Operation Chastise - the Dambusters' Raid
17th May 1943: Casualties are high as RAF Bomber Command's 617 Squadron makes history - but the Germans move fast to make good the damage
On the evening of the 16th May nineteen Lancaster bombers from 617 Squadron had taken off headed for the dams that served the Ruhr in Germany’s industrial heartland. They faced many challenges in navigating to their specific targets in order to make very precise bomb runs at low level.
Terry was still checking the height. Joe and Trev began to raise their guns. The flak could see us quite clearly now. It was not exactly inferno. I have been through far worse flak fire than that; but we were very low.
Guy Gibson himself was to leave an incredible description1 of the final moments before his mine was released:
Terry turned on the spotlights and began giving directions - ‘Down-down-down. Steady-steady.’ We were then exactly sixty feet.
Pulford began working the speed; first he put on a little flap to slow us down, then he opened the throttles to get the air-speed indicator exactly against the red mark.
Spam began lining up his sights against the towers. He had turned the fusing switch to the 'ON' position. I began flying.
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