to Canada to be trained as a navigator as part of the Empire Training Scheme and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in June 1941.

He was then posted to England in August 1941 where he attained his commission and was assigned to RAAF 455 Squadron and later to 50 Squadron where he crewed up with ‘Mick' Martin (later Sir Harold), a highly regarded Australian bomber pilot where they flew Hampden bombers. The crew also comprised two other Australians, Tammy Simpson from Hobart and Toby Foxlee from Queensland.

In April 1942 Leggo, along with his other Aussie crew members transferred to 90 Squadron where they retrained on the now famous Lancaster bomber. Leggo completed a full tour of bombing missions over Europe with Martin's crew and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his work.

When Martin was asked to join 617 Squadron, newly formed for the purposes of the dams raid, because of his widely recognised low flying capabilities he took his entire crew with him and formed the core of the seven man crew of Lancaster AJ-P (Popsie). Leggo was made the Squadron Navigation Officer, responsible for all the other navigators in the Squadron. This was an onerous position as it was Leggo's job to ensure that all navigators were capable of guiding their aircraft to the target. The crew also comprised bomb aimer, Flight Lieutenant Bob Hay from Gawler S.A. who was also the lead bomb aimer for the dams raid. Sadly, Hay was the only member of the crew of P-Popsie not to survive the war.

Leggo almost didn't get to fly on the raid as when the bouncing bomb was being loaded on P-Popsie it dropped to the ground, scattering all those present. The bomb didn't explode as it wasn't fused.

Leggo's aircraft was the second Lancaster to attack the first target, the Mohne Dam.

 As the Lancaster had to be at a height of precisely 60 feet when the bouncing bomb was dropped, once at the target it would have been Leggo's task to watch from the Lancaster's observation blister, the two light spots directed onto the water from the nose and tail of the Lancaster, calling ‘up', ‘down' and ultimately, ‘steady' when the spots met to indicate an altitude of 60 feet.

Although the bouncing bomb was dropped correctly it veered off course, probably due to damage sustained when it was dropped on loading.

After completing its bombing run P-Popsie joined the lead Lancaster in flying either side of the attacking aircraft to distract the German anti aircraft gunners.

The Mohne Dam was breached after further attacks by two Lancasters.

After the dams raid, for which Leggo was awarded a bar to his DFC, he carried on flying with Martin for a while, but then he put in for retraining as a pilot. Martin supported him in this, praising him for his exemplary character, loyalty, conscientiousness and devotion to duty. ‘No higher standard could be asked for.', he added. High praise indeed from an officer who was regarded by many as the best bomber pilot in the RAF.

After qualifying as a pilot Leggo moved to 10 Squadron in Coastal Command flying Sunderland flying boats.

Leggo is also mentioned in the book ‘The Dambusters' by Australian author Paul Brickhill.

After the war Leggo returned to Speers Point but moved to Sydney with the Commonwealth Bank and then to Queensland where he became chairman of Pioneer Sugar Mills and held positions on the board of other major corporations.

He was knighted in 1982 and died in Brisbane aged 67, in 1983, survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.



Charles Foster/Dambusters Weblog (Highly recommended for further reading)

Australian National Archives

Paul Brickhill/The Dambusters

Sir Jack Leggo



Robert Kellow was born in Newcastle in 1916 and enlisted in the RAAF in April 1941. When he enlisted he lived with his parents at Merewether and worked as shop assistant for the N.S Co-Op in Hunter Street Newcastle West.

He was mustered to train as a wireless operator/air gunner and was posted to Canada for training under the Empire Training Scheme. After completing his training he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in December 1941 and was posted to the United Kingdom arriving 20 January 1942.

He was initially posted to 50 Squadron where he flew in Lancasters and was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 22 June 1942 and Pilot Officer on 11 March 1943. His pilot was another Australian, Pilot Officer Les Knight of Camberwell Victoria, to whom Kellow was to ultimately owe his life.

In late March 1943the Knight's crew were offered a move RAF 617 Squadron at Scampton for a ‘secret mission' which was in fact to train for and carry out the raid on the Ruhr Valley dams and were assigned to a specially modified Lancaster AJ-N (Nuts).

On the move to 617 Squadron, Kellow explained:  ‘The offer presented to us sounded interesting and with our faith in each member's ability we made up our minds there and then that we would accept the offer and move over as a crew to this new squadron.'

During the flight to the dams it would have been Kellow's task as wireless operator to start the motor that spun the mine and to ensure that it was spinning at the required 500rpm on release.

After the Mohne Dam was breached Kellow's Lancaster was diverted to the Eder Dam and was the third aircraft to attack the dam. Following the accurate dropping of the bouncing mine the dam broke, flooding the valley and factories below.

Kellow's description of the breach was as follows: ‘I could look back and down at the dam wall. It was still intact for a short while, then as if some huge fist had been jabbed at the wall, a large , almost round black hole appeared and water gushed as from a large hose.'

Lancaster N-Nuts returned to its base in Scampton, England without incident and Kellow was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

Kellow was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer and remained with Knight's crew until 15th September 1943 when his aircraft participated in a low level raid on the Dortmund –Ems canal in Germany. Unfortunately when it flew into fog over Holland N-Nuts struck a tree and was severely damaged, losing the power from two engines. Realising the aircraft was doomed the pilot Knight managed to coax the Lancaster to a height where it was safe for the crew to bale out which they all did successfully. Knight also manoeuvred the Lancaster to avoid the Dutch village of Den Ham before he attempted to leave the aircraft.  Sadly, he lost his life, as when he released the controls of the Lancaster it flipped onto its back and crashed before he could jump clear.

Kellow visited Knight's grave in the 1980s as did other members of his grateful crew on number of occasions.

The villagers of Den Ham also erected a memorial to Knight in recognition of his skill and bravery in avoiding their village and he is buried in the village cemetery.

After parachuting safely to the ground Kellow was assisted by the Dutch and French Resistance to escape through Holland and France to Spain and then Gibraltar from where he was repatriated to England, arriving 4th December 1943.

Having flown on thirty two missions over Europe, Kellow did not fly another operational sortie from the UK, no doubt to ensure he wasn't captured if he baled out again and putting at risk the resistance members who had helped him evade capture.

Kellow returned to Australia in May 1944 where he served with 37 RAAF Squadron mainly in Australia, but including a deployment to New Guinea where he flew in a Lockheed Lodestar.

Kellow returned to Merewether after being discharged from the RAAF in April 1946 with a glowing report from his Commanding Officer who described him as showing ‘great possibilities for good leadership', being ‘one of the most liked and well known member of the Squadron' and ‘an invaluable member of the Squadron'.

He returned to his job as a shop assistant and bought a house in Waratah in 1946.

He died in 1988.


Australian National Archives

Charles Foster/Dambusters Weblog

Max Arthur Dambusters A Landmark of Oral History

Bomber Command Museum of Canada

Robert Kellow