NZ film mogul Peter Jackson gave an interview to local newspaper The Dominion Post last week, talking about his favourite First World War movies. He told the interviewer about his long term plans to make a film about the Gallipoli campaign, a subject which is close to the hearts of both Kiwis and Aussies, and also mentioned that progress was being made ‘untangling’ the situation with The Hobbitt, which is bogged down in the financial turmoil surrounding MGM. Even the new Tintin movie got a namecheck.
Any news on The Dam Busters, you might ask? Nope, not even an item under Any Other Business.
Sometimes reading the runes at Wingnut Studios is like trying to work out what is going on in the North Korean Communist Party. At the moment nobody outside really has a clue.
You heard it here first!
Pic: Dominic Howard
Flt Sgt Gilbert John (“Jimmy”) Green was the bomb aimer in Cyril Anderson’s crew aboard AJ-Y on the Dams Raid. See here for more about what happened to this crew after the raid.
A relative of Green’s has recently been given some memorabilia concerning him and has written about it on the WW2Talk Forum.
Cyril Anderson’s nephew, Dom Howard, has done a great job over the last few years researching the careers of the Anderson crew, and visiting their graves in Germany. He has posted more details and some pics on the thread on WW2Talk.
Well, I might as well admit it. I noticed a posting over on the RAF Commands forum about some confusion over the number of the Lancaster flown by Sqn Ldr Melvin Young on the Dams Raid. The writer asked why it was numbered ED877 when he thought this was the aircraft from 156 Squadron in which his uncle was killed when it was shot down on 5 May 1943.
He was soon advised of the correct information – Young’s aircraft was in fact number ED887/G. As the original poster noted, a glance at Google shows that there are many hundreds of references to the wrong number all over the interwebnet – and many of them are down to me.
Oh dear. I had better confess to the mistake. All I can say in my defence is that I took the number from the list in John Sweetman’s magisterial book, The Dams Raid. Other authors have made the same mistake, I notice. I shan’t name them, but I will note that the earliest source I could have consulted, Bruce Robertson’s Lancaster – the Story of a Famous Bomber, is of course correct. And so is the list in Alex Bateman’s No 617 Squadron (Osprey, 2009) – although you would expect nothing less from such a meticulous researcher as Alex.
In 1954, Richard Thorp was a young actor at the start of a career which would take him to the dizzy heights of playing the pub landlord in Emmerdale when he was offered the role of one of the pilots in The Dam Busters. Like many of the cast he bore a strong resemblance to the character he played, Sqn Ldr Henry Maudslay.
Mr Thorp has recently been involved in a campaign for a permanent memorial to the real life men of 617 Squadron at one of the dams they used for training – the Nant-y-Gro dam in mid Wales.
He told the Western Mail:
I loved filming Dam Busters. I was very proud to be in it. It made me realise how incredibly brave these young men were…
The Lancaster bombers used to shake like jellies. I’ve been up in one and they are freezing cold with the wind rushing right through them…
When we were making the film, three batty Polish pilots were the only ones brave enough to fly them.
Actually, he’s wrong about the last bit. Some Lancasters and their successors the Avro Lincoln aircraft were still in service with the RAF at the time, so there were a number of pilots available who were qualified to fly them. What they weren’t prepared for was the extremely low height at which they had to operate – very siimilar to that faced by their wartime colleagues. And in fact only two of the pilots were Polish – Joe Kmiecik and Ted Szuwalski. For the record, there were five in all and the others were Ken Souter, Dickie Lambert and Ted Quinney. (Information from Filming the Dam Busters, by Jonathan Falconer.)
Did you know that there was another air force squadron nicknamed the ‘Dam Busters’. No, neither did I. But it would seem that US Air Force Squadron VA-195 became known as this in an operation during the Korean War. Navy pilot James Sanderson died recently in Virginia Beach and, according to his obituary:
Vice Admiral Sanderson served 39 years active duty in the U.S. Navy. He had destroyer duty with the USS Mansfield, and USS Bauswell as an ensign gunnery officer. He was an accomplished aviator, he received his wings in May of 1950. He flew over 100 combat missions on the USS Princeton over N. Korea from the Sea of Japan and the Gulf of Wonsan. His first Korean War combat sortie was Close Air Support of First Marine Division at Chosen Reservoir, North Korea. He was one of eight torpedo pilots that destroyed the flood gates of Hwachon Reservoir Dam, North Korea (Air Wing 19). Squadron VA-195 became known as the “Dam Busters.”
It doesn’t say whether the torpedoes bounced or not. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!