D.F.M. London Gazette 20.4.1943. Recommendation states 'Sergeant Burcher has completed a tour of operational duty during which he has displayed the greatest enthusiasm and keenness. He has taken part in attacks against German and Italian targets and in mining sorties off France and in the Baltic. He also flew as Rear-Gunner in the daylight raids on Danzig and Le Creusot. In July 1942, when returning from Saarbrucken, the aircraft in which he was flying was attacked by five enemy fighters. This airman's excellent commentairies enabled his Captain to evade two of them, and his well-directed fire drove off another two and assisted in the destruction of the fifth. Throughout his tour Sergeant Burcher has displayed cheerfulness, courage and determination worthy of the greatest praise'.
Flight Lieutenant Anthony Fisher Burcher, D.F.M., was born in Sydney in 1922 and joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1940. After training in Canada, he was advanced to Sergeant in September 1941 and proceeded to the U.K. where he completed a full tour with No. 106 Squadron.
Commissioned as a Pilot Officer in November 1942, he was Rear-Gunner in Flight Lieutenant J.V. "Hoppy" Hopgood's Lancaster III ED 925G, "M-for-Mother", on 617 Squadron's epic Dams Raid of 16-17.5.1943. Together with Guy Gibson's Lancaster and the third aircraft in the leading section of the first wave, Hopgood's Lancaster was caught by searchlights as it crossed the Dutch coast but evaded by violent action which took it under high tension cables. Hopgood, h ving apologised for the unscheduled manoeuvre, climbed rapidly and ordered Burcher to keep his eyes peeled. Moments later there were more searchlights and Burcher opened up, firing tracer from his four guns. In the next instant the Lancaster was raked from nose to tail by ground fire, and Burcher was hit in the groin and stomach by shell splinters. His fire extinguished the searchlights but then a shell burst alongside his turret. The aircraft swung wildly and the Flight Engineer announced that the port outer engine was on fire. Burcher tried to rotate his turret but nothing happened. Hopgood, who had been wounded in the head, regained control, feathered the port outer, and called up the crew to discover the Wireless Operator had been hit in the leg and that there was no answer from the front turret. "M-for-Mother", nevertheless, pressed on towards the Mohne Dam.
Gibson made the first attack, his bomb being released at 00.28 a.m. A short while later, when the water had subsided from the terrific explosion, Gibson ordered Hopgood into the attack - 'Burcher heard the shout from Navigator Ken Earnshaw to "Go lower, still lower!" He then heard "Bomb gone!" from Fraser. Just at that moment there was a terrific crash and Burcher saw flames streaming past his turret on the port side'. The port inner had been hit by flak and was on fire. Hopgood made a gallant attempt to gain height so that his crew might bale out. Burcher desperately hand-cranked his slowly turning turret to the fore and aft position in order to reach his parachute stowed in the fuselage. He then plugged in his intercom and shouted to Hopgood, who, having managed some 300 feet, ordered him to jump. "M-for-Mother's" bomb meantime had bounced clean over the dam wall and completely destroyed the power house below.
Inside the blazing Lancaster, Burcher assisted the severely wounded Wireless Operator with his chute and pushed him out into the darkness, pulling the D-ring release as he did so. 'Burcher then pulled his own release while still in the aircraft. He knew it was not in the text books, but at this height he felt it was his only chance. Bundling it under his arm he plugged in the intercom for the last time. "Rear-Gunner abandoning aircraft," he yelled ... At that moment there was a terrific bang and a great rush of air. The flames had reached the main wing fuel tank. Burcher was blown out and smashed into the tailplane so violently that he broke his back ... He landed with a terrific thud, which was only to be expected at such a low height. As he hit, the parachute billowed and took him back up again and it was this, a German Medical Officer said later, that saved him'.
Originally posted missing along with the rest of Hopgood's crew, Burcher's survival was communicated to R.A.A.F. authorities by his W.A.A.F. fiancee to whom he sent a Prisoner of War card from Stalag Luft III at Sagan: 'I have quite recovered and am being well treated. Unfortunately the rest of the crew were killed and so far it seems I am the only survivor ... Please write to the next-of-kin of the other members of the crew telling that the boys had a decent burial'. It later transpired that the Bomb-Aimer had also survived. Burcher was liberated and returned to the U.K. on 14.5.1945.
He was promoted Flight Lieutenant in November 1944 and transferred to the R.A.F. in 1952 for service in Korea with 205 Squadron. He subsequently served with the same unit in Borneo in 1955 and with 209 Squadron in Malaya. That same year he also attended the premiere of the film "The Dam Busters", where he was able to tell Barnes Wallis that "M-for-Mother's" bomb had been responsible for the destruction the Mohne Dam's power house, and that a German engineer whom he had met recently had told him that this had caused great problems until rebuilt in 1953. Barnes Wallis's reply was 'that he had tried to get the R.A.F. to bomb it from normal bombing levels since 1941 but that they had refused, and so the concept of the bouncing bomb came to be born'.
Reference: The Men Who Breached The Dams, by Alan W. Cooper.