Distinguished Flying Medal: Flight Sergeant Frederick Michael Spafford, 50 Squadron RAF

Place Europe: Germany
Accession Number AWM2019.835.1.2
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom: England
Date made c 1942
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Distinguished Flying Medal (Geo VI). Engraved around edge with recipient's details.

History / Summary

Distinguished Flying Medal awarded to Flight Sergeant Frederick Michael 'Spam' Spafford for his particpation in 15 operations while flying with 50 Squadron RAF. The citation for this award reads: 'This N.C.O. is an air bomber of high merit. Has taken part in many sorties and by skill has played great part in the success obtained. Has set a praiseworthy example.'

Frederick Michael Spafford was born in Adelaide, South Australia on 16 June 1918. He was employed as a fitter prior to his enlistment in the RAAF on 14 September 1940. He undertook his initial training as an air gunner and subsequently as a bomber aimer in Australia. On 27 May 1941 he embarked as a Flight Sergeant, service number 407380, for England where he received further training followed by postings to 83, 455 and 50 Squadrons RAF. For his excellent record as a bomb aimer on operation, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal in October 1942 for his participation on 15 sorties.

On 15 January 1943, Spafford was commissioned as a Pilot Officer and two months later was posted to 617 Squadron at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire then being formed for precision bombing operations. On 16 May 1943, Spafford participated as lead air bomber in the attack on German dams in the Ruhr Valley, known as Operation Chastise.

Spafford was the bomb aimer flying with Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the leading Lancaster, AJ-G, in the first wave. The Mohne Dam was their target. Gibson’s aircraft was the first to attack, but the bouncing bomb failed to destroy the dam. It wasn’t until the fifth attempt (the bomb from Maltby’s aircraft) - accompanied by Guy Gibson’s aircraft providing cover - before a hole was punched in the Mohne Dam, sending 120 million tons of floodwater in the valley below.

For his actions Spafford was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was one of 13 Australians participating in the Dams Raid. He was promoted Flying Officer in July.

On 16 September 1943, Spafford participated in a raid on the Dortmund-Ems canal in Germany. The visibility was poor and the attack was conducted at low level; five of the eight Lancasters were either bought down by flak or crashed over enemy territory. Spafford’s Lancaster was hit by flak and exploded on impact with the ground. There were no survivors. Flying Officer Spafford is buried in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Germany.