Today, Thursday May 16th 2013 marks the 70th Anniversary of the raid carried out by 133 airmen in 19 Lancaster bombers from the specifically formed 617 squadron, was an attempt to cripple a major part of the Nazi war economy by carrying out attacks on three dams in the industrial heartland of Germany. Fifty-six of the men did not return from the top-secret mission, which required them to fly the Lancaster bombers at just 60ft above the ground – incredibly low when compared to the 250ft aircraft must fly at nowadays – in the dark across northern Europe.
The planes, armed with scientist Dr Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bombs, flew to the Ruhr Valley either side of midnight on May 16, 1943. The Mohne and Eder dams were breached during the raid and the Sorpe damaged. The Derwent reservoir, in the Hope Valley in Derbyshire, was used for practice runs by the elite crew of 617 Squadron as they prepared for the groundbreaking mission. The pilots practised the dangerous low-flying manoeuvres they needed to perfect in order to drop the new “bouncing bomb”, designed by engineer Barnes Wallis, at the exact height and level necessary for it to skim across the water and explode against German dams. Three dams in the Ruhr valley, Nazi Germany’s industrial heartland, were destroyed in the raid on May 16-17 1943. Tragically, 56 of the 133 airmen who went on the raid did not return.Today, the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and 617 Squadron recreated history by flying over its twin towers, before continuing on to Chatsworth House to carry out a fly past.
Today, the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and 617 Squadron recreated history by flying over the twin towers of the Derbyshire reservoir. The flypast, carried out by RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) and 617 Squadron, was one of a number of events taking place around England today to mark the raids 70 years ago.
The Dam raids, named Operation Chastise, now have a legendary status not only because of the skill and innovation needed by the pilots to carry them out; they had to fly at 60ft above the ground – incredibly low when compared with today’s pilots who must fly 250ft above ground – in the large Lancaster aircraft, in the dark and at speed, but also because of the problems it caused Germany at a crucial point during the Second World War.This was something that 70 years later makes us proud to be British and undoubtedly deserves a mention. I couldn’t get to Derbyshire today to grab some images so instead I have decided to post some from the 80th anniversary of Leeds Bradford Airport. On this day a Lancaster Bomber serial PA474 (the same frame as todays flight) performed several low passes of the airport.
Thanks for reading…. If you would like to see some more images from this day, I have a set on Flickr here.