The term ‘hero’ is overused these days, but Obiter will apply it without hesitation to flight lieutenant John ‘Hoppy’ Hopgood. In 1943, the 21-year-old was the pilot of M for Mother, the second bomber to make a run at the Möhne dam on the historic Dambusters raid.
The Lancaster had been hit by flak on the outward journey and Hopgood made the attack with one crewman dead, one engine on fire and a handkerchief pressed to his head to staunch a wound.
After M for Mother’s bomb exploded, further crippling the aircraft, Hopgood somehow gained enough height to enable his crew to bale out; three jumped and two survived. M for Mother exploded with Hopgood at the controls.
In its Roll of Honour, the Gazette recorded that Hopgood was ‘articled to Mr N. C. Dowson, of 7 St. James’s Place, SW1’.
Hopgood was not decorated for the raid but over 40 missions (on which, statistically, he should have been killed several times over) he had already received the Distinguished Flying Cross and bar. These medals and other memorabilia currently in possession of his niece are to be auctioned on 15 December with the proceeds going to charity WaterAid. Items in the lot include Wing Commander Guy Gibson's letter formally notifying Hopgood's mother of his death (pictured).
The expected £30,000-£40,000 will help build an earth dam in Uganda to provide 95,000 people with access to safe water.
If any law firm or legal organisation fancies putting together a bid, Obiter will gladly chip in.