Menu Donate Request our help

Helpline: 0300 102 1919

Melvin 'Dinghy' Young: failed to return

Squadron Leader Melvin Young acquired the nickname 'Dinghy' after ditching in the sea twice and surviving both times in an inflatable dinghy.

It also seemed appropriate because he had helped Oxford to win the Boat Race in 1938. However, on the night of 16/17 May as part of the 617 Squadron Dambusters raid Operation Chastise, his luck on water finally vanished as his Lancaster ditched in the North Sea, killing all on board.

Melvin 'Dinghy' Young. Image from 'Dambusters Failed to Return' published by Fighting High.Born in 1915 to a British father and an American mother, Young had a privileged upbringing and went to school in both Britain and America.

He went to read law at Trinity College, Oxford, graduating in 1937 and rowing for the university in 1938. He was also a member of the Oxford University Air Squadron, where he first learnt to fly (at RAF Abingdon).

His flight training school instructor remarked that he was an "above average pilot" with "above average officer qualities. A likeable personality and a very satisfactory pupil".

Young married his American wife Priscilla in the US in August 1942 and afterwards worked for a time as an instructor in Albany, Georgia.

In March 1943, he had not yet flown a Lancaster in his life, yet on his return to Britain he and his new crew were allocated to the new 617 Squadron, headed up by Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

In the following couple of months before the raid, Young did get plenty of hours under his belt, but very few at night. Nonetheless, on the night of the raid, Young got his first run at the Möhne Dam exactly right, dropping his Upkeep mine at the correct speed and height.

It bounced across the surface of the water, made contact with the dam, sank and exploded. After a further successful hit (from David Maltby’s AJ-J Lancaster), the dam crumbled and a massive torrent of water poured through to loud cheers from the watching planes.

Young turned and headed for home but at 0258 he was shot down as he crossed the Dutch coast. Later in May his body and those of his crew were washed up. They are buried in Bergen, North Holland. Young was 27 years old.

This blog is in memory of Squadron Leader Melvin Young. We have used information from Fighting High Publishing's book Dam Busters: Failed to Return by Robert Owen, Steve Darlow, Sean Fest and Arthur Thorning, to help us write this blog.

Visit the Dambusters homepage

Sign up to receive the RAFBF e-newsletter