On the Night of 16/17 May 1943 19 Lancaster Bombers of newly formed 617 Sqn RAF took off from RAF Scampton and in 3 waves headed to the Ruhr Valley in Germany, their mission, to attack the Mohne, Adur & Sorpe Dams providing Hydro-Electric power to factories in the Industrial areas nearby. The rest as they say is history.
It’s history that it’s right to remember this year, 70 yrs on while 2 of the last 3 of the aircrew still alive are able to take part. There is lots of information available online ( but this is probably the best single page of information) and in written form & photos about Operation Chastise, 617 Sqn and the incredible ingenuity of Barnes Wallis the designer of The Wellington Bomber, Tall Boy bomb and of course the iconic ” Upkeep” Bouncing Bomb used on the raid. I’ve been fascinated by the raid since I first saw the 1950’s Dambusters film. I’ve read Guy Gibson’s book Enemy Coast Ahead and was strangely pleased that my first posting in the RAF was RAF Benson, where the photo reconnaissance Spitfire took off from to the photograph the aftermath of the raid and the devastation caused by the torrent of water released by the breaching of the dams.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will be doing a number of fly pasts over this weekend and their schedule, weather permitting is here
There has been a lot of coverage on TV today & tomorrow Radio 2 will broadcast a commemorative concert. If you are on Twitter follow @RoyalAirForceUK for “live” tweets from the raid !
The events which mark the the anniversary of the raid and the 53 members of 617 Sqn who died and those killed on the ground as a result of the raid.
There were over 7500 Lancaster’s built during its service, only 2 remain in flying condition, one belonging to the RAF BBMF and the other in Canada, each flight they make is a reminder of the 55573 aircrew of Bomber Command killed during World War II. Another reminder is the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park unveiled last year by The Queen. Another memorial to “The Bomber Boys ” is situated just 3 miles from my home on the clifftop over looking the English Channel at Beachy Head.
I listened to an interview today with Mary Stopes Roe, Barnes Wallis daughter she commented on how horrified her father had been by the loss of so many of the aircrew who volunteered for the raid, many of whom could have gone on leave or to training roles but elected to undertake a hazardous mission they knew little about until just days before the mission. It made me wonder just what Barnes Wallis would have made of the sacrifice of our current servicemen & women and their current task in Afghanistan and I imagined that he might just turn his ingenuity and undoubted humanity to finding a way to help the servicemen who have been wounded in service and who Help for Heroes was set up to help and has raised over £150 million pounds to support in just 5 years.
Whatever your view on commemorating a bombing raid that is a legacy everyone should celebrate.
Tonight it’s appropriate to point you to the website of the RAF Benevolent Fund as well as my fundraising page
Thanks for reading & Per Ardua Ad Astra