It’s a completely unique artifact, of course, but you do wonder what the lucky purchaser is going to do with it… It’s the key which was used to unlock the mechanism on the only ‘live’ practice flight with the bouncing bomb, which was undertaken by Sqn Ldr M V (‘Shorty’) Longbottom on 13 May 1943.
Longbottom was an experienced RAF pilot who at that time was attached to Vickers Armstrong for test flying. He was killed in a flying accident in January 1945, while testing a new aircraft for Vickers.
His medals, and a lot of other archive material, was recently sold by Dominic Winter Auctions.
This is how Longbottom’s successful test of the Upkeep weapon is described in John Sweetman’s The Dambusters Raid (Cassell, 2002, p.94.):
Abandoning Reculver for security reasons, [Longbottom] flew south-west to north-east and dropped a Torpex-filled and fully armed Upkeep from 75ft five miles off Broadstairs. Spinning at 500rpm, it bounced seven times over ‘almost 800 yards’ without deviation. For this trial the theodolite camera was positioned ashore on the North Foreland almost broadside to the aircraft’s track, and Handasyde [another test pilot] flew the other Lancaster at 1,000ft and 1,000 yards away from Longbottom, with two cameramen aboard to operate the normal-speed camera. Handasyde had Gibson as observer, and Wynter-Morgan flew in Longbottom’s rear turret to watch the behaviour of the mine after release as it slowed to 55mph behind the aircraft.
The film of this test showed that the water-spout when the mine exploded rose to about 500ft above Handasyde’s aircraft, and the estimated depth of detonation was about 33ft. For all concerned the day was eminently successful.
The 617 Squadron Aircrew Association has asked for the following press release to be posted on this blog:
NEW MEMORIAL FOR DAMBUSTERS SQUADRON
In the centre of Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, wartime home of No. 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, “The Dambusters”, stands a memorial in the form of a breached dam, commemorating the names of those members of the Squadron who gave their lives during the Second World War
Since the end of that conflict over 30 additional members of the Squadron have died serving their country either with the Squadron or other units.
To commemorate these post-WW II servicemen, the No. 617 Squadron Aircrew Association will erect a second memorial on a site adjacent to their wartime memorial.
The memorial will take the form of a 3 metre high black granite pyramid, its form echoing the wing form of two of the aircraft flown post-war by the Squadron – the Vulcan and Tornado.
A projecting triangular pediment will carry the Squadron badge and the inscription “In Memory of all members of No. 617 Sqn RAF who gave their lives since 1945 in the service of their country. We will remember them”
The polished side faces of the pyramid will contain inset red glass lightning flashes, the symbol carried today on the Squadron’s Tornado aircraft, and will be inscribed with the Squadron’s post-war Battle Honours of “Gulf 1991” and “Iraq 2003”
The Memorial has been created by Sylvia Waugh, a local Lincolnshire designer, winner of a competition organised for final year students by the University of Lincoln and will be constructed by a Lincolnshire-based monumental mason.
Planning permission has been obtained and the No. 617 Squadron Aircrew Association is now launching a public appeal to raise the £25,000 required to bring this project to completion.
Donations may be made to ‘No. 617 Squadron Aircrew Association’ and sent to Group Captain D G Robertson, Chairman, 617 Sqn Aircrew Association,8 Thorold Way, Harmston, Lincoln LN5 9GJ
For a number of years the only flying unit based at RAF Scampton has been the elite demonstration flight, the Red Arrows. Now they are on the move to Waddington, the airfield will lie largely empty. Many of the buildings are of historic significance, and some are even listed by English Heritage, so could they be used for a Dambusters ‘international visitor attraction’? Some local people think so, according to the Lincolnshire Echo.
My picture above shows the Officers Mess – it hasn’t been altered much since it was used by 617 Squadron between March and August 1943. It also featured in the 1955 film.
Believe me, I’ve tried. On your behalf, I have scoured the news sites who have covered the recent travails of the New Zealand film industry in depth – and found precisely No News about the remake of The Dam Busters. The country’s Prime Minister, no less, held a news conference about the fact that The Hobbit will now be made at Peter Jackson’s studio in Wellington. Jackson himself did a series of media interviews the week before. But at no time did they mention any other film projects.
However, the feeling amongst locals is that if The Hobbit had been lost to another country, this would have ‘put the kibosh’ on the remake of the Dambusters (the words of aviation forum moderator Dave Homewood.)
Just to reiterate, the deal about The Hobbit is between Jackson and film distributors Warner Brothers. The proposed Dambusters film is a joint project of Jackson and United Artists. That’s probably why it has never been mentioned!