Seventy-three years ago this coming Monday, on 16 May 1943, nineteen Lancaster aircraft from the RAF’s 617 Squadron took off from RAF Scampton on what would become the Allied forces most famous single bombing operation of the Second World War. Their task was to attack and destroy the great hydroelectric dams of the Ruhr and Eder valleys and thereby cause massive disruption to the industrial heartland of the Third Reich.
The method for attacking these dams had been conceived by the engineer Dr Barnes Wallis. For most of the dams this involved dropping a spinning depth charge from a low flying aircraft at a precise distance from its wall. The momentum imparted to the bomb would therefore bounce it across the surface of the water and then, when it reached the wall, it would sink below the surface and explode.
This precision low level attack was completely different from the Allies normal bombing operations, which involved dropping explosives and incendiaries from a great height, and it needed aircrew with a high level of skill and determination. Twenty-one crews were chosen for the raid and undertook specialised training during April and May 1943. Nineteen of these crews were finally selected.
The nineteen crews of seven were mainly British, but of the total of 133 men who took part in the Dams Raid there were 30 Canadians, 13 Australians, 2 New Zealanders and one American, who had joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. They are all listed on the Complete Dambusters website, where the entries link back to each man’s individual profile posted here over the last three years.
Fifty-three men from eight crews died on the raid, and they are pictured above. But we should not forget that the official casualty figures also show that 1,294 people died as a result of the Möhne Dam’s collapse with 47 more lost in the Eder valley. 749 of the dead and missing in the Möhne area were listed as ‘foreigners’, of whom 493 were Ukrainian women labourers, ordered back to their camp for safety when the air raid warnings sounded.
Best wishes for the festive season to all the readers of this blog, wherever the boys in the NYPD Choir* are singing for you.
I have had a great year working on this blog, with two particular highlights. The first was travelling to Germany to take part in the unveiling of the memorial to the Dams Raid crew of AJ-E, in the company of relatives of six of the crew who died on that night. Thanks once again to Volker Schürmann and the rest of the local German community who instigated the memorial and made us so welcome. The second was the completion of the 133 Dambuster of the Day biographies in August, which I hope means that at last every single man who took part in the Dams Raid gets his own small place in history marked for ever.
I look forward to another year of providing a lot more Dambuster information. Have a very good Christmas and a happy New Year.
*And in memory of the late great Kirsty MacColl.
In early April 2013, I started writing my profiles of all 133 aircrew who took part in the Dams Raid, with the aim of posting them at the rate of one a day for nineteen weeks. The scheduled closing date was therefore sometime in August of that year.
Some two years later, I have at last reached the end of the course, with the rather cursory biography of Arthur Buck published below. Even though this is one of the shorter biographies, I hope that it at least does justice to my intention, which was to give each of the men who took part in the raid the dignity of their own entry. Too often, their names are lumped together in the appendices at the end of a book, sometimes with their names misspelt and their family details incorrectly recorded.
I am sure that there are still mistakes in my biographies, but because they are online rather than in a book I can correct and update the entries as and when more information emerges. So if you spot anything that is wrong or can provide further details, then please contact me.
As a further service to one and all, the complete list appears on my brand new website, completedambusters.com. This is a list of all the 133 aircrew who took part in the raid, and each has a link back to the individual profile. I hope that this too proves a useful resource for the future.
Congratulations to Greig Watson, pictured above right, from the BBC East Midlands newsteam, who has won a special award in the 2014 Online Media Awards for the team’s project to build a complete pictureboard of all 133 aircrew who took part in the Dams Raids. The judges praised the East Midlands website, which won the Best Regional News award, for being well organised and timely with a good range of features, and singled out the Dambusters story for special mention, recognising the historical importance of the work.
The Dambusters Blog is very proud to have been associated with this project, and once again we would like to thank all the relatives and others who provided pictures for this site, and thereby have built a permanent online Dambusters memorial. As James Lynn from BBC Online News England said: “As well as being a fantastic piece of journalism, it also feels like a fitting tribute to those who took part in the raids, and a genuine historical resource.”
The earlier blog entry here is now out of date.
There is now a complete list of all the aircrew who took part in Operation Chastise (the Dams Raid) at my companion Complete Dambusters website. Each of the entries there links back to an individual profile of the man concerned published in the Dambuster of the Day feature on this blog. You can also find individual names by looking in the Categories listing on the right of the page.
Some raw figures extracted from this list:
- 133 men took part in Operation Chastise (the Dams Raid); 19 crews each of 7 men.
- Eight crews were lost; 53 men were killed, 3 were taken prisoner.
- Eighty men survived the raid.
- Of these, 22 were killed serving in 617 Squadron later in the war and 10 more were killed while serving with other squadrons.
- Only 48 men who took part in the raid survived the war.
I should stress that this is very much a work in progress. Some individual entries point to a range of active internet resources, and I can give no guarantee as to accuracy of content on outside links. Corrections and suggestions for other entries are most welcome! Contact me here.