Dortmund Ems Canal Raids: 65th anniversary

Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 September 1943 were dark, dark days in the history of the new 617 Squadron. It was almost exactly four months since its first operation, the raid on the German dams which had made those who took part famous. 

The squadron was then held back from other operations, apart from a short series of three raids against Italian targets, while RAF top brass decided what to do with it. Then, in late August, a new ‘light case’ 12,000lb bomb became available and 617 Squadron was detailed to use it to attack the Dortmund Ems canal on a low level raid.

It was not a success. On the first night, the raid was aborted due to poor weather conditions over the target and David Maltby’s Lancaster came down in the North Sea – an accident that may have been caused by a collision with a Mosquito from 139 Squadron ‘that shouldn’t have been there‘. All eight on board were killed, and only Maltby’s body was recovered. The following night a further 33 aircrew lost their lives when four further Lancasters crashed or were brought down.  Over the two nights, 13 of those lost were from the crews who had survived the Dams Raid. The rest were men who had missed the first raid through sickness or who had arrived on the squadron as replacements. In terms of casualties, it would be 617 Squadron’s second worst day of the war, after the Dams Raid itself. 

I will be writing more about the Dortmund Ems canal raids next week, but today I would like to give you advance warning of three events which will take place in Kent about the time of this sad 65th anniversary.


Waterstone's Canterbury

1. Friday 12 September, 6.30pm

I will be doing a talk at Waterstone’s bookshop, St Margaret Street, Canterbury on David Maltby and his crew. David had many connections with Kent, and I will be showing many photograph, a number of which were not included in my book.

2. Sunday 14 September, 11.30am

The annual event to commemorate David Maltby and his crew takes place on the anniversary of their last flight, at David Maltby’s grave in St Andrew’s Church, Wickhambreaux, Kent. This is organised by the East Kent branch of the Aircrew Association. Members of the Maltby and Hatfeild families also attend each year. Visitors are welcome.

3. Sunday 14 September, all day

A fly-in is being held at Manston Airport, Kent, at which there will be a number of aerial and static displays, other attractions and bookstalls, including one run by your Humble Scribe. If you are in the area, please come and say hello. This event was postponed from the Spring Bank Holiday weekend because of the downpour that took place that day. Let’s hope for better weather this time!

Pride of Kent

If you didn’t get to see the Lancaster/Spitfire/Hurricane flypast in Derbyshire last week, you have another chance to see at least one of these this coming Sunday, when the Kent Spitfire takes part in the Manston fly-in, at Manston airfield near Ramsgate in Kent. This is an area ripe with Dambuster connections, as many of the test drops were carried out at nearby Reculver. There’s lots to see and do, and one of the bookstalls is being run by Your Humble Scribe, who will be happy to add a message to any of his books sold on the day.



65th anniversary of the Dams Raid

A number of events have been planned to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Dams Raid, which took place on 16-17 May 1943. The most spectacular will probably be the flypast by the Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane and Dakota aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight over the Derwent reservoir in Derbyshire on Friday 16 May at 1000. This is a remote area and vehicle access will be ticket only and strictly controlled, but people arriving on foot will be welcomed. Full details and how to apply for a ticket in the ballot here.

The next weekend sees a Dambuster Day at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby. This happens on Saturday 24 May and there will be stalls, lectures and other events including a chance to see Lancaster ‘Just Jane’ performing her taxi runs. Details here

The next day, Sunday 25 May, there will be a Spitfire flypast organised by the Spitfire Memorial Museum in Manston, Kent.  There are flying displays by the Kent Spitfire (TA805), Pilatus and Stearman. There will also be other interesting aircraft and military vehicles on static display. Other displays and stalls will include the Thanet ATC Band, book signings (including the one by the author of this site) and the RAF at War re-enactment group. RAF Manston was used by 617 Squadron when they were testing the ‘bouncing bomb’ at nearby Reculver. It is also close to the village of Wickhambreaux in whose churchyard David Maltby is buried. Come along and I will see you there!