One of the Great Actions of World War Two
The breach in the Mohne Dam four hours after the Dambusters raid in May 1943. (courtesy Imperial War Museum, Foreign Office Political Intelligence Department, Classified Print Collection).
It would be interesting to know who took this photograph and how soon after it was taken that the British had it. While not well known today, Polish Intelligence, which went underground after Poland’s defeat by the Nazis, provided the majority of the human intelligence which flowed to the Allies from occupied Europe in World War Two.
OPERATION CHASTISE (THE DAMBUSTERS’ RAID) 16 – 17 MAY 1943 reconnaissance photo of the Ruhr Valley at Froendenberg-Boesperde, some 13 miles south from the Moehne Dam, showing massive flooding. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections
THE VISIT OF HM KING GEORGE VI TO NO 617 SQUADRON (THE DAMBUSTERS) ROYAL AIR FORCE, SCAMPTON, LINCOLNSHIRE, 27 MAY 1943 (TR 1002) Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, DSO and bar, DFC and bar, with members of his Squadron. In the front row are Gibson’s flight commanders, on his right Squadron Leader Dave Maltby, and on his left Squadron Leader Mick Martin. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205123885
Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who trained and led 617 Squadron known as Dambusters was an incredibly brave man although according to temporary accounts not a very likeable man. His crew disliked him and said he didn’t even know most of them by name just position in the crew. Gibson had a stormy marriage to put it mildly and was living with another woman instead of his wife when he died in 1944.
Gibson drank more than most pilots in a time when heavy drinking by pilots when they finished operations was normal and one of the few ways they had of relaxing. He often insulted other officers in the mess who didn’t have his decorations for bravery and no one could say anything because of who he was.
For leading the Dambusters mission, Gibson was awarded Great Britain’s highest honor, the Victoria Cross, the equivalent of the US Medal of Honor.That he deserved it cannot be questioned. Not only did he lead the squadron in and drop the first bouncing bomb, he circled the dam under a constant stream of ack-ack fire while the other bombers made their runs.
Gibson already held the Distinguished Service Order and Bar (which meant he was given the medal twice). The DSO was awarded for brave and meritorious service in combat. In addition, he also had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and bar, which was only given for bravery in operational flying against the enemy.
Dramatized on film and in print, the Dambusters raid has become one of the most well known small operations of World War Two in Europe. The raid was conceived of
617 SQUADRON (DAMBUSTERS) AT SCAMPTON, LINCOLNSHIRE, 22 JULY 1943 (TR 1129) Flight Lieutenant Dave Shannon, pilot of ED929/`AJ-L’ on the dams raid, with Flight Lieutenant R D Trevor-Roper, who flew as Gibson’s rear gunner on the dam’s raid; and Squadron Leader G W Holden. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205123902
The King has a word with Flight Lieutenant Les Munro from New Zealand. Wing Commander Guy Gibson is on the right and Air Vice Marshal Ralph Cochrane, Commander of No 5 Group is behind Flight Lieutenant Munro and to the right.
King George VI visited the survivors of 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Bomber Command on 27 May 1943. The successful raid had taken place on the night of 16/17 May 1943.
WING COMMANDER GUY GIBSON, VC, DSO AND BAR, DFC AND BAR, COMMANDER OF 617 SQUADRON (DAMBUSTERS) AT SCAMPTON, LINCOLNSHIRE, 22 JULY 1943 (TR 1127) Wing Commander Guy Gibson with members of his crew. Left to right: Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar; Pilot Officer P M Spafford, bomb aimer; Flight Lieutenant R E G Hutchinson, wireless operator; Pilot Officer G A Deering and Flying Officer H T Taerum, gunners. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205123900
AIRCRAFT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE, 1939-1945: AVRO 683 LANCASTER. (ATP 11384B) Type 464 (Provisioning) Lancaster, ED825/G, at Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, during handling trials with the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment. One of some twenty aircraft specially built to carry the ‘Upkeep’ weapon on Operation CHASTISE, ED825/G was delivered to No 617 Squadron RAF at Scampton as a spare aircraft on 15 May 1943, but was subsequently flown on the raid by Flight Lieut… Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205125316
ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1942-1945. (IWM FLM 2360) Operation CHASTISE: the attack on the Moehne, Eder and Sorpe Dams by No. 617 Squadron RAF on the night of 16/17 May 1943. No. 617 Squadron practice dropping the ‘Upkeep’ weapon at Reculver bombing range, Kent. Third launch sequence (1): Flight Lieutenant J L Munro in Avro Lancaster ED921/G drops his bomb from below 60 feet. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022916
LEST WE FORGET
133 RAF aircrew participated in the Dambusters attack.
Of those, 53 lost their lives–a casualty rate of almost 40 percent. The dead were all young men in the prime of their lives.
Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.
From the poem Here Dead We Lie
by A.E. Housman
All photos courtesy of the Imperial War Museum
movie poster courtesy of Wikipedia