May your days be happy and bright

Poster by James Fitton from the IWM Collection (PST 2814).

Clicking around the interwebnet in search of a seasonal image I came across this lovely wartime anti-waste poster whose message is just as pertinent today. Even though it is right for us to want to celebrate the festive season, in these straitened times we shouldn’t overconsume our precious resources. So, with that in mind, I’d like to wish all Dambusters Blog readers a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. See you on the other side!

More about James Fitton on his Wikipedia page.

Season’s greetings as we say goodbye to all that

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Pic: Charles Foster

The sun sets at its earliest time as the old year draws to a close.

Things have been quiet for a while but there will be plenty more to write about in the New Year, so check the Dambusters Blog regularly. In the meantime, all best wishes for Christmas and the holiday season. Please stay safe, be respectful to our fellow human beings and the earth itself, and hope that we will all be able to meet again in 2022.

Christmas during a crisis

Christmas 1942: A group of young children at Fen Ditton Junior School in Cambridgeshire design and make their own seasonal decorations. [Pic: IWM 23619]

Safe to say, this has been a year like no other in modern memory. However, there are brighter prospects ahead so, whatever happens during the next twelve months, many greetings from the Dambusters Blog in the hope that all our readers everywhere have a safe and happy future.


One-and-a-half million hits today

Around about 1.20 this afternoon this blog clicked up its one and a half millionth visitor, so a hearty welcome to whoever it was!

The blog was set up in May 2008, and the first half million views took place over the next 62 months, with the number being reached in June 2013. The millionth visitor arrived in May 2017, 46 months later. And today’s target was hit 42 months after this. You could therefore say that the pace is hotting up.

You might also be interested to know that there have been 658 posts over the 150 months that the blog has been operating, which works out at 4.38 posts per month. And, as you can see from the screen shot at the top of the page, there have been 2870 comments, most of them being complimentary and/or helpful. So keep them coming, and here’s to the next half-million hits!

Tis the season

Pic: Etsy

Casting around some Google images looking for something suitable to illustrate my seasonal message, I came across this – a vintage German brooch of the Möhnesee and the Möhne Dam for sale on the Etsy site. Of course, it’s actually nothing to do with Christmas, but the green and red colours gave it a traditional look.

Let this lovely scene act as seasonal greetings to all readers of the Dambusters blog, wherever you may be. Have a very happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year. (And there’s no point in to trying to find the brooch on Etsy – I’ve bought it!)

Wikipedia: a foundation stone for the free internet

Stepping away from the normal terrain for this blog, this is a personal plea for all readers to support the annual appeal for the wonderful Wikipedia operation. I use Wikipedia every day, and every day I marvel at the breadth of knowledge and information contained in its 5,708,282 pages*. I’m sure many of you reading this feel the same – Wikipedia is the fifth most visited site on the internet, and the only one of the top five which doesn’t depend on advertising for income. It is a non-profit company, written and compiled by hundreds of thousands of contributors.

For many years, I noticed the occasional appeal for funds but never bothered with them. However, I now realise that it is vital for the future of the internet that this non-profit community-run venture survives and thrives. The original idea of the founders of the internet was to provide free access to information to anyone with a connection. Nothing exemplifies that idea better than Wikipedia. Like other community-driven ventures such as Parkrun, they are run by users rather than producers, by volunteers rather than professionals, they have a horizontal rather than hierarchical structure, and they’re not primarily about making money. All this was noted in an interesting article in Wednesday’s Guardian.

In order to survive financially Wikipedia depends entirely on voluntary support. So, if you are a regular user like me, please do what I have done for the last few years – make a small annual donation. Respond when the popup appears on your screen or go to the donation page.

*The number quoted on the intro page on 30 August 2018.

Season’s greetings from Dambusters Blog

‘In the bleak midwinter, frosty winds made moan’ goes the old carol. However, here on the western coast of Europe, it looks as though we might have a mild and wet festive season. Never mind!
The month of May this year brought the millionth visitor to this blog, and as of today we’ve added nearly one hundred thousand since. So please keep checking us out for all the latest Dambuster news. And whatever the weather wherever you are, let me wish you all the best for Christmas and the New Year!

Seasonal picture above by Maria Mekht of Unsplash. A great site for royalty free pictures and images!

Dambusters Blog hits the million!


At about 10pm BST today, the Dambusters blog registered its millionth hit. I can’t be sure exactly who was the visitor who took us over the magic figure, but it seems likely to have been someone from the UK who ended up on our front page having followed a Google search. By an amazing coincidence, this event occurred nine years to the day since the first ever post, which was published at 8.35 am on 7 May 2008.

Checking back through the daily statistics (which through the wonders of WordPress are still available to me) I see that I got just 4 hits on that first day. But within nine days, I had got to a total of 163 which, I recall, I was pretty chuffed with at the time. The fact that this occurred on 16 May 2008, the 65th anniversary of the Dams Raid, probably explains the upwards bump.

So why are people still so interested in the Dams Raid, even though most of the people who now access the blog have no first-hand memory of the war? I think the reason may be because although the raid itself is the stuff of legend, it also represents a bigger story: that of the ‘greatest generation’ who fought tyranny, came through the years of austerity which followed, and built a better society in which all could flourish. There have been many sharp turns and setbacks since, some still on-going, but no one would argue that the world is in a better place than it was in 1939.

The fascination with the Dambusters themselves is because the Dams Raid combined so many different things which contributed to the war effort – a revolutionary new weapon, supreme airmanship skills and raw courage in pressing home an attack under fire. The fact that it was then immortalised in what is now regarded as one of the best ever British war films just adds to its mystique.

So if you are one of the people who contributed to our million hits – either as a regular visitor or just someone who fetched up here after a random search – many thanks for being here for the ride. It’s been a privilege to serve you all this time, and I hope to carry on doing so for the foreseeable future. Per ardua ad astra!

[I should add a word of thanks to WordPress, who have provided the blogging software and the hosting since 2008. This is all for free, except for the ongoing cost of registering and using a .com domain name. In my opinion, they provide by far the easiest to use blogging software, and a huge range of off-the-shelf designs. And I have no connection at all with the company!]

Dambuster John Hopgood’s last Christmas, 1942


Flt Lt John Hopgood DFC & Bar. [Pic: Lincolnshire County Libraries]

As Christmas 1942 approached, the 21 year old Flt Lt John Hopgood was officially on rest from operational duties. He had completed a first tour of 47 operations at the end of November, and had been recommended for a Bar to his DFC. At this time he was still attached to 106 Squadron, testing new equipment and doing some instruction. On 22 December he wrote to his mother, Mrs Grace Hopgood:

Christmas here promises to be a gay affair. I am all set for 2 Christmas dinners, one in the mess at luncheon and one with some very charming people who have a lovely house near the ‘drome in the evening and shall have to starve on the 23rd [sic]!!

Two days later, on Christmas Eve, he took five of his crew up in a Lancaster. They paid a Christmas greeting flight to the homes of all six men on board in the traditional RAF way, ‘beating them up’ at very low altitude. In her house in Shere, Surrey, Grace Hopgood heard the approaching noise and was able to run into the garden in time to see the Lancaster pass overhead.
On New Year’s Day, Hopgood wrote again:

Yes, that was me flying around on Christmas Eve about lunchtime. I saw several people in the garden – but there’s not more than few split seconds to pick out faces at that speed! I had great fun flying around to each member of my crew’s home and sort of sending Christmas wishes to all. …
Christmas here was of course a very gay affair. As is the age old custom we (the officers and NCO’s) all served the airmen’s lunch – and a jolly good one it was too. Then we had our own lunch (not quite so good) and settled down to a very gay party in our mess in the evening. Next day the weather was again very bad and so we were able to have another Christmas dinner with those local people I spoke about in my last letter. It really was a grand meal – champagne and lovely old port and then lovely hot rum punches. They really are extraordinarily kind to we RAF. They threw another enormous party last night (New Years Eve) and we all really had a grand time.

Fate would decree that this was in fact Hopgood’s last ever Christmas. He would die in the early hours of 17 May 1943, making the second bombing run at the Möhne Dam. AJ-M, already damaged by flak from earlier in the night was hit again, and it crashed on the far side of the dam. Hopgood’s heroic efforts to gain height meant that two of his crew were able to bale out. They never forgot the young pilot who saved their lives. The remaining five are buried together in the Rheinberg War Cemetery.

Letter extracts quoted above from Jenny Elmes’s excellent book, M-Mother, the biography of her uncle, John Hopgood (History Press, 2015).

Season’s greetings from the Dambusters Blog to all our readers!

May your bells ring out for Christmas Day


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.