Dambusters 75th Anniversary – Simon Weston in Conversation with George ‘Johnny’ Johnson MBE, Britain’s Last Remaining Dambuster

There were many important raids carried out by Allied crews against the Axis powers during World War II but few have captured the imagination of the public like Operation Chastise. Carried out by the specially formed No.617 Squadron flying the Avro Lancaster and led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, the operation aimed to breach the Edersee, Möhne and Sorpe dams which would result in the catastrophic flooding of the strategically important Ruhr Valley.

In order to breach the dams, the Lancasters utilised the now famous “bouncing bomb” designed by the gifted engineer Barnes Wallis. As its name suggests, this weapon bounced on the surface of the water over the defensive torpedo nets the Germans had laid before hitting the dam wall. It then dropped down to the base of the dam where it exploded for maximum effectiveness. Deploying the weapon was extremely dangerous for the crews who had to fly at just 60ft above the water at the time of release or the weapon would fail. Afterwards, No.617 squadron would forever be remembered as “the dam busters”.

While historians continue to debate the success of the mission, few would deny the boost it gave to British and Allied morale in those dark days. May 16th 2018 marks the 75th anniversary of this incredible mission.


Filmed at the Royal Air Force Museum, Falklands War Veteran Simon Weston CBE talks with George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, the last remaining member of the dambusters about his experience during Operations Chastise.

Advertisements

News Round-up – May 13th 2018

Boeing P-8 Poseidon UK united kingdom royal air force

Here are some of the latest British military news stories making the headlines this past week.


General Defence News

UK MoD lacks funding to buy all equipment it says it needs, parliament finds
(IHS Jane’s 360)

Star Wars style weapons just years away from being used by Brit soldiers and RAF fighter pilots
(Scottish Daily Record)

Hundreds Watch RAF Take Top Boxing Honours Over Army In Cyprus
(Forces Network)

Marshall wins landmark deal for UK in Bangladesh
(Business Weekly)

Royal wedding preparations underway as military personnel seen rehearsing their duties
(Sunday Express)


British Army News

Former SAS commander Lieutenant-General Mark Carleton-Smith is new Army chief
(Sky News)

Veterans hounded over the Troubles deaths will no longer receive amnesty 
(The Sun)

British army instructor posts video of crying recruit and could now face court-martial
(American Military News)

British Army Brass Band makes Major return
(4barsrest.com)

British army to tackle African elephant poachers who fund their Islamic extremism
(Daily Mail)

Ted Heath ordered cover-up of SAS training for undercover Army unit, new book claims
(Belfast Telegraph)


Royal Air Force News

UK parliament launches inquiry into RAF strikes on Mosul and Raqqa
(Middle East Eye)

RAF jets obliterate ISIS complex in huge terror raid
(Daily Star)

First images released of what RAF’s new fleet of Poseidon aircraft will look like
(Press and Journal)

UK and Norway plan anti-submarine co-operation
(IHS Jane’s 360)

RAF, RSAF observe Cerberus Strike
(Air Force Link)

Body of RAF serviceman to be repatriated
(Oxford Mail)

RAF grounds its Vigilant T1 training gliders over safety fears
(The Times)


Royal Navy & Marines News

UK Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth Set for US Visit, F-35B Trials
(USNI News)

Give £1bn navy contract to UK firms, Corbyn urges
(Insider.co.uk)

Royal Navy Recognizes 14 Sailors for Bravery
(The Maritime Executive)

Royal Navy acquires first autonomous robot minesweeper
(TechSource)

Royal Navy concludes Information Warrior 2018
(Shephard Media)

The Royal Throwdown: Royal Marines vs US Marine Corps
(Forces Network)

The Home Of Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent Turns 50
(Forces Network)


Disclaimer: All news stories are the property of their respective publishers. Any opinions expressed in the articles are of the person making them. An effort is made to vary news sources as much as possible to avoid political bias.

Wartime Wheels 2018 at Caldicot Castle

Held on May 6th – 7th, Wartime Wheels 2018 was the second year of the event at Caldicot Castle which replaced the previous and popular Fortress Wales events. Blessed with glorious weather, the event dwarfed last year in terms of displays and attendance.

All photos were taken on May 6th 2018
Photos: Tony Wilkins


 

BBMF Lancaster lands on 3 engines

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster had to return to RAF Coningsby on the weekend on only three of its four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines after the oil pressure on the no.4 engine started reading as high.

All photos kindly contributed to Defence of the Realm by Jim Knowles.


 

For more images of British military equipment and museums please visit the Galleries section or follow Defence of the Realm on Instagram

If you have photographs or articles you wish to contribute to Defence of the Realm than you can email them to defencerealmyt@gmail.com. If successful you will of course be given full credit for your contribution and can even promote your own website/blog/social media account.

May 3rd 1813 – Admiral Cockburn’s Raid on Havre de Grace

On June 18th 1812, the 4th President of the United States, James Madison Jr, bowed to pressure from those in Congress who wanted war with Britain and signed the declaration. The calls for war came as a result of a number of skirmishes between British and American ships the former of whom were enforcing a blockade against Napoleonic France and despite the US being officially neutral the British still stopped American ships and even press ganged American sailors in to the King’s service.

While it would last until February 18th 1815, the subsequent conflict is still remembered as the War of 1812. With the majority of British forces committed to fighting Napoleon in mainland Europe, the British had little choice but to initially adopt a defensive strategy against the Americans until they could bolster their numbers with troops from Europe and the enlistment of local native American tribes to carry out a guerrilla-style campaign against American troops.

Admiral Sir George Cockburn raid havre de grace 1813 war of 1812 Royal NavyAt sea, the British fleet was under the command of Admiral Sir John Warren who in November appointed the recently promoted Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn (pronounced Co-Burn, Right) as his second-in-command. Cockburn was an experienced officer having seen several actions throughout his career up to that time against the French and Spanish. Cockburn commanded a force of ships that were directed against disrupting US trade and naval/privateer operations along the northeastern US with the two-year old 36-gun fifth rate frigate HMS Maidstone carrying his flag.

On April 23rd 1813, Cockburn’s force captured Spesutie Island located in the Chesapeake Bay in the US state of Maryland. Recognising the fear his fleet had put in the local population he emphasized to them that as long as they did not oppose the British forces using the island as a base then they would be allowed to go about their daily lives. Reporting to Warren on April 29th following a raid on Frenchtown in which five American vessels were destroyed, he outlined his intention to attack any settlement along the American coastline in Chesepeake Bay which hoisted American colours or fired on his force.

A few days later, Cockburn was returning from Frenchtown, sailing to the north of Spesutie Island when he was fired on by US forces based in the town of Havre de Grace. In his report on the subsequent action which was reprinted in the London Gazette, Cockburn admitted that until he observed the gunfire aimed at him from the settlement he had largely disregarded it. Now, he decided that the settlement which was primarily defended by local militia groups should be punished for their resistance however the town was protected by shoal water that was too shallow for the larger of Cockburn’s fleet to sail over.

He therefore anchored his force off nearby Turkey Point on May 2nd 1813 and transferred over 150 Royal Marines to a flotilla of smaller boats that included a number of  rocket boats for fire support under the command of Captain John Lawrence of HMS Fantome. Lawrence and his men set off under the cover of darkness to carry out a dawn attack. HMS Dolphin (12-guns) and HMS Highflyer (8-guns), both former American privateers captured by the British and pressed in to service against their previous owners, attempted to sail with the boats to offer support but were only able to make it to six miles of the settlement because of the shallow waters.

As Lawrence and his men made their way towards the town, their presence was detected by the local population who warned the militia at Havre de Grace of the impending attack. The Americans decided to withdraw rather than fight a pitched battle with the British with less than 40 men remaining when Lawrence struck at dawn. The Americans manned a battery of cannons at Concord Point and it was here the main action was fought. Cockburn’s report describes what happened next;

Captain Lawrence, however, having got up with the boats, and having very ably and judiciously placed them during the attack, a warm fire was opened on the place at daylight from our launches and rocket boats, which was smartly returned from the battery for a short time, but the launches constantly closing with it, and their fire rather increasing than decreasing, that from the battery soon began to slacken, and Captain Lawrence observing this, very judiciously directed the landing of the marines on the left, which movement, added to the hot fire they were under, induced the Americans to commence withdrawing from the battery, to take shelter in the town.

Admiral Cockburn raid havre de grace 1813 war of 1812 Royal Navy

Lieutenant G. A. Westphal, who had taken his station in the rocket boat close to the battery, therefore now judging the moment to be favourable, pulled directly up under the work, and landing with his boats crew, got immediate possession of it, turned their own guns on them, and thereby soon obliged them to retreat with their whole force to the furthest extremity of the town, whither (the marines having by this time landed) they were closely pursued, and no longer feeling themselves equal to a manly and open resistance, they commenced a teazing and irritating fire from behind the houses, walls, trees, etc. from which I am sorry to say, my gallant first lieutenant received a shot through his hand whilst leading the pursuing party; he, however, continued to head the advance, with which he soon succeeded in dislodging the whole of the enemy from their lurking places, and driving them from shelter to the neighbouring woods, and whilst performing which service, he had the satisfaction to overtake, and with his remaining hand to make Prisoner,-and bring in a captain of their militia.

The captured American was Second Lieutenant John O’Neill who had put up a spirited defence which at one point included manning a cannon single-handedly until he was injured from the weapon’s recoil. He was captured along with two militia men as they attempted to escape to the nearby woods. During the entire attack there was only one fatality; an unfortunate resident of Havre de Grace who was killed when a British rocket exploded nearby.

Cockburn instructed his men not to pursue the Americans in to the woods. Instead they were to either seize or destroy American weapons that came in to their possession. Lawrence’s forces did however travel three miles north to destroy the ironworks centred around the Principio Furnace which was involved in manufacturing cannons for the American war effort. With Havre de Grace in British hands, the Royal Marines and sailors took to looting and vandalising the town, burning somewhere in the region of 60% of the entire settlement although the local church was spared.

The raid completed and Cockburn’s desire to punish the Americans satisfied, the British force then moved on up the Susquehanna River to attack an American supply depot. The residents returned to their gutted town, horrified at the destruction and accounts of the raid were widely circulated in the American press vilifying Cockburn especially. In response the British position argued that Cockburn and his men had done nothing the Americans had not done themselves in Canada, specifically the burning of York (modern day Toronto) a few days before the raid. Cockburn’s reputation for brutality amongst the Americans would later be solidified when over a year later he played a major role in the burning of Washington on August 24th 1814.

 

News Round-up – April 26th 2018

Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 Brimstone

Here are some of the latest British military news stories making the headlines this past week.


General Defence News

Anzac Day 2018: How do Australia and New Zealand remember soldiers killed in combat?
(The Independent)

Special forces need to face scrutiny from parliament, say MPs
(The Guardian)

Business Secretary clears £8.1bn GKN takeover deal
(St Helens Star)

Red-faced US Navy Seal gets struck in a tree after embarrassing parachuting fail
(Cambridge News)

NATO helps Iraqi forces strengthen vehicle maintenance skills
(NATO HQ)


British Army News

British Army has lowest number of troops available for front-line action since World War 1
(Daily Mirror)

Call for Army veteran to get UK passport
(BBC News)

US, British Army Signal Soldiers exercise technical, tactical interoperability at Stoney Run
(DVIDS)

British Army continues search for robot tech
(Shephard Media)

British Army reveals more MIV details, including price tag
(Shephard Media)

Britain’s oldest army unit headed for Barryville
(The River Reporter)

British soldier ‘not justified’ in shooting dead pregnant teenager, inquest rules
(The Independent)


Royal Air Force News

Head Of The Air Force On Russia Threat And War Memorials Given Protection
(Forces Network)

British Typhoon aircraft return to Romania for air policing mission
(Romania-Insider.com)

RAF Sentinel R1 hunting IS again
(IHS Jane’s 360)

UK to invest £80m for new air command and control system
(Airforce Technology)

RAF 100: Queen Sends Message To RAF
(Forces Network)

Last ever Tornado jet flypast at RAF Marham’s Freedom of the Borough parade
(Norfolk Eastern Daily Press)

New facility for RAF’s P-8 Poseidon fleet
(Shephard Media)


Royal Navy & Marines News

UK Ministry of Defence launches Submarine Delivery Agency
(Naval Technology)

Tiny navy vessel HMS Magpie tackles her sea trials
(The News)

GPS jamming during military exercise Joint Warrior
(BBC News)

UK Royal Navy eyes rotary-wing UAV capability
(Flightglobal)

Royal Navy make a splash with their tribute to royal baby
(Daily Mail)

Royal Marines march through Deal to mark launch of new heritage trail
(Kent Online)


Disclaimer: All news stories are the property of their respective publishers. Any opinions expressed in the articles are of the person making them. An effort is made to vary news sources as much as possible to avoid political bias.

UK, US and France bomb Assad’s chemical weapons

RAF Tornado GR.4s based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus have joined US and French forces in carrying out overnight air strikes against suspected Syrian government chemical weapons facilities. The strikes targeted military bases near the capital Damascus and the city of Homs in response to last week’s alleged chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma.

RAF Tornado GR.4 Storm ShadowBritish Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson described the missions as “highly successful” and that they were aimed at “degrading the ability of the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons.” The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the RAF mission involved Storm Shadow missiles being launched at a former missile base 15 miles west of Homs, where it is thought the Assad regime is stockpiling items used to make chemical weapons.

There have been no reported losses amongst any of the allied forces involved.