At a commemoration at the Eder Dam tomorrow morning, these words from the present Commanding Officer of 617 Squadron, Wg Cdr David Arthurton, will be read out:
70 years ago today, pilots from No. 617 Squadron of the Royal Air Force launched an audacious and daring long range attack against the Eder, Mohne and Sorpe dams. A mission that will forever be etched into the history of the Squadron. But heroism and sacrifice is not the prerogative of the military, and there will have been many such acts that night; most unseen and unrewarded.
So even as we, their successors in No. 617 Squadron, join together today to remember our comrades who flew that mission, we join together with you also to remember all those who were affected by the operation that night – regardless of nationality.
Many years have now passed since that night, and today our two countries have never been so closely linked as they are now. So, while it is important to remember the past, and the sacrifice of all those who lost their lives that day, it is even more important to celebrate our present and future together as close friends and allies.
Whatever event we attend today, or if we see or hear the broadcasts or read the press, we should reflect on these words. Let us hope that we never again see the kind of conflict where swaths of people from many different countries are lost, and mourned for generations by those left behind. Those of us who knew these people should make sure that this lesson is never forgotten.