The men who took part in the Dams Raid. (Compilation picture © Dambusters Blog)
Today is the 75th anniversary of the day Operation Chastise took place, the official title given to the Dams Raid. One hundred and thirty three men in 19 Lancasters from 617 Squadron, each loaded with a (literally) revolutionary new weapon, climbed into the sky above RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire and set off towards Germany, skimming the treetops of the ground below them.
They would attack the Mohne, Eder, Sorpe and Ennepe Dams, breaching the first two and causing massive flood damage to the lands below them. Almost 1500 troops and civilians were killed by the raid, and 53 men from the eight aircraft which were shot down or crashed also died.
You can read the full story of all the 133 men who took part in the Dams Raid in my new book The Complete Dambusters, published by the History Press, out now in shops or available from online retailers.
For more information on how and where to buy the book, see the publisher’s web page here.
Great excitement at Blog HQ in the last few days when an advance copy of my new book The Complete Dambusters arrived! As I write, fleets of lorries are travelling across Europe bringing stock to bookshops far and wide, so expect to see copies on the shelves (or in your favourite online shop) sometime next week.
I will be in the Lincolnshire area from Saturday 12 to Monday 14 May, so if you would like to get a copy direct from me, then please get in touch. I will also be at the Royal Albert Hall for the gala screening of The Dam Busters on the night of Thursday 17 May, and will have copies of the book available. Families of Dams Raid veterans who are coming to this event are invited to meet up in the Berry Bros and Rudd bar (near Albert Hall Door 1) from 6pm. (A few tickets for this event are still available and can be booked via the Albert Hall box office.)
To whet your appetite, here are a couple of spreads from the book:
Six of Dan Llywelyn Hall’s portraits of the men who flew on the Dams Raid. Top row, left to right: George Deering, Kenneth Earnshaw, Charles Brennan. Bottom row, left to right: Tony Burcher, Alden Cottam, Floyd Wile
Artist Dan Llywelyn Hall has taken on an ambitious project to mark the 75th anniversary of the Dams Raid. He is painting a full size portrait of the last British man to take part in the raid, George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, and this will be accompanied by smaller pictures of all the other 132 Dambusters. Six of these are shown above.
The complete set of 133 pictures will be on show to the public between 14 and 27 May 2018, at the 4 Farm Street gallery in Mayfair in London (4 Farm Street, London W1J 5RD). Opening hours, Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm. Funds raised during the exhibition will be donated to three charities nominated by Johnny Johnson: The RAF Benevolent Fund, Group 617 in Penarth and the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln.
Dan has a Crowdfunder appeal to raise funds for the exhibition, and anyone who sponsors him can qualify for a range of benefits including etchings and limited edition catalogues.
Dan was born in Cardiff in 1980 and is one of Britain’s most prominent young portrait artists, having been commissioned to paint portraits of both the Queen and the Duke of Cambridge. His work has been exhibited extensively throughout the UK in both solo and group exhibitions in venues such as the Saatchi Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of Wales, Windsor Castle, MoMA Wales and others.
I’m pleased to announce that my new book, The Complete Dambusters, will be published by History Press on 1 May. More details and some exclusive preview pages will follow, but for the moment, here is the link to the publishers website:
The Complete Dambusters: History Press
and the official blurb.
“On 16 May 1943, nineteen Lancaster aircraft from the RAF’s 617 Squadron set off to attack the great dams in the industrial heart of Germany. Flying at a height of 60ft, they dropped a series of bombs which bounced across the water and destroyed two of their targets, thereby creating a legend. The one-off operation combined an audacious method of attack, technically brilliant flying and visually spectacular results, but while the story of the raid is well known, most of the 133 men who took part in the raid are just names on a list. They came from all parts of the UK and the Commonwealth and beyond, and each of them was someone’s son or brother, husband or father. This is the first book to present their individual stories.”
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.