Filming the Dam Busters

Pic: Jan Kmiecik

Michael Anderson’s 1955 film The Dam Busters is being shown again on ITV4 this afternoon – the second screening on this channel in the last six days!

Experience shows that this will result in a number of first time visitors reading this blog, so if this is you, welcome aboard. This is the one-stop shop for all Dambuster-related news and information, coming to you regularly for almost ten years. I try to publish several items every month so please check back regularly. You can ensure you see every post by clicking the “Follow blog by email” button in the right hand column.

If you are searching today for information on when Peter Jackson’s much delayed remake of the 1955 film will appear, the news is simply that there is no news. Jackson bought the rights to remake the film back in 2006. Since then he has announced that a director has been appointed and a script commissioned and that a number of life size model Lancasters have been built. But since that time, he has been very busy making three Hobbit films and is now working on a number of other projects, including another series of fantasy films, these based on the Mortal Engines books. It is notable that the Dambusters remake no longer appears in Jackson’s IMDB listing.

The reshowing of the 1955 film does however give me a good excuse to show this picture again, kindly sent to me by Jan Kmiecik, whose father was Flt Sgt Joe Kmiecik, a Second World war veteran who took part in the filming of The Dam Busters in 1954.

The picture shows the three Lancasters used in the film flying together probably for the last time. This was taken at a Battle of Britain Day tribute at Silloth in Cumbria, probably in 1955. Note that only two of the aircraft have been modified to the “Dambuster” configuration, with a dummy “bouncing bomb” and no mid upper turret. The central Lancaster must be NX782, which was left as standard and used in an early sequence in the film where Gibson is completing his final flight as CO of 106 Squadron.

Note also how low the three Lancasters are flying, and how close they are to the members of the public wandering across the runway. Modern air displays have much stricter health and safety rules!

21 thoughts on “Filming the Dam Busters

  1. Ian SImpson December 9, 2017 / 3:57 pm

    I beleive the Lancasters featured in the film were actually Lincolns from RAF Binbrook??

    • charlesfoster December 9, 2017 / 6:41 pm

      Ian — Four Avro Lancasters were used during the filming: serial numbers NX673, NX679, RT868 and NX782. Source: Jonathan Falconer, Filming the Dam Busters, Sutton, 2005. CF

    • Adrian spencer December 9, 2017 / 10:37 pm

      No.Lincolns are in the background shots

  2. Mohne all the time . December 9, 2017 / 5:57 pm

    I always thought this was taken at Anthorn which is near Silloth before it closed down in March 1958.

    • charlesfoster December 9, 2017 / 6:45 pm

      Dom Howard, who lives nearby, has checked both airfields in contemporary records, and reckons it was definitely Silloth.

      • Derek Ward October 5, 2021 / 4:47 pm

        This photograph taken at RNAS Anthorn during a Navy Air Day, 1954/55 when the aircraft were based at RAF Silloth for the Windermere filming. I would presume it was 1954 as film came out in 1955. I used to watch the three Lancasters fly over my house – in Wigton – on the way down to Windermere,. Lancasters are approaching along Runway 21 end of Anthorn airfield.The Flight Line for the displays was along the Peri Track area near the Control Tower. The hangars in the background, at the Cardurnock side of airfield are probably Navy Pentads. (The hangars at RAF Silloth were predominantly Blister on the dispersed sites and a mix of more substantial types on the main site). Many exciting sights at Anthorn Navy Air Days !!!

  3. Roger Harding December 9, 2017 / 11:32 pm

    I heard a rumour – and it’s probably no more than that – when I was at North Weald airfied recently. Someone pointed out that in the UK and Canada, work is underway on getting a third and fourth Lancaster airworthy. Certainly Just Jane is being prepped. It would make sense to wait for them to become available before starting shooting. Wingnut Films could give no more information on casting.

    I spoke to a couple of 617 pilots at a fund raising event just after the news about the remake came out and I asked them if they thought it was a good idea. Instantly they both retorted “No !” Why ? Because the original was “perfect”.

    Personally, I think it’s a good idea. More information has become available since 1955 – and it’s a good idea to educated a new generation of movie goers, who might not otherwise bother to watch the original

    • Peter Dimond August 12, 2019 / 2:50 pm

      Peter Dimond…Well if you are talking about a historical fact betterment in a new film let us not forget the difference of the ‘A night to remember’ as a black and white icon portrayal with Kenneth Moore and the love sloppy but excellent entertainment box office winner ‘Titanic’. There was nothing more to learn from the later version, in fact untrue insertions for audience consumption set against the almost documentary Kenny Moore portrayal.
      The Dam Busters film is history in its own right and portrays all we need to know, perfectly, Richard Todd and the marvellous cast with him. It cannot be bettered by a
      ‘Titanic’ type presentation.

      • Roger Harding August 13, 2019 / 8:47 pm

        I think, as this site shows, there’s still a lot to learn. Jackson is now talking about a ten part series. That could explore more about the men behind the mission for example. The original film was great – the special effect exceptional for the time – but it spoke to an earlier generation. And there were errors – largely on account of secrecy at the time. A new series would open up the story to new generations and would be a great tribute to those young folk who took part willingly.

        Spoiler alert – the Titanic sank. There, I’ve saved you watching three hours of de Caprio’s film

  4. Denise Dawson (née Hay) December 9, 2017 / 11:49 pm

    I loved being at Petwood when the Lancaster flew over.

    • Mike Gannon January 12, 2018 / 8:52 pm

      i was at petwood one time read the dambusters book in the grounds having a beer, as i turned over the page it should one of the poitots having a beer were i was sat, wow

  5. Mrs Barbara Hodgkinson December 10, 2017 / 1:13 am

    Thank you for the news about the much-awaited remake of the Dambusters Film.

  6. richard hickmott December 10, 2017 / 3:21 am

    Without doubt Peter Jackson is a 24-carat let-down. That said, I’ve yet to see any remake that matches the original. Luckily for me, I only live around 2 miles from the Wallis’s house (Whitehill House) in Effingham — and there’s a family connection with Liz Gaunt (nee Wallis).

  7. warren December 10, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    Hi everyone , that’s a great photo associated with a great movie . If I could make a suggestion , perhaps the best thing to do in regards to a movie is colourise the original and with modern technology remove the inaccurate scenes [ e.g highball tests ] and insert footage that just wasn’t available at the time , and computer enhancement of the special effects [ e.g dam explosions ] ,I think you get my ideas . If someone could actually tell me what colour the propeller spinners of the MOVIE lancasters were [ for a model project ] it would be appreciated

  8. priscilla littmoden December 13, 2017 / 3:08 pm

    Fabulous pic, can you imagine being underneath those Merlin engines, beautiful sound

  9. Roger Wright December 18, 2017 / 9:30 pm


    How apt it was you posted this blog about the Dambusters film on TV yet again – long may it continue I did however learn last week the film is to undergo a complete rework by Studiocanal who have secured world rights for the original production.

    The film, in its new form, will have its World Premier at the International Bomber Command Centre in April next year, followed with the London premier at The Royal Albert Hall on 17th May to coincide with the 75th Anniversary. Needless to say, this could bring into question the proposals of Peter Jackson – watch this space more to evolve no doubt.


    Roger Wright

  10. Mohne all the time . December 20, 2017 / 2:48 pm

    As far as we are aware Its only being revamped into 4K and nothing else and I am sure it will not effect the fact that Mr Jackson will not be making another .

  11. Mike Gannon January 20, 2018 / 1:32 pm

    To all viewers of this great film 🎥
    Please look out for the ghost of the dog at the very end of the film after he had been berried.
    Look in the trees as Gibson is telling barns walis he’s got some letters to write.
    You can see the dog running around the trees behind them.
    If you get chance to visit RAF Scapton it is well worth the visit. You visit the dog’s grave and sit at guy Gibson’s desk. Plus the hangers and the museum great visit. [EDITED]

    • Peter cowles May 19, 2018 / 9:12 pm

      Why has the film been stopped dam busters has it is all true history if it wasn.t for brave lads and girls we would not be here for them we must keep all their brave memories all ways alive bring back all war films its all true

Leave a Reply to richard hickmott Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.