Culture & Literature
The Dambusters

The Dambusters

The Dambusters

On the night of the 16th – 17th May, nineteen Lancaster bombers took off from an air base in Lincolnshire. Three turned back, unable to complete the mission. Of the sixteen that made it to the Ruhr valley, only half returned, and even fewer successfully dropped their bouncing bomb on the dams. But to the Allies, the Dambusters mission was a success that they desperately needed. In the History of War Book of the Dambusters, discover the incredible story of the Dambusters raid, uncover rare artefacts and documents – including maps, flight log books, sketches and top-secret letters – and find out how 617 Squadron lived on after the raid on the Ruhr.

United Kingdom
Future Publishing Ltd
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In this issue

2 min.

As one that took part on the Dams Raid although not reaching my target due to flak damage sustained when crossing the Island of Vlieland, I am naturally interested in the contents of this book and its historical accuracy. When I entered the RNZAF on 7 July 1941 I never thought for a moment that I would take part in an operation that would be recognised at the time and over subsequent years as a major event in the history of the British War Effort in the air. Likewise, when on 97 Squadron I volunteered with my crew to serve on a new squadron being formed to undertake a special operation, I had no idea of what the target may be. This lack of knowledge of the target was also shared…

1 min.

The sensational destruction of massive German dams by a single Lancaster squadron, which was raised and trained in eight weeks to deliver with stunning accuracy a cumbersome, unique revolving weapon from low-level at night continues to capture public and media imagination. However, the story of a determined scientist (Barnes Wallis) striving to overcome unwarranted scepticism about his ingenious scheme and a photogenic, young squadron commander (Guy Gibson) leading his crews gallantly into battle has the whiff of a Boys’ Own adventure. But military operations are more complex and dangerous than that. Planning for the raid on the Ruhr began in the Air Ministry six years earlier, long before Wallis became involved, and the roots of the concept can be traced to the First World War. During the inter-war years, belief that “the…

1 min.
official map showing the planned routes to and from the dams

Gibson’s First Wave and later Third Wave aircraft would fly via Southwold across the North Sea to the Scheldt estuary, then on to the Rhine before skirting the Ruhr towards the Möhne Dam. Second Wave Lancasters bound for the Sorpe (red line) would negotiate the North Sea to the Frisian Islands, fly over the Ijsselmeer (Zuider Zee) to join the First Wave route at the Rhine. Targets X (Möhne), Y (Eder) and Z (Sorpe) are all identified. The route Gibson’s aircraft would take from the Eder to the Sorpe, if any unused Upkeeps were available, is also marked. The exit routes are depicted in green, red and black with return arrows.…

1 min.
the news chronicle front page 18 may 1943

Like other national and provincial newspapers, the News Chronicle published a reconnaissance photo of the breached Möhne, dubbing it the “Greatest Air Picture of the War”. The paper exclaimed that “millions of tons of water were sweeping over Hitler’s great arms centre in the Ruhr”, the “River Eder in full flood” and repeated Sir Arthur Harris’s claim of “a major victory”. The importance of the raid for civilian morale is indirectly revealed on this same page with a note that sirens had been sounded the previous night in London and the pleas for money via the “Wings for Victory” campaign to provide more aircraft to combat the increasing U-boat menace.…

1 min.
major-general sir hugh trenchard (1873–1956)

A regular army officer, Hugh Montague Trenchard served in India, the Boer War (where he was severely wounded in one lung) and Nigeria. Aged 39, he learnt to fly and was posted to the Royal Flying Corps Central Flying School, where as a lieutenant-colonel he became assistant commandant and acquired the nickname “Boom” for his loud mode of address. In November 1914, he led the RFC’s First Wing in France, and the following year took command of the whole RFC on the Western Front, practising the aggressive use of air power. Advancing to major-general, he was appointed KCB in January 1918. Briefly the first Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) to the newly-created RAF, in June 1918 Trenchard took command of the Independent Bombing Force in eastern France, with the…

4 min.
first world war origins

At the outbreak of the First World War, in the words of one Royal Flying Corps observer, “a few BE2s and Avros … staggered across the Channel to cooperate with the Army in France.” In their flimsy biplanes, powered by a single 70hp engine, the airmen’s sole task was to reconnoitre enemy formations, their only means of self-defence rifles, revolvers or shotguns. Within four years, British pilots were flying bombers powered by four 375hp engines capable of reaching Berlin from England. Bombing began with crews randomly tossing modified hand-grenades or explosive darts out of open cockpits. Technological advances, though, led to the development of specialised bombers equipped with bomb-sights, manufactured bombs, substantial bomb-loads and machine-guns for self-defence. During 1916, bombers based in eastern France began to attack enemy armament factories, iron foundries…