IWM Collections CH18006
This is one of the pictures in my new book, The Complete Dambusters. It is a photograph taken by official Air Ministry photographer Flg Off W. Bellamy of a Lancaster taking off on the Dams Raid on the night of 16 May 1943. As it is a single aircraft, it is probably one from the Second Wave, possibly the first to leave the ground: Norman Barlow and his crew in AJ-E.
There has been some discussion on the veracity of this picture, since there is no sign of the Upkeep weapon underneath the Lancaster as it leaves the ground. However, it is likely that either the photographer or a darkroom operative was instructed to paint out the weapon for security reasons. At the angle from which this picture was taken, the weapon would have appeared between the struts of the undercarriage. The painting out has been done rather crudely – if there was nothing underneath the aircraft, daylight would be visible through the struts. (You can see an example of this in this picture of a parked Lancaster, left.)
Bellamy’s ‘dope sheet’ (his handwritten list of shots taken that day which was sent to his bosses at the Air Ministry) actually lists two pictures: ‘One of the “Lancs” taking off for the raid as night falls’ and ‘A “Lanc” takes off as night falls’. It’s not known which of these two shots this is. The dope sheet itself is in the Imperial War Museum’s photographic archive, and was reproduced in Herman Euler’s book The Dams Raid through the Lens, After the Battle 2001, p210.