Another date for the diary

BBC2 is to screen yet another documentary about the Dams Raid next Tuesday, 8 November at 9pm. Subtitled “The Race to Smash the German Dams”, this promises to be a less superficial film than last autumn’s effort, which was fronted by an actor rather than a historian.

The writer and presenter James Holland would appear to have done a lot of research, even flying to New Zealand to interview Les Munro, and has only just finished the final editing, according to this entry on his blog.

The two main thrusts of the film would seem to be the speed at which the operation was put together – something which is covered well in John Sweetman’s seminal book on the raid – and the fact that not all the crews were as experienced as some accounts would suggest. The myth that Gibson “hand picked” the crew is something that has crept into the story from his book, Enemy Coast Ahead, but as this section of the book is based on an article in the Sunday Express which was ghost written for him, it is not a reliable account.

In fact, many of the pilots were pretty experienced, having done a full tour or the best part of one. But their crews may not have been. David Maltby, for example, had just come back to 97 Squadron to start a second tour, and had been allocated a new crew, not long out of training. They then moved as a unit to 617 Squadron, and for some, including navigator Vivian Nicholson, the Dams Raid was their first operation.

James Holland has also posted a transcript of his interview with Les Munro on his website. It is a very rough transcription, full of mishearings and typing errors, but interesting if you want to hear Les’s words first hand.

4 thoughts on “Another date for the diary

  1. Dom November 2, 2011 / 1:03 pm

    Hi Charles,
    The crews selection that all were experienced is clearly not correct when you look at my great uncle Cyril Anderson, he and his crew had no ops under thei5 belts when sent from 49 to 617, they delayed going until they had completed 5 ops (as a crew)


  2. Tony Maltby November 8, 2011 / 10:09 pm

    Just finished watching the programme which I felt was interesting and accurate although not so about the part played by Dave Maltby! But I am slightly biased.

  3. Bruce b November 13, 2011 / 1:56 pm


    Once again, the BBC spends my money on ‘entertainment’ rather than ‘factual-history’, when so much ‘real-information’ is readily available, amateurs, should be kept away from such offensive trivial non-informative programs

    The ‘holes’ in this presentation were just what the KICKY-BALL viewers want to see.

  4. Bruce b November 13, 2011 / 2:04 pm

    ref.above comment.

    Anyone interested to discover the ‘REALITY’ behind the Dams Raid, operation UPKEEP, could well start and read THE DAMBUSTERS by Paul Brickhill,

    Therein the reader will find the information, required to fill the ‘HOLES’ in the bbc trivia-film.

    Such as how the crews maintained the EXACT HEIGHT of 60′, required for the drop, and the simple ‘plywood-tool’ used to establish THE EXACT DISTANCE FROM THE DAMS, needed to ensure a successful drop.

    BOTH OF WHICH, the so-called expert, neglected to tell (assuming his research had unearthed them)

    His degrading description of WC Gibson as a ‘flawed-leader’ was typical of the throw away demeaning of brave men, often indulged in on the bbc

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