I can’t believe no one has posted about the recent 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid on 16th May, so it falls to me.
The debate about how effective the raid was still goes on today but what cannot be questioned is the skill and courage of those who carried out the raid. It has echoes in the Black Buck raids some forty years later but without the loss of life incurred in 1943; and the loss of life was considerable both on the ground and for the RAF – fully half the aircrew were lost. Saying that, this casualty rate was the same in Bomber Command throughout WW2.
I recall first reading about these raids as a child in the sixties; I was into Marvel and DC comics at the time but this was a story which, as they say, “You couldn’t make this up.” The lines between fantasy and reality were blurred in my young mind, so unbelieveable the raids seemed. Watch the video above again (and the one below) but this time imagine the bomber lower (just 60 feet up at bomb release); imagine it’s dead of night and oh – people are trying to kill you! No night vision goggles; no terrain following radar; no GPS.
And then there’s the actual conception of the raid. We’re going to launch a raid deep into the German industrial heartland, at night at very low level, to deliver a bomb designed to bounce on water over obstacles like torpedo nets, to nestle up against the sheer face of a dam (top spinning to maintain it’s position as it sinks) in the face of heavy triple A. And we’re going to perform this precision low level strike in a four engined bomber designed for high level carpet bombing! Must have kept the poor Health and Safety bloke up all night that one.
The following video puts you in the forward gunner’s position for the flypast. You would be forgiven for humming while you watch it. Dah dah dah dah da da da dah….