Filming The Dam Busters – Richard Thorp remembers

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.)
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6 thoughts on “Filming The Dam Busters – Richard Thorp remembers

  1. garick westbrook February 6, 2011 / 10:02 am

    I had the pleasure of flying with Ted Szuwalski in sycamore mk14 helicopters in 1960 Aden. He was ex-303 sqd continueing to fly as though still in a spitfire

  2. Arthur Simpkins. November 4, 2012 / 12:00 am

    Dickie Lambert was my boss when he was Station Adjutant at RAF Ternhill in 1957. He told me that he was pilot of the third plane at take-off. He showed me photographs which had beem give to him,of himself with some of the actors.

  3. John Sutton May 22, 2013 / 4:37 pm

    Watched Dam Busters at the weekend not realising Richard Thorp was in it and find out today he has passed. RIP Richard.

  4. Tony Souter September 10, 2013 / 12:41 pm

    My father, Ken Souter, was indeed the lead pilot in the making of the film. As of September, 2013 he is a sprightly 93 and tells an amusing story of going mushrooming between filming takes. The high vantage point of the Lancaster cockpit gave an excellent view of the grass airfields and having spotted a group of the large ‘horse mushrooms’ which flourished there, they taxied over and the rear gunner would pop out and gather them up. Aged six, I was lucky enough to be smuggled aboard a Lancaster for a brief positioning flight during the filming…I still remember it! I bumped into Ted Szuwalski in the 80’s when he was flying a helicopter that was used in the filming of an Everest double gazing tv advert with Ted Moult. Ted and most of the other pilots have passed away, I think.

  5. Peter Loake June 28, 2014 / 7:08 pm

    One of the pilots Eric Quinney (not Ted as written above) is still very active at 90 years old, giving talks and signing pictures etc. with all the proceeds going to the Bomber Command Memorial fund.

    • christian souter February 19, 2015 / 12:26 am

      My father Kenneth Souter was the Sq leader in the film THE DAMBUSTERS. Little is know about my father who is still alive and very active at the age of 96 this year: The RAF asked my father if he would be interested in making this film. It was my father who agreed to put together a small squadron to make the film and honor those brave men. Kenny as I call him fought in Tobruck as a fighter pilot. He went on to become a Lancaster bomber pilot. He was chosen by the RAF to become a leading test pilot for fighter jets after the war. To this day he reluctant to make any statement who he is and what he has done for out proud country. He has always told me since I was a child never perceive yourself as better than someone else. When you face life and death and if you are lucky enough to survive cherish and enjoy it.
      Christian Souter his son CS@litalighting.com

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