Tomorrow, 16th May, is the 69th anniversary of Operation Chastise, the Dams Raid. The first aircraft, piloted by Flt Lt Norman Barlow , took off from RAF Scampton at 2128, quickly followed by three colleagues. One of these, AJ-K, flown by Plt Off Vernon Byers, was the operation’s first of eight losses, shot down just over two hours later on the Dutch coast.
The Möhne Dam was breached at about 0049 on Sunday 17th May 1943, and the Eder Dam at 0150. Altogether, 53 aircrew were killed and three more taken prisoner. On the ground, there were 1294 casualties at the Möhne and 47 more in the Eder valley.
These are sobering figures, which we should remember when we commemorate the raid.
It is, however, fitting that Wg Cdr Guy Gibson, 617 Squadron’s commanding officer, is being remembered on the anniversary of his greatest achievement in the home village of his maternal grandparents, Porthleven in Cornwall. As his own parents lived in India, Gibson spent part of his childhood in the village, and by all accounts had a very happy time there. A new bronze plaque will be unveiled, and there will be representatives of the RAF present and, weather permitting, a flypast.
Hat tip: Graeme Stevenson