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#1 08-05-13 17:25:57

Evan
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Registered: 27-12-09
Posts: 2,058

Dam Busters 70 years after the raids

It's great to know that there will be a commemorative event at Biggin Hill to mark this amazing act of bravery, on 17th May at Biggin Hill. 70 years on it is important to remember those who sacrificed so much for us to be free.

I managed to go on a taxi ride in a Lancaster bomber on 20th March, this year. This has been an ambition of mine since I was a child. My wife and I stayed in the Petwood Hotel in Lincolnshire, the same hotel used by the officers of 617 Squadron Dambusters, it is a place filled with photos and memorabilia, much of it thought provoking when you consider the ages of the aircrew and indeed the ground crew, most of whom were under 25 years of age.

Fascinating to consider that Guy Gibson, was just 24 years of age, when he assembled and commanded these other brave young men. What has always intrigued me is where these young men got such courage from, how they were so disciplined and prepared to sacrifice all when many a few years earlier would have been just schoolboys.

Like all our armed forces heroes who are worth far more recognition then they sometimes get for the great sacrifices they make protecting this country.

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08-05-13 17:25:57

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Re: Dam Busters 70 years after the raids



#2 08-05-13 22:06:03

Lewinpeter1
Verified Member
From: Morpeth,Northumberland
Registered: 17-01-09
Posts: 803
Website

Re: Dam Busters 70 years after the raids

Hi Triker
I dont often disagree with you but the average age of those serving in Afghanistan must be about 20!
Your statement applies to some;not all.
Peter
ps my daughter served in both Iraq and  Afghanistan.


Dont press that,oh @@##!

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#3 09-05-13 17:46:54

Evan
Administrator
Registered: 27-12-09
Posts: 2,058

Re: Dam Busters 70 years after the raids

"This is the basis of my argument for reinstating National Service for all young people.  Amongst many other things it instils a sense of duty, personal discipline and respect for the lives and rights of others."

Totally agree BS

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#4 10-05-13 06:36:09

Evan
Administrator
Registered: 27-12-09
Posts: 2,058

Re: Dam Busters 70 years after the raids

Thanks for that Peter, the drive over the dam and the visit to the cemetery must have been quite an experience. I was going to get tickets for the concert at Biggin Hill on Friday but unfortunately my wife could not get time off of work, so I will listen to the Radio.

Last edited by Evan (10-05-13 06:37:03)

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#5 17-05-13 20:38:08

The Duke
Member
Registered: 06-12-12
Posts: 56

Re: Dam Busters 70 years after the raids

Wessex wrote:

I had the honour of being allowed to drive over the Eder Dam last year.
Amazing how these pilots could negotiate the hills and bring the aircraft down to 60 feet above the water.
In 2009 when I first visited the area I did some research and discovered that
AJ-Z "Zebra" piloted by Squdron Leader Henry Maudslay was damaged by the bomb he dropped as it overshot the Dam.
His aircraft was damaged and he was shot down on his return journey to England.

The Dambusters

from the BBC

When we travelled to Edersee in 2009 we visited the Reichswald Forestry War Cemetery where he and his crew were buried.
At 21 he was the youngest Pilot in the newly formed 617 Squadron.
As we searched amongst the headstones for Maudslay and his crew it became poignant that so many of the headstones were in groups of seven.
Many bombers shot down during the war had total losses of crew.
Eventually we found Henry Maudslay and his crew. I shed a few tears whilst in that Cemetery.

The Squadron was depleted by 42% and 56 young lives were lost during the raid.
History has shown that the raid did not disrupt the war machinery as much as had been hoped
and Barnes Wallace has gone down on record as saying that he would never had designed the bomb
had he known that so many young lives would have been lost during the operation.

Drive Across Eder Dam 2012

The above video works best with Google Chrome Browser.

 

well that may not be fully true.


Seventy years ago an RAF bomber raid destroyed important German dams. At the time many argued it was only a propaganda victory. It was much more than that, writes historian Dan Snow.

At 9.28pm on 16 May 1943, the first of 19 Lancaster heavy bombers lifted off the runway into a clear, still early summer night.

It was another British raid on the Ruhr region of Germany. The industrial heartland of Hitler's war machine was straining to produce tanks, ammunition and aircraft for a final, titanic assault on the Soviet Red Army on the Eastern Front.

British aircraft had been levelling entire neighbourhoods, blasting and incinerating homes, factories and people in a series of massive but clumsy blows.

This raid was different. This was a raid aimed with astonishing precision against a choke point in Germany's production chain. As such it was the ancestor of today's "smart bombs" and surgical strikes.

It was a raid sent to destroy a series of mighty dams, wreaking havoc with the Ruhr's vital water supplies. Known as Operation Chastise to its planners, it is remembered simply as the Dambusters raid.

The story of the Lancasters that left RAF Scampton that night is utterly remarkable for so many reasons. There was the ingenuity of the weapon they carried - a purpose-built bomb, codenamed Upkeep, designed by the brilliant Barnes Wallis to bounce along the surface of water like a skimming stone to avoid obstacles placed in its way.
Continue reading the main story   
Find out more

Dan Snow presents The Dambusters: 70 Years On, live from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, on Thursday 16 May, 19:00 BST on BBC Two.

    Or catch up on iPlayer (UK only)
    Explore more of history's most destructive war

The skill and bravery of the pilots who flew at night, at 100ft (30m) or less over enemy territory is breathtaking. They flew so low that one hit the sea, which tore off the underslung bomb, and scooped up seawater into the fuselage, while another was engulfed in flames as it ploughed straight into high voltage electricity cables.

The aircraft that did make it to the dams pressed home their attacks with a reckless disregard for their own safety. The results certainly impressed the world at the time - two dams were breached, and a third damaged.

As flood water surged down the valleys, factories and infrastructure were badly affected. The combination of science, flying skill, grit and the obvious impact of the raids made it front page news around the world and turned the Dambusters into celebrities.
Continue reading the main story   
The man behind the 'bouncing bomb'
Barnes Wallis at his desk

    Barnes Neville Wallis was born 26 September 1887 in Ripley, Derbyshire
    He developed a drum-shaped, rotating device that would bounce over water, roll down a dam's wall and explode at its base for the Dambusters raid
    Became a Royal Society fellow in 1954 and knighted in 1968; died 20 October 1979

    BBC History: Barnes Wallis
    Key events of World War II

The post-war film, enduringly popular, cemented the raid in the popular consciousness. Yet this celebration of the raid provoked a backlash. Experts such as Sir Charles Webster and Noble Frankland - the official historians of the Strategic Air Offensive - believed that it was oversold, its achievements exaggerated and other Bomber Command raids unfairly ignored.

These voices point to the speed at which the dams were repaired, and production of energy, steel and other armaments resumed. British planners had known that the success of the raid largely depended on the German ability to rebuild the dams in time to store up the autumn rains.

The Germans certainly rose to the challenge: the dams, which had taken five years to build, were repaired by armies of forced labourers working around the clock in just five months.

A major hydroelectric power station at Herdecke was out of action for weeks, not months, thanks to a similarly Herculean effort. Thousands of troops, Hitler youth, prisoners of war and enslaved workers were thrown at the task.
Continue reading the main story   
Start Quote
Dan Snow

    That a titanic effort was made to repair this damage shows how high a priority the dams were

Dan Snow

Canals were dredged, factories rebuilt, river banks reinstated, bridges replaced. Britain's bomber supremo, Sir Arthur Harris, who had opposed the raid as harebrained all along, with some justification, wrote later: "I have seen nothing... to show that the effort was worthwhile except as a spectacular operation."

Senior Nazis downplayed the damage after the war. Albert Speer, the German armaments minister, expressed amazement that the repair operations were left untroubled by further bombing raids which would have delayed the vital reconstruction and turned a nuisance into a major crisis.

Time has thrown up a wealth of information about the impact of the raids, much of it unavailable to an earlier generation of historians.

In James Holland's recent book, Dam Busters: The Race to Smash the Dams, he states that "it is time to put the record straight". He insists that the damage was "absolutely enormous" and it was "an extraordinary achievement".

He points out that every bridge for 30 miles below the breached Mohne dam was destroyed, and buildings were damaged 40 miles away. Twelve war production factories were destroyed, and around 100 more were damaged. Thousands of acres of farmland were ruined.

Germans instantly referred to it after the raid as the "Mohne catastrophe". Even the cool Speer admitted that it was "a disaster for us for a number of months". German sources attribute a 400,000-tonne drop in coal production in May 1943 to the damage caused.


Another German report into the effects of the raid talked about "considerable losses of production" caused by "the lack of water" and that "many shaft mines, coking plants, smelting works, power stations, fuel plants and armaments factories were shut down for several days".
Continue reading the main story   
RAF Bomber Command
Bomber command memorial

    Formed in 1936 with a mission to attack Hitler's Nazi Germany
    Total of 55,573 airmen of Bomber Command died in WWII - their average age was 22
    First "thousand-bomber raid" was in May 1942, three months after Arthur "Bomber" Harris was made commander-in-chief
    Memorial unveiled to Bomber Command in London's Green Park in 2012 (pictured)

    A WWII airman describes the tension of a bombing raid (BBC World Service, June 2012)

The fact that a titanic effort was made to repair this damage shows how high a priority the dams were, and it meant resources were shifted from elsewhere. Nowhere was this costlier to the Third Reich than on the beaches of Normandy.

Hitler had ordered the construction of a massive network of defences against an Allied invasion. Now thousands of workers who should have been toiling in France were redirected to the Ruhr to repair the dams. A year later allied troops would have faced far more significant defences had it not been for the Dambusters raid.

No raid mounted by so few aircraft had ever caused such extensive material damage. It did not bring German war production to a permanent halt, but nobody had expected it to.

Its critics talk of its propaganda impact as if wars are fought by dispassionate robots rather than soldiers, workers and politicians with all the irrational cauldron of human emotions. Propaganda, as Churchill knew so well, is as much a part of war as killing enemy soldiers.

The most important impact of the Dambusters raid may indeed have been in convincing people on both sides that the Allies were winning, and that, often, is how wars are won and lost.



The Duke

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#6 17-05-13 21:16:12

Evan
Administrator
Registered: 27-12-09
Posts: 2,058

Re: Dam Busters 70 years after the raids

Thanks Duke, good post.

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#7 18-05-13 05:51:35

MGM
Verified Member
From: Surrey
Registered: 24-10-11
Posts: 861

Re: Dam Busters 70 years after the raids

"Formed in 1936 with a mission to attack Hitler's Nazi Germany"

That would have been a truly far-sighted bit of preparation!

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#8 18-05-13 07:37:10

Triplea35
Verified Member
Registered: 28-09-12
Posts: 500

Re: Dam Busters 70 years after the raids

My father was a Sgt in the RAF during the war, for a period based in Burma. Their base was overrun and he was 'lost' in the jungle for 6 weeks. His parents even received the 'missing believed....' telegram. He died when I was 11 and to my recollection never spoke of his exploits to me. Its was only after his death that I found out his close friend 'Don' had been with him, had been stung and was very ill and my father had carried and cared for him.

Another close family friend 'Olly' who only died last year was a rear gunner in Lancasters. Upon my fathers death he acted as my 'mentor' for many years but again rarely if ever spoke of his experiences in the RAF. He was a successful engineer and the most pleasant and unassuming gent you could hope to meet. Only on/close to his death last year did some of his experiences come out.

On one mission his rear canopy was blown away and he had to wrap/tie himself round his gun and cling on for the return flight passing out and almost freezing to death.
He recovered and returned to his squadron. On returning from another mission another Lancaster landed on top of his own killing all his crew mates.

There were many 'silent heroes'

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