Bruce Hosie: any pictures out there?

I’ve recently been contacted by New Zealander John Saunders, the great-nephew of a 617 Squadron airman from later in the war, Flg Off Bruce Hosie RNZAF. 

Just to say how much I’ve enjoyed your recent book – ‘Breaking the Dams’ – just neat neat stuff. I have read a few of the 617 & Dambusters books but this one has something special – the personal touch I think. Congratulations !
I’m trying to track down a photo of my great-uncle, Bruce Hosie. Bruce was a young Wireless Operator/Gunner on 617 Sqn in 1944 but was killed on the Oct 44 raid on the Kembs Dam down near Basel. He was my grandmother’s younger brother … and is still remembered back home in NZ. He had done a previous tour on 75 Sqn (NZ) and was posted to 617 in Jan 44 – and did most of his time on Jimmy Cooper & then Bob Knight’s crews…he did the first of the Tirpitz raids…then came back from leave to end up on a scratch crew for the Kembs deal. He was shot by the local Nazi Chief after their aircraft crashed in Rheinwheiler and is buried near Metz. 

The Kembs Dam was on the Rhine in the very south of Germany, near a threeway border with both France and Switzerland. The plan was to attack it with the giant Tallboy bombs from both low and high level. Bruce Hosie’s aircraft, which was piloted by Sqn Ldr Wyness, was badly damaged and he ditched in the Rhine, hoping to reach the safety of the Swiss bank. They did not make it, however, and four of the crew were captured. In what was a clear abuse of the Geneva convention all of them were shot by local Nazi chiefs, and their bodies dumped in or near the river.

Unsung heroes

This article about the man, C H Wood, who supplied night-flying simulation equipment for the Dams Raid, made me think about the dozens of other people, besides Barnes Wallis’s staff and RAF groundcrew, who were involved in Operation Chastise. Roy Chadwick and the Avro staff, for one, Wg Cdr Dann and his bombsight, for another. There were more, and I’d be grateful for any suggestions as to who else deserves credit. The article in the Ilkley Gazette is over a year old, which makes me hope that David Wood has found a satisfactory home for his father’s material.

Dambusters remake could be held over to 2011

According to a report from New Zealand, filming for Peter Jackson’s long awaited remake of the Dambusters is likely to begin ‘early next year’, i.e. 2009. This is a quote from a ‘spokesman’ for Jackson, which is in slight contradiction to what the maestro himself has said earlier, that shooting is still possible ‘this year’.

Plans for Jackson’s $40US million movie about the the famous assault were announced in September 2006. Jackson, who is producing the Christian Rivers-directed film, has said shooting was possible this year.
British actor and writer Stephen Fry had written the script, a remake of the 1955 film The Dam Busters, but the cast still had to be announced.

A later report in the same paper says that the producer is exercising his ‘trademark eye for detail’ by employing an astronomer to advise how the moon was positioned on the night in question. There was a full moon that night, and its light was used to give the attacking Lancasters a better view of their targets. (There was some criticism of this at the time, notably from David Maltby, who felt that the aircraft were too exposed by having to attack with the moon behind them.)

The New Zealand astronomer, Brian Carter , was impressed by the producers’ desire to establish authenticity:

‘Somebody just rang up. I didn’t realise it was for Peter Jackson until later… I think these days film-makers like to get things as right as possible. In the past there have been a few bloopers.’

Dambusters (the film’s working title) is not the only production in hand at the Peter Jackson factory of dreams. There are also a series of three TinTin movies starring Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock, as well as LOTR prequel The Hobbitt, and The Lovely Bones, which features Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and, best of all, Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher in The Sopranos.

No word yet on who is to be cast in Dambusters. James McAvoy has been tipped, but I suspect that this is because he is (a) British (b) roughly the right age and (c) looked good in a Second World War uniform in Atonement, which has brought him more attention than perhaps he wants. (He is also rumoured to be in The Hobbitt.) McAvoy is of course far too handsome to be cast as Guy Gibson. Ann Shannon, who knew Gibson well, once said that Mickey Rooney would have been the ideal choice to play him.

These reports would suggest that the earliest possible date for release of Dambusters would be 2010, which is its provisional date on IMDB. But given that The Hobbitt is unlikely to appear before 2011, it might well not be out until then.

UPDATE: This blog entry was originally posted in July 2008. For more up to date information about the remake of The Dam Busters see other postings on this blog in the category Dambusters Remake.

FURTHER UPDATE, 16 December 2009: Jackson confirms shooting starts in 2010

Last of the Dambusters, not

I managed to see a recording of the Channel Five documentary ‘Last of the Dambusters’ the other night. (As I live in Ireland, I can’t get Channel Five, even though we get all the other British channels on our cable service.) This has been quite extensively reviewed (see here and here) and discussed on various forums (see here and here) so I shan’t say too much more.

The programme featured George (Johnny) Johnson, who is fast becoming a national treasure. Although he is not the ‘last of the dambusters’ (I don’t know why the programme was given that confusing title when five or six men who took part in the Dams Raid are still alive) he is the only one based in the UK who regularly does media appearances. He treated the programme makers and everyone else in the film with his usual courtesy, and it was very interesting seeing his reactions to meeting people who lived near the Sorpe Dam which he had tried to destroy 65 years before.

The other inaccuracy in the programme concerned the Sorpe Dam itself. The impression was given that Joe McCarthy’s crew, in which Johnson was the bomb aimer, was the only crew to reach and attack the Sorpe. It is true to say that they were the only one of the five crews in the second wave to get that far (Munro and Rice had to turn back after their aircraft were damaged, Barlow and Byers crashed on the outward flight). But Ken Brown in AJ-F, from the reserve wave, made it all the way, dropped his mine successfully at 0314 and returned to Scampton safely.

Hindsight tells us that sufficient thought had not been given as to how to attack the Sorpe. With its earth core construction the dam could not be attacked head on like the concrete-built Möhne and Eder, so the ‘bouncing’ technique could not be used. Instead, both McCarthy and Brown flew along the length of the dam and dropped their mines in the centre, causing them to roll down into the water before the hydrostatic fuse exploded. Perhaps if five aircraft had got through the cumulative effect would have succeeded, but we will never know.

Looking over the interwebnet today for reviews of the programme, I came across this other oddity – a review by the romantic fiction writer Jessica Blair. It turns out that Ms Blair is not all she seems, being the nom de plume of a gentleman called Bill Spence, who flew 36 wartime operations as a Lancaster bomb aimer in 44 Squadron, and turned to writing in 1960. What an interesting life!