Remembering Jack Leggo, the Dambusters Squadron Leader from Albany Creek

As Australia commemorates Remembrance Day, the spotlight turns to Albany Creek to honour Jack Leggo, a remarkable war hero who made this suburb his home in his final years. 

Squadron Leader Jack Frederick Leggo, known for his pivotal role in the famed Dambusters Raid, moved to Queensland after the war and became a successful businessman. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982, he eventually passed away in Albany Creek in 1983, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire.

On 11 Nov 2023, Australia will commemorate and honour those who served in the war for Remembrance Day. Here’s what you should never forget about Jack Leggo and the Dambusters.

The Dambusters Legacy 

Jack Leggo was a bank clerk before he found himself catapulted into the role of a Squadron Leader in one of the most daring and critical missions of World War II: Operation Chastise, or the Dambusters Raid. This operation, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, involved 19 Lancaster bombers and 133 airmen from various Allied nations, including 13 Australians. Their mission was to strike four dams in Germany’s industrial heartland, the Ruhr Valley.

The Dambusters
Photo Credit: Virtual War Memorial of Australia

The operation’s main objective was to breach the German dams using “bouncing bombs,” ingeniously designed by British aircraft designer Barnes Wallis. These depth charges were crafted to skip along the water’s surface before sinking and exploding against the dam walls.

Dropping these bombs with the precision required a height of 18 meters and a speed of 370 kilometres per hour, demanding exceptional skill and unwavering bravery.

From left to right: 414740 Flying Officer (FO) E. W. Weaver DFC of Brisbane, Queensland; 427426 FO R. P. Barry of Fremantle, WA; 414844 Flight Lieutenant J. L. Sayers DFC of Brisbane, Qld; FO V. L. Johnson RAF and 400896 FO F. E. Wittmer DFC of Melbourne, Victoria.
Photo Credit: Australia War Memorial

Jack Leggo’s Heroic Journey

Mr Leggo stood out among the brave Australians who participated in the Dambusters Raid His wartime achievements were recognised with a knighthood, an honour that he shared with another Australian hero of the raid, Harold ‘Mick’ Martin.  He and Mr Martin served as the captain and observer of a remarkably efficient crew, consistently hitting their bombing targets from low altitudes and returning with exceptional photographs.

In one notable instance, their crew spent thirty minutes locating a target despite facing intense opposition. Their aircraft sustained multiple hits, with one engine catching fire. Nevertheless, they pressed on with their attack in an unwavering and determined manner.

In another mission during the same month, which required exceptional navigation and crew cooperation, Mr Leggo and Mr Martin displayed exceptional courage in the face of the enemy.

The Mohne Damn
The Mohne Damn
Photo Credit: Virtual War Memorial of Australia

On the night of 16 May 1943, the Dambusters set off in three waves. The Mohne and Eder dams were successfully struck and eventually collapsed under the assault. Although the Sorpe Dam was hit three times but remained unbreached, and the Bever Dam sustained only minor damage, the operation was considered a resounding success. 

Nonetheless, the successful breach of the Mohne and Eder dams struck a decisive blow against the enemy. This outstanding achievement showcased the dedication and efforts of all those who played their roles in this operation, demonstrating great credit for their skills and bravery.

Tragically, not all Australians returned home. The operation came at a great cost, with only 11 of the 19 Lancasters and 77 aircrew returning. Robert Barlow and Charles Williams lost their lives during the mission, while Tony Burcher became a prisoner of war in a German camp until the war’s end. Fred Spafford, Robert Hay, and Les Knight would later lose their lives in the war.

Unveiling a Piece of History

In May 2023, Australians marked the 80th anniversary of Operation Chastise. The Australian War Memorial has unveiled a piece of history from this remarkable air raid — the original Sorpe Dam model used for training purposes. The 3D models will feature in the redeveloped galleries in the new Anzac Hall, which will open in late 2025. 

Australian War Memorial Director Matt Anderson praised the audacity of the “bouncing bombs” and the exceptional courage and skill displayed by the crews during the daring raid. The models, used by pilots and aircrew for familiarisation, have been preserved impeccably,  ensuring that the stories of heroes like Jack Leggo continue to be told and remembered for generations to come.

The Dambusters Raid remains a symbol of courage and sacrifice, boosting morale during a challenging period in World War II. For the Australians who served in Bomber Command, the statistics tell a story of extreme danger, with over 4,100 out of 10,000 servicemen listed on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour.

Attend a service, wear a poppy, or observe a minute’s silence at 11am, and help keep the legacy of our service people alive. Lest we forget.

RSL Queensland

Published 7-Nov-2023