David Maltby

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David John Hatfeild Maltby
Wing Commander Guy Gibson, Vc, Dso and Bar, Dfc and Bar, Commander of 617 Squadron (dambusters) at Scampton, Lincolnshire, 22 July 1943 TR1122.jpg
Maltby (left) with Guy Gibson (right)
Born(1920-05-10)10 May 1920
Baldslow, Sussex
Died15 September 1943(1943-09-15) (aged 23)
North Sea
St Andrew's Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Air Force
Years of service1940–1943
RankSquadron Leader
Service number60335
UnitNo. 97 Squadron RAF
No. 617 Squadron RAF
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsDistinguished Service Order
Distinguished Flying Cross

Squadron Leader David John Hatfeild Maltby, DSO, DFC (10 May 1920 – 15 September 1943) was a bomber pilot in the Royal Air Force,[1] best known for his part in the Dambusters raid.[2] He had successfully completed over 30 operations before his death in September 1943.[3]

Early life[edit]

Maltby was born on 10 May 1920 in Baldslow, outside Hastings, Sussex. His father was a headmaster at Hydneye house school which Maltby attended for a while until he left and joined Marlborough College between 1934 and 1936. In 1938 he began training as a mining engineer in Trenton, South Yorkshire, but resigned at the outbreak of war. He volunteered to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1939 however like thousands of others joining, he was told to wait and that he would be invited back for an assessment as soon as possible. He was eventually called up on 20 June 1940 where he was accepted for aircrew training and formally joined the RAF Reserves.

RAF career[edit]


Maltby started training at the RAF receiving unit in Uxbridge on Thursday 20 June. After spending some time in the Initial training wing, he attended the Elementary Flying Training School at Ansty in Warwickshire. Here, he trained in an old training aircraft known as the "Tiger Moth". After this, he was sent to No 12 Service Flying Training School at RAF Grantham. He qualified as a pilot in 18 January 1941.[4]

Operational career[edit]

Maltby began his operational career with No. 106 Squadron RAF in June 1941, flying the Handley Page Hampden on five operations. By the end of the month he was transferred to 97 Squadron, flying first Hampdens, then Avro Manchesters and finally Avro Lancasters. He completed his tour in June 1942, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 11 August 1942.[5]

Maltby then spent six months commanding an Air Bomber Training Section in No. 1485 Target Towing and Gunnery Flight, before returning to active service with 97 Squadron in March 1943. He was given a new crew, most of whom had only just finished training. On 25 March 1943, he and his crew were transferred to 617 Squadron, along with Flt Lt Joe McCarthy and Flt Lt Les Munro and their crews.

King George VI, with Wing Commander Guy Gibson (right), addressing Maltby (left) following the Dams raid.

Operation Chastise[edit]

Maltby flew in the No. 617 Squadron RAF Operation Chastise dams raid of 1943. He was the pilot for Avro Lancaster J-Johnny, flying as part of the first wave that attacked the Möhne Dam. The first three aircraft to attack the dam (Guy Gibson flying in G-George, Hopgood in M-Mother and Harold Brownlow Martin in P-Popsie) all missed the target. The next, A-Apple (flown by Dinghy Young) hit the dam and caused a small breach; but as this was not apparent from the air, J-Johnny also attacked, scored a hit, causing a large breach.[6] Maltby then returned home and was the first lancaster to land back at Scampton having completed the operation.[7]

For his part in Operation Chastise, Maltby was awarded a Distinguished Service Order.[8] He was shortly after promoted to Squadron Leader and appointed as A flight commander for No. 617 Squadron.


Maltby was killed a few months after the dams raid during Operation Garlic, a failed attempt at a low-level raid on the Dortmund-Ems Canal. His Lancaster JA981[9] crashed into the North Sea while returning to base after the mission had been cancelled due to fog over the target. It is almost certain that the cause of his death was a collision with a 139 Squadron Mosquito aircraft (DZ598) piloted by Flt Lt M W Colledge and navigator Flg Off G L Marshall, who were returning from an operation to Berlin, and was on a course for Wyton, Cambridgeshire. It was northeast of Cromer when it intersected Maltby's course to Coningsby.[10] Dave Shannon, a fellow dambuster, circled the crash site for two hours whilst waiting for rescue. Maltby's body was the only one recovered and he was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew's Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent.[11]


Maltby's maternal uncle was the First World War RFC pilot Aubrey Hatfeild MBE.[12] His great grandfather was Brough Maltby the Archdeacon of Nottingham.


In the 1955 film The Dam Busters, Maltby was played by George Baker.[13]

A detailed story of Maltby is documented in a book called Breaking the Dams: The Story of Dambuster David Maltby and His Crew written by Charles Foster.[14]


  1. ^ Foster, Charles (2008). Breaking the Dams: The Story of Dambuster David Maltby and His Crew (Illustrated ed.). Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. ISBN 9781844156863.
  2. ^ BBC & Families from dambuster cew (2013-08-27). "Dambusters All the men who took part". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2018-06-02.
  3. ^ http://www.breakingthedams.com/Resources/BreakingDamsExtract.pdf
  4. ^ http://www.breakingthedams.com/davidmaltby.html
  5. ^ "Second Supplement to The London Gazette of Friday, the 7th of August, 1942" (PDF). The London Gazette. The Stationery Office. 11 August 1942.
  6. ^ "The Raid: First wave".
  7. ^ Sweetman 2002, pp. 161–166.
  8. ^ "Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday, the 25th of May, 1943". The London Gazette. The Stationery Office. 25 May 1943.
  9. ^ "Record for Lancaster JA981". lostaircraft.com. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015.
  10. ^ Giannangeli, Marco (2013-05-05). "How a great hero of the dambusters raid met a tragic end". Express.
  11. ^ "Squadron Leader (Pilot) MALTBY, DAVID JOHN HATFEILD". cwgc.org. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
  12. ^ Foster, Charles (2008). "Last flight". www.breakingthedams.com. Retrieved 2 April 2018. his uncle, Aubrey Hatfeild, who had himself been an RFC pilot in the First World War
  13. ^ "George Baker: Flight Lieutenant D. J. H. Maltby, D.S.O., D.F.C."
  14. ^ Foster, Charles (2008). "Breaking the Dams: the story of Dambuster David Maltby and his crew". www.breakingthedams.com.

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