The Dambuster Raid

The Dambuster Raid – Operation Chastise (16th – 17th May 1943)

Dambusters-opening-shots

On the night of 16th May 1943 (almost 70 years to the day of this publication), _40035103_dambusters238Royal Air Force elite squadron 617 led by, Wing Commander Guy Gibson (VC) began Operation Chastise. Their mission – destroy the Ruhr Valley dams, Germany using Dr. Barnes Wallis’ ingenious bouncing bombs.

This new bouncing bomb was designed to destroy Axis dams. It was a remarkable solution to attacking Germany’s industrial heart, flooding the Ruhr Valley, which in turn, affected vital electricity supplies, steel factories, bridges and rail lines.

Dr. Pye chaired and formed the Air Attack on Dams Committee. They decided the main target would be the Möhne Dam which enclosed the Möhne and Hedve rivers.

Before the bouncing bomb was thought of, trials for attacking the dams began in 1941 when Assistant Chief Designer, Dr. Barnes Wallis, who was

Barnes-Wallis

Barnes-Wallis

employed by the Vickers Aircraft Company, completed his 50 page paper called, “A Note On The Method Of Attacking The Axis Powers in which he planned to build a 10 ton bomb (9.8 long tons and 11 short tons) . Never before had such a huge bomb been built and many believed that Wallis was delusional and furthermore, no plane was large enough to carry such a bomb. However, he stated that if the bomb was dropped from 40,000 feet, no building would stand the impact during an aerial attack, even if underground as it would travel 135 feet into surface or water. And any building that didn’t take a direct hit would feel the impact of the energy and also be shaken in this earth shattering knock on effect. Pinpoint targeting would no longer be an issue.

July 1941, the Air Attack on Dams Committee concluded: ‘There seems to be no doubt that an attack on the Möhne Dam is impracticable with existing weapons.’

Barnes Wallis had to think of another plan. A torpedo type bomb was not an option as anti-torpedo nets protected the dam. The idea of the bouncing bomb came to Wallis during a family holiday as they were walking along the beach and skipping stones across the water. Wallis later experimented with his children’s marbles on the outside terrace of his home – flicking the marbles into the flowerbeds. He called his idea, ‘childishly simple’.

He believed by using a drum shaped, bouncing bomb this would clear the anti-torpedo nets and hit the dam wall. If a hydrostatic fuse (like the ones found in-depth charges) were used, it would ensure the bomb, after hitting the dam wall and travelling downwards into the water, would explode at 30 feet beneath the dam.

Code Name – Upkeep

Wallis received permission to develop the bomb, which was code-named, Upkeep. The 50″ diameter, 60″ long bomb was designed so that it could be secured across the bomb bay of a Lancaster. It was worked out with precision that the plane had to be flying at 60 feet above water and travelling at a speed of 220 mph before releasing the bomb . The bomb weighed 9,250 Ib and of that weight, 6,600 lbs was from the powerful TNT and RDX explosive alone.  A very simple tool was designed that lined up the lights on the dam and told them when to release the bomb. It was spun using a stick and a system of V-shaped pivots. Attached to the pivots was a small motor which was built into the bomb bay.

What caused the bomb to bounce?

Bouncing Bomb

Bouncing Bomb

On approaching the target the bomb spun up to 500 rpm. The backwards spin caused the bomb to bounce as it hit the water. This, together with the angle it hit the water at, would determine the length of each bounce.

Dambuster Raid – Code name – Chastise

During Upkeep’s development, Gibson was ordered to pick an elite set of men who each had experience of around 60 bombing raids. The squadron took part in extensive low flying, practice runs for eight weeks before the raid, which was code named, Operation Chastise. They were not told the location of the attack until the actual night.

Only three days before the raid, the Upkeep weapon was tested. After trials which revealed that the casing broke on impact, the bomb’s casing was scrapped and it was finally ready.

On the night of the dambuster raid, bomb aimer, Johnny Johnston (still alive) stated in a recent interview, that the feeling among men before this unprecedented mission was of complete apprehension. Most of the men believed they would not return. However, 19 Lancaster bombers (five of these held in reserve) took off from RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire runway – flew across the flat-lands of Lincolnshire and towards the north sea. From there, they traveled east across Europe and into the hostile territory of Germany. Johnston said that when they arrived at the dams, the night sky was lit by brilliant moonlight.

Squadron 617 had three main targets: the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams. There were also two secondary targets, which were the Lister dam and the Eneppe dam.

Möhne Dam - Breached

Möhne Dam – Breached

Dambuster Raid Fact File:

Möhne Dam – First Wave

(AJ-G ‘George’) Crew of the first Lancaster bomber to attack Möhne Dam:

Pilot: Wing Cdr – Guy Penrose Gibson (VC, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – John Pulford (DFM)

Navigator: Plt Off – Torger Harlo Taerum (DFC)

Wireless Operator: Flt Lt – Robert Edward George Hutchison (DFC)

Bomb Aimer: Plt Off – Frederick Michael Spafford (DFC, DFM)

Front Gunner: Flt Sgt – Andrew Deering (DFC)

Rear Gunner: Flt Lt – Richard Algenon Dacre Trevor-Roper (DFC, DFM)

Outcome of this attack: The mine failed to breach the dam exploding short of it. Returned 17th 04:15

***

(AJ-M ‘Mother’) Crew of the second bomber to attack Möhne Dam:

Pilot: Flt Lt – John Vere Hopgood (DFC & Bar)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Charles Brennan

Navigator: Flg Off – Ken Earnshaw

Wireless Operator: Sgt – John W Minchin

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt – James W Fraser

Front Gunner: Plt Off – George Henry Ford Goodwin Gregory (DFM)

Rear Gunner: Plt Off – Anthony Fisher Burcher (DFM)

Outcome of this attack: Mine was released too late and bounced over dam. Plane was hit by flak and after hitting power station on other side of dam, it crashed into a field three miles away. Two survivors, Fraser and Burcher, who became prisoners of war.

***

(AJ-P ‘Popsie’) Crew of  the third bomber to attack Möhne Dam:

Pilot: Flt Lt – Harold Brownlow Morgan Martin (DFC, DSO)

Flight Engineer: Plt Off – Ivan Whittaker

Navigator: Flt Lt – Jack Frederick Leggo (DFC & bar)

Wireless Operator: Flg Off – Leonard Chambers (DFC)

Bomb Aimer: Flt Lt – Robert Claude Hay (DFC & bar)

Front Gunner: Plt Off – Bertie Towner Foxlee (DFM)

Rear Gunner: Flt Sgt – Thomas Drayton Simpson (DFM)

Outcome of this attack: Mine veered left after dropping and exploded at side of dam. Returned 17th 03:19

***

(AJ-A ‘Apple’) Crew of the fourth bomber to attack Möhne Dam:

Pilot: Sqn Ldr – Henry Melvin Young (DFC & Bar)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – David Taylor Horsfall

Navigator: Flt Sgt – Charles Walpole Roberts

Wireless Operator: Sgt – Laurence William Nichols

Bomb Aimer: Flg Off- Vincent Sandford MacCausland

Front Gunner: Sgt – Gordon Arthur Yeo

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Wilfred Ibbotson

Outcome of this attack: Although this Aircraft crashed on its return flight over the Dutch coast, their mine hit accurately, which caused a small breach. No survivors.

***

(AJ-J ‘Johnny’) Crew of the fifth bomber to attack Möhne Dam:

Pilot: Flt Lt – David John Maltby (DFC, DSO)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – William Hatton

Navigator: Sgt – Vivian Nicholson (DFM)

Wireless Operator: Sgt – Anthony Joseph Stone

Bomb Aimer: Plt Off – John Fort (DFC)

Front Gunner: Sgt – Victor Hill

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Harold Thomas Simmonds

Outcome of this attack: Part of dam collapsed after mine dropped on target. Returned 17th 03:11

***

Eder Dam – First Wave

(AJ-L ‘Leather’) Crew of the first aircraft to bomb the Eder Dam:

Pilot: Flt Lt – David John Shannon (DFC, DSO)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Robert Jack Henderson

Navigator: Flg Off – Daniel Revie Walker (DFC)

Wireless Operator: Flg Off – Brian Goodale (DFC)

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt – Leonard Joseph Sumpter (DFM)

Front Gunner: Sgt – Brian Jagger

Rear Gunner: Flg Off – Jack Buckley (DFC)

Outcome of this attack: Accurate hit but no breach. Returned 17th 04:06

***

(Lancaster AJ-Z – ‘Zebra’) Crew of the second bomber to attack Eder Dam:

Pilot: Sqn Ldr – Henry Eric Maudslay (DFC)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – John Marriott (DFM)

Navigator: Flg Off – Robert Alexander Urquhart (DFC)

Wireless Operator: WO – Alen Preston Cottam

Bomb Aimer: Plt Off – Michael John David Fuller

Front Gunner: Flg Off – William John Tytherleigh (DFC)

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Norman Rupert Burrows

Outcome of this attack: Overshot of bomb. Lancaster was shot down on return flight. No Survivors.

***

(AJ-B ‘Baker’) Crew of this Lancaster never reached their destination, crashing into German pylon on 17th at 12:15

Pilot: Flt Sgt – William Astell (DFC)

Navigator: Plt Off – Flloyd Alkwin Wile

Bomb Aimer: Flg Off – Donald Hopkinson

Flight Engineer: Sgt – John Kinnear

Wireless Operator: WO – Abram Garshowitz

Front Gunner: Flt Sgt – Francis Antony Garbas

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Richard Bolitho

Outcome: Plane crashed. No survivors.

***

(AJ-N – ‘Nut”) Crew of the third bomber to attack Eder Dam:

Pilot: Plt Off – Leslie Gordon Knight (DSO)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Raymond Earnest Grayston

Navigator: Flg Off – Harold Sidney Hobday (DFC)

Wireless Operator: Flt Sgt – Robert George Thomas Kellow

Bomb Aimer: Flg Off – Edward Cuthbert Johnson (DFC)

Front Gunner: Sgt – Frederick E Sutherland

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Harry E O’Brien

Outcome of this attack: Breach caused due to perfect mine drop. Returned 17th 04:20

***

Sorpe Dam – Second Wave

(AJ-T ‘Tommy’) Crew of first bomber to attack Sorpe Dam:

Pilot: Flt Lt – (RCAF) Joseph Charles McCarthy (DFC, DSO)

Navigator: Flg Off – (RCAF) Donald Arthur MacLean (DFM)

Bomb Aimer: Sgt – George Leonard Johnston (DFM)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – William Radcliffe

Wireless Operator: Flt Sgt – Leonard Eaton

Front Gunner: Sgt – Ronald Batson

Rear Gunner: Flg Off – (RCAF) David Rodger

Outcome of attack: Bombed Sorpe Dam 17th 00:46. Failed hit. Returned 17th 03:23

***

(AJ-E ‘Easy’) Crew of second bomber to attack Sorpe Dam:

Pilot: Flt Lt – (RAAF) Robert Norman George Barlow (DFC)

Navigator: Flg Off – Phillip Sidney Burgess

Bomb Aimer: Plt Off – Alan Gillespie (DFM)

Flight Engineer: Plt Off – Samuel Leslie Wallis

Wireless Operator: Flg Off – (RCAF) Charles Rowland Williams (DFC)

Front Gunner: Flg Off – (RCAF) Harvey Stirling Glinz

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Jack Robert George Liddell

Outcome of attack: Lancaster crashed before reaching destination near Haldern, Germany at approx 23:58. Aircraft is thought to have hit power cables. No survivors.

***

(AJ-W ‘Willie’) Crew of third bomber to attack Sorpe Dam:

Pilot: Flt Lt – (RNZAF) John Leslie Munro

Navigator: Flg Off – Grant Rumbles

Bomb Aimer: Sgt – James Henry Clay

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Frank Ernest Appleby

Wireless Operator: Flg Off – (RCAF) Percy Edgar Pigeon

Front Gunner: Sgt – William Howarth

Rear Gunner: Flt Sgt – (RCAF) Harvey Alexander Weeks

Outcome of attack: Aircraft suffered electrical failure after being shot at over the Dutch coast. Mission aborted. Returned 17th 00:35

***

(AJ-K ‘King’) Crew of fourth bomber to attack Sorpe Dam:

Pilot: Plt Off – (RCAF) Vernon William Byers

Navigator: Flg Off – James Herbert Warner

Bomb Aimer: Plt Off – Arthur Neville Whittaker

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Alistair James Taylor

Wireless Operator: Sgt – John Wilkinson

Front Gunner: Sgt – Charles McAllister Jarvie

Rear Gunner: Flt Sgt – (RCAF) James McDowell

Outcome of attack: Lancastar hit by flak off Dutch coast 16th 23:00. No survivors.

***

(AJ-H ‘Harry’) Crew of fifth bomber to attack Sorpe Dam:

Pilot: Plt Off – Geoffrey Rice

Navigator: Flg Off – Richard MacFarlane

Bomb Aimer: WO – (RCAF) John William Thrasher

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Edward Clarence Smith

Wireless Operator: WO – (RCAF) Chester Bruce Gowrie

Front Gunner: Sgt – Thomas W Maynard

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Stephen Burns

Outcome of attack: Upkeep weapon fell out of aircraft after Rice clipped sea over the Dutch coast. Mission aborted. Returned 17th 00:46

***

Sorpe Dam and Secondary Dam, Ennepe – Third Wave

(AJ-C ‘Charlie’) Crew of first bomber to attack Sorpe Dam:

Pilot: Plt Off – Warner H T Ottley (DFC)

Navigator: Flg Off – Jack Kenneth Barrett (DFC)

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt – Thomas Barr Johnston

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Ronald Marsden (DFM)

Wireless Operator: Sgt – Jack Guterman (DFM)

Front Gunner: Sgt – Harry John Strange

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Frank Tees

Outcome of attack: While flying over Hamm, Germany aircraft was shot down 17th 02:35. One survivor, Frank Tees, who became a prisoner of war.

***

(AJ-S ‘Sugar’) Crew of second bomber to attack Sorpe Dam:

Pilot: Plt Off – (RCAF) Lewis Johnstone Burpee (DFM)

Navigator: Sgt – Thomas Jaye

Bomb Aimer: Flt Sgt – (RCAF) James Lamb Arthur

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Guy Pegler

Wireless Operator: Plt Off – Leonard George Weller

Front Gunner: Sgt – William Charles Arthur Long

Rear Gunner: WO – (RCAF) Joseph Gordon Brady

Outcome of attack: While flying over Gilz-Rijen airfield the aircraft was shot down 17th 02:00. No survivors.

***

(AJ-F ‘Freddie’) Crew of third bomber to attack Sorpe Dam:

Pilot: Flt Sgt – (RCAF) Kenneth William Brown (CGM)

Navigator: Sgt – Dudley Percy Heal (DFM)

Bomb Aimer: Sgt – (RCAF) Stefan Oancia (DFM)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Harry Basil Feneron

Wireless Operator: Sgt – Harry J Hewstone

Front Gunner: Sgt – Daniel Allatson

Rear Gunner: Flt Sgt – (RCAF) Grant S MacDonald

Outcome of attack: 03:14 Upkeep weapon hit dam, but did not breach. Returned 17th 05:33

 ***

(AJ-O ‘Orange’) Crew of fourth bomber attacked secondary target – Ennepe Dam:

Pilot: Flt Sgt – William Clifford Townsend (DFM, CGM)

Navigator: Plt Off – (RAAF) Cecil Lancelot Howard (DFC)

Bomb Aimer: Sgt – Charles Ernest Franklin (DFM)

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Dennis John Dean Powell

Wireless Operator: Flt Sgt – George Alexander Chalmers (DFM)

Front Gunner: Sgt – Douglas Edward Webb (DFM)

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Raymond Wilkinson (DFM)

Outcome of attack: Attacked Ennepe but did not breach. Last aircraft to return 17th 06:15

 ***

(AJ-Y ‘York’) Last crew of wave three to attack Sorpe Dam:

Pilot: Flt Sgt – Cyril Thorpe Anderson

Navigator: Sgt – John Percival Nugent

Bomb Aimer: Sgt – John Gilbert Green

Flight Engineer: Sgt – Robert Campbell Patterson

Wireless Operator: Sgt – William Douglas Bickle

Front Gunner: Sgt – Eric Ewan

Rear Gunner: Sgt – Arthur William Buck

Outcome of attack: Did not manage to attack a target. Returned with Upkeep weapon 17th 05:30

The dambuster raid made Wing Commander Gibson a national hero and he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

33 others in the squadron also received medals. But the downside to the attack was the loss of 56 men, three of whom were taken as prisoners.

The men who lost their lives, not only during Operation Chastise, but throughout WWII fought for our freedom and they will never be forgotten as long as we continue to tell their story.

 

Designatory letters after crew’s names:

CGM – Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Awarded for acts of gallantry during active flying service against the enemy).

DFC – Distinguished Flying Cross (Awarded to people for acts of valour during active flying service against the enemy).

DFM – Distinguished Flying Medal (Similar to the DFC, for acts of courage and valour during active flying service).

DSO - Distinguished Service Order (British Military decoration for distinguished service in action).

VC – Victoria Cross (Highest military decoration for devotion to country and great acts of courage).

Article by, Jacqui Stevens, with contributions from Scott Thompson. Copyright May 2013

Sources:

www.breakingthedams.com/Resources/Chastise%20crew%20list.pdf

Various books…to be added shortly

Read About The Avro 683 Lancaster Bomber

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6 Responses to The Dambuster Raid

  1. Carl Plummer says:

    Jacqui and Scott, this is an interesting article. Thanks for the reminder about the famous dam buster’s raid. I hope it is being commemorated in London. I remember watching the film as a child. Will read up more on the topic now. I also like the look of ‘Before the Unpleasantness’ and will check out Amazon, perhaps my local Waterstone’s. I hope this story is picked up by TV producers. All the best. Carl.

  2. Michael says:

    This is one of the best articles on the Dambusters raid I’ve seen, lots of interesting facts and well written. Very poignant to read the crew’s names and the one’s that did not survive the attack. It makes you realise how difficult an operation this was.

  3. nissan sunny says:

    Great blog right here! Additionally your web site loads up fast! What web host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate hyperlink in your host? I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

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