The Unrivalled Flying of 617 Squadron, The Dambusters

The Dambuster's Story; Taken from "Fortress without a Roof" . The allied Bombing of the Thrid Reich, by Wilbur H Morrison.

April 24, 1943: Harris's bombers had attacked the city centres of Brunswick, Munich, and Schweinfurt during the latter part of April, using Mosquito crews from 5 Group who dive-marked with red flares after the aiming points were identified visually..

Four 617 Squadron Mosquitos led by Wing Commander G.L. Cheshire, with Squadron Leader D.J. Shannon, Flight Lieutenant G.E. Fawke, and Flight Lieutenant R.S.D. Kearns, went to Munich April 24. They had to dive through intense flak while searchlights followed them during the laying of the red spot-flares. With incredible bravery, they lit up the aiming point within a hundred yards and permitted a devastating attack on the city. Remarkably, all returned safely, and Cheshire was singled out for special recognition and was presented with a Victoria Cross....

May 16, 1943: Earlier in the spring, British Wing Commander Guy Gibson had led a raid May 16 against three Ruhr dams with 19 of his 617 Squadron Lancaster's. They had been training for weeks to drop new barrellike, counter rotating, 9,500-pound bombs specially designed by British scientist Dr. Barnes Wallis. To drop them precisely against the wall of each dam, a 240-mile-per-hour speed had to be maintained at exactly sixty feet above the water. Spotlights were attached beneath each bomber in such positions that when the aircraft was sixty feet above the water, their beams converged on the surface.

The Mohere Dam was the first on the target list. Not only did it provide water for four million Germans, but its adjacent electric plant helped to power the huge Ruhr industries.

After release of his bomb, Gibson flew back and forth over the lake while other Lancaster's dropped their bombs until the dam was finally breached. For Gibson, it was an awesome sight as the lake emptied like "stirred porridge" into the valley below for fifty miles, engulfing cars as drivers frantically raced ahead of the tumbling waters. Most didn't make it, and as the avalanche of water inundated each car, its lights flickered uncertainly until they were extinguished.

He wired home base at Granthorn, "Goner, from 'G' George," indicating the dam had been breached.

Gibson led the next wave to the Eder Dam. It was quickly blown open and two hundred million tons of water cascaded into the valley below, flooding coal mines and factories for 50 miles downstream.

The dam at Sorpe was next, and Gibson went along to guide the last wave. Heavy fog and low clouds prevented release of the bombs effectively, so they turned for home.

Of the nineteen bombers dispatched on the mission, only ten returned, and 56 out of 133 young men were reported missing, three of them ending up in prisoner-of-war camps.

Gibson, who received the Victoria Cross for the mission, was later killed on another raid. The special squadron he founded, however, went on to win enduring praise for using a variety of Wallis's special weapons. They were the only British squadron to adopt American-style bombing techniques of precision targets, and they were astonishingly successful.

The breach in the Mohne Dam was closed September 23 before the rainy season, and the power plant repaired. The Germans diverted hundreds of antiaircraft guns to the dams for their future defence, so the raids could not be repeated....

June 5, 1944: The night before the invasion (D Day), two squadrons of Lancaster's - including those of the highly skilled 617 Squadron - performed an unusual service to confuse the Germans about the exact destination of the invasion forces and to convince them that the Allies planned to land near Boulogne and Cape Antifer instead of Normandy.

A special type of foil chaff "window" was dropped in bundles from a precise height so that these metal strips would simulate a large number of ships on German radar screens. So precise was the dropping along previously established flight paths that they simulated a convoy crossing the Channel at seven knots.

Lancaster's circled the Channel for five hours, flying a series of precise overlapping paths, each series coming closer and closer to the Normandy coast. This was a remarkable navigation feat and gained the Allies valuable hours to make their prescribed landings. The Germans were completely taken by the ruse....

Still other British forces from 3 Group released bundles of "window" to simulate a much larger force that the Allies actually had, even dropping dummy parachutists and machines that made noises like rifle fire and battle sounds as a diversion from the real airborne landings in Normandy...

Autumn 1944 (after the Allies had liberated France)
The Americans and the British were desperately short of bombs; more tons of bombs were dropped on Germany than had been released during the whole of 1943. By the end of the year, the Royal Air Force alone had devastated or seriously damaged 80 percent of all German cities with pre-war populations of 100,000 or more.

The Ruhr was kept under constant attack to prevent rebuilding of previously damaged factories. This key industrial area relied upon its own internal transport for survival, and it had its own gas and electricity grids. So great was the aerial destruction of lines of communication by the RAF that production came to a halt in many places. Due to continued autumn bombing, the Ruhr was rapidly reduced to a wasteland of devastated cities and factories.

Wing Commander Willie Tait's 617 Squadron added to the destruction greeting Eisenhower's armies by breaching the Kems Dam on the Rhine in order to prevent the Germans from controlling the river's level and perhaps flooding the valley when the Allies tried to cross the river. He personally led thirteen Lancaster's in spectacular drops of "Tallboy" bombs, special weapons developed by Dr. Barnes Wallis

The Dortmund-Ems and Mittelland canals, indispensable to the Germans for transport of coal, ore, and heavy equipment to and from the Ruhr, were bombed repeatedly by the British so that canals would be kept drained despite German efforts to repair them. Most missions were flown by 617 Squadron using Wallis's twelve-thousand-pound thin-case bombs. One bomb could breach a bank and flood the countryside.

Wing Commander Tait led 11 Lancaster's of his 617 Squadron, loaded with Tallboys, against the Dortmund-Ems Canal aqueduct near Munster. Another 125 Lancaster's of 5 Group with smaller bombs and 5 Mosquitoes for markings also participated in the raid. Their intent was to breach the banks of the canal, which were above the level of the countryside at this point, and drain it.

Their bombs were aimed so well that six and a half miles of the canal were drained, beaching many barges carrying vital cargoes. The Germans promptly repaired the banks in the coming months, but the British went out each time and breached them again.

After these raids, made especially dangerous by fog and mist at low levels, 617 Squadron was down to six crews. As a result of these attacks and other strikes against rail centres, coal production between the middle of August and February of the following year was cut in half. With coal strictly rationed, locomotives were idled because there was no coal to run them. With coal lines disrupted, factories ceased producing. The million and a half people thus forced out of jobs were put to work to repair breaches in the canals, but their efforts proved fruitless.

"medals won in the dam raids"

Victoria Cross:

Wg Cdr. G.P. Gibson, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar

Distinguished Service Order:

Flt Lt. J.C. McCarthy, DFC, Flt Lt. D.J.H. Maltby, DFC, Flt Lt. H.B. Martin, DFC,

Flt Lt. D.J. Shannon, DFC, Plt Off. L.G. Knight

Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross:

Flt Lt. R.C Hay, DFC, Flt Lt. R.E.G. Hutchison, DFC, Flt Lt. J.F. Leggo, DFC, Flg Off. D.R. Walker, DFC

Distinguished Flying Cross:

Flt Lt. R.D. Trevor-Roper, DFM, Flg Off. J. Buckley, Flg Off. L. Chambers,

Flg Off. H.S. Hobday, Flg Off. E.C. Johnson,

Plt Off. F.M. Spafford, DFM, Plt Off. J. Fort, Plt Off. C.L. Howard,

Plt Off. G.A. Deering, Plt Off. H.T. Taerum

Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Flying):

Flt. Sgt. K.W. Brown, Flt. Sgt. W.C. Townsend, DFM

Bar to Distinguished Flying Medal:

Sgt. C.E. Franklin, DFM

Distinguished Flying Medal:

F/Sgt. G.A. Chalmers, F/Sgt. D.A. MacLean, F/Sgt. Simpson, F/Sgt. L.J. Sumpter,

Sgt. V. Nicholson, Sgt. G.L. Johnson, Sgt. D.P. Heal, Sgt. S. Oancia, Sgt. J. Pulford,

Sgt. D.E. Webb, Sgt. Wilkinson

The Dambusters documentary 1 of 6

This documentary chronicles the development, planning and implementation of the famous bouncing bombs. The mission is carried out by courageous 617 squadron, see below for parts 2 - 6.

See Older Post below to continue the Dambusters Documentary

The Dambusters documentary 2 of 6

The Dambusters documentary 2 of 6

The Dambusters documentary 3 of 6

The Dambusters documentary 3 of 6

The Dambusters documentary 4 of 6

The Dambusters documentary 4 of 6

The Dambusters documentary 5 of 6

The Dambusters documentary 5 of 6

The Dambusters documentary 6 of 6

The Dambusters documentary part 6 of 6

Bomber Command 1 of 6

Bomber Command raids were unthinkable even during the blitz against Britain in 1940. Thousand bomber raids were conducted bringing German cities to their knees. Many have suggested that these raids were nothing but terror raids against innocent people. The Bomber raids against German and Japan were a consequence of total war. However, all nations, for good or evil, have blood on their hands

Bomber Command 2 of 6

Part 2 of 6 of the BBC's documentary Bomber Command.

Bomber Command 3 of 6

Part 3 of 6 of the BBC's documentary Bomber Command.

Bomber Command 4 of 6

Part 4 of 6 of the BBC's documentary Bomber Command.

Bomber Command 5 of 6

Part 5 of 6 of the BBC's documentary Bomber Command.

Bomber Command 6 of 6

Part 6 of 6 of the BBC's documentary Bomber Command.

Sink the Tirpitz 1 of 7

Tirpitz, the sister ship of the Bismarck, was a thorn in the allied side for years. Tirpitz became an obsession with the Royal Navy and Mini-subs and frequent bombings damaged but did not sink her.
The famous St. Nazaire raid knocked out her docks in France. Only the massive 22,000lb "Tallboy" bombs, which traveled faster than the speed of sound, capsized Tirpitz.

Sink the Tirpitz 2 of 7

Sink the Tirpitz 3 of 7

Sink the Tirpitz 4 of 7

Sink the Tirpitz 5 of 7

Sink The Tirpitz 6 of 7

Sink the Tirpitz 7 of 7

Dam Busters Remembered

Collection of news reels honoring the 617 Sqd, one with Guy Gibsons wife
being interviewed is particularly sad in retrospect!