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.
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.
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To the thousands of young men who climbed in to the narrow fuselage of Avro’s Lancaster bomber the aircraft was more than just a means to attack Germany. It was every bit a part of the crew and the aircraft in turn reflected that crew. Therefore personalizing the aircraft became a morale booster and helped fuse the crew together and the best way to personalize an aircraft was with nose art.
Here are a few examples of Lancaster nose art showing that the RAF were just as creative (and sometime gratuitous) as their USAAF comrades in their B-17s and B-24s.