Wow! Good morning and welcome!

I can only attribute it to the Dambusters double header shown on BBC2 last night, but I have just seen the biggest ever single “spike” in views of this blog. Nearly 1300 people found their way here yesterday, and a further huge number this morning, so if you are amongst them, then welcome. This is, as far as I know, the only regularly updated Dambusters blog or website anywhere on the whole interwebnet. I like to think that it’s a good source for information about 617 Squadron’s wartime exploits, and all the things that have flowed from the fact that the Squadron was responsible for the RAF’s single most famous bombing operation of the Second World War.
In the 30 months I have been running this blog, I can tell you that the most searched-for information has always been “Dambusters remake”. Thousands of people want to know when this will come out. (For the benefit of people new to this, a remake of Michael Anderson’s 1955 classic has been on the cards since 2006 – it is being produced by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame, from a script by Stephen Fry, the well known National Treasure. The film was to be directed by Christian Rivers, though there are some reports that he has now left his native New Zealand to work on other projects in the USA.)
The answer as to when the remake will come out, as I write in October 2010, is that we simply don’t know. Jackson’s outfit, Wingnut Films, has a code of secrecy akin to that of the Vatican’s College of Cardinals, and all we can say is that he will tell us in his own good time.
Finally, you might ask what are my credentials for writing this stuff. I’ve spent all my working life as a writer, editor and designer, but I have a family interest in the Dambusters. My uncle was David Maltby, pilot of the fifth aircraft to attack the Möhne Dam on 17 May 1943, dropping the bomb which caused its final breach. (He is played in the 1955 film by none other than George Baker, then an unknown young actor.) Sadly, David was killed four months after the Dams Raid, along with all his crew, when their aircraft crashed after being recalled from an aborted attack on the Dortmund Ems canal. In 2008, I wrote a book about David, his life, and the lives of his crew and the effect that their deaths had on all their families which is, as they say, available in all good bookshops – or online here.
I’d welcome your comments, news and any other information you want to share.
You can get in touch with me here.

9 thoughts on “Wow! Good morning and welcome!

  1. richard hickmott October 18, 2010 / 10:13 am

    Think you’re pretty much spot-on as regards the double header last night. Although the so-called “new information” wasn’t really new. The only point that I was unsure about was that only one of Gibson’s crew actually took part. The other was they omitted Brown’s attack on the Sorpe dam (or attempt is more accurate). Already shrouded in fog, McCarthy made several passes before releasing the bomb. Some time later Brown arrived but couldn’t locate the dam with any confidence – it was dropped but no-one is sure where. He was the last known Lanc to land back at Scampton. (all info is taken from 617s logs and Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, Surrey).

    Wow, to be related to a dambuster must be a proud and humbling one. Read a lot about Maltby and their feats still amazes me…

    Thanks for the info., Richard.

    • charlesfoster October 18, 2010 / 11:18 am

      Richard — you are right that there was not much new information on the raid in the BBC2 programme. The fact that Hutchison was the only member of Gibson’s 106 Squadron crew to join him in 617 Squadron is pretty well known. I think Martin Shaw did say that there was another attack on the Sorpe although he didn’t name Brown as the pilot who got through. According to John Sweetman’s book, which is the most authoritative work, the point of explosion of Brown’s mine is actually known. Like McCarthy’s it landed on the water side of the dam, near the middle. Also, Brown was not the last pilot to land back at Scampton. He arrived at 0533, while Townsend didn’t get back until 0615. There is some confusion about which dam Townsend attacked. Some sources say the Ennepe, others the Bever.

  2. richard hickmott October 18, 2010 / 12:25 pm

    You’re right about about Sweetman’s book “Operation Chastise”. That has been the most accurate written work on the dams raid to date. However, I haven’t scanned the book for about 10 years or so. Might be worth you checking Gibson’s biography (of sorts) by Richard Morris and Wallis’ by JE Morpugo. I have both in my archive, and far more accurate than Brickhill’s brilliant but flawed effort.

    One thing that puzzles me: they say that Michael Anderson was hampered when filming because the dams raid was still classified in 1953. The bomb is a sphere as opposed to a barrel. That’s fair enough. But Brickhill actually mentions the barrel or drum shape in his book, so not sure why there was inaccuracies in the film….

    Also, Brickhill, in his epilogue at the back of the book, says he had met and consulted with the main players eg. Wallis, some of the aircrews and senior figures etc etc… so unsure why there has been so many misconceptions on the raid.

    One last point and this may explain why: I was privileged enough to meet Wallis’ eldest daughter Elizabeth last year (she lives a few miles from me, and is friends with my Mother in Law). Although very reluctant to talk about her father, she confessed, after a lot of probing, that many of the dams stories were a smokescreen. How much truth there is behind that I’m not sure. She doesen’t talk about Barnes and is slightly err…dismissive of him as a parent.

    Hope I haven’t opened a can of worms?

  3. George Foster October 18, 2010 / 4:42 pm

    Regarding the Martin Shaw documentary last night, I was ever so slightly disappointed with the delivery (he’s a bit of a ham innit) and the ‘revelations’ weren’t that interesting. That searchlight moment of inspiration coming from the engineers is well known for instance.

    The modern day stuff was pretty much thrown in and apart from his obvious awe at the originals having to do this at night and being shot at too, the footage came nowhere near to showing what it was like. Why not have a camera by the nose wheel for a start when doing that low level stuff over Norfolk/Lincolnshire? That would have at least shown what 60′ looked like. Instead it was all from inside the cockpit looking at Mr S saying “This doesn’t feel like 100 feet it feels a lot less”… Well bloody well show me then!

    Lucky beggar for getting that ride in the BoBMF Lanc though.

  4. richard hickmott October 18, 2010 / 8:16 pm

    It could get a lot worse: with the Jackson remake inveitable, and Stephen Fry as scriptwriter, my worst nightmare would be Guy Gibson portrayed as a “Melchett” type character. I’m trying to parody a character we’ve yet to see. That’s unfair, but fairly amusing…. Mr Fry is very talented.

    Back on topic, I though the whole documentary was pretty drab. Hey ho, what I know?…

  5. Nigel Parkin October 18, 2010 / 10:20 pm

    The prog is being repeated after newsnight tonight.

    I’ve seen the film loads of times (on one occasion after seeing Richard Todd at my local hospital), and I read ‘Enemy Coast Ahead’, and a few things in the Shaw doc were new to me. I guess if you knew alot about the subject, there weren’t many ‘new’ facts, but for the casual observer, I dare say the contradictions with Gibson’s account, and the film to ‘reality’ were quite striking.

    • richard hickmott October 19, 2010 / 12:18 am

      I suppose it could be: please bare in mind that nearly all films are adapted for dramatic effect, amongst other traits or “industry standards”. This consequently results in Gibson being portrayed as a kind of ‘jolly chap’. The same applies to “Reach for the Sky”, the story of Douglas Bader – in real life he was self opinionated disciplinarian. Ironically, both Dambusters and Reach for the Sky books were penned by…..yup, you guessed it, Paul Brickhill.

  6. Grant Edwards November 9, 2011 / 8:10 pm

    For some unknown reason, one small but crucial contribution to the success of the bouncing bomb is invariably overlooked when the Dam Busters’ story is related. For all his efforts, Barnes Wallis was quite unable to get the spinning motion of the bomb to produce the desired bounce and required degree of control until George (later Sir George) Edwards, an avid cricketer and, later, BAC chairman, suggested applying a back spin like that used by a bowler. A sceptical Wallis was eventually persuaded to let George Edwards arrange trials, and his back spin theory was shown to work. The bomb became a viable weapon.

    The incident is described Sir George Edwards’s biography “From Bouncing Bombs to Concorde” by Robert Gardner. published in 2006. Despite my distant relationship to Sir George, I don’t think my belief that the story deserves wider publicity as an integral part of the Dambusters story is misplaced.


  7. Richard Hickmott November 11, 2011 / 3:59 pm

    Speaking on a very personal level Paul Brickhill’s original book from the early 50s leaves me a bit cold: Not the lives that were lost nor the writing. Everytime I think about Brickhill it’s an automatic “Boys Own” – type interpretation.

    He claimed to have, mentioned in his epilogue, access to Wallis, Eve Gibson… yet, although interesting, Brickhill’s version of events just typifies books of the time. Sure, there is some interesting stuff mentioned, but overall I tend to give new documentaries on the Dams raid a wide birth – rather spend a morning at Brooklands Museum’s library….

    I’m fascinated by the Dams raid, hooked more on Wallis “The man”.

    This Sunday I think we should all have our 2 mins silence (did this today, also).

    My thoughts are with all service men and women, dead or alive.

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