Marking the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid
Today we remember the 80th anniversary of Operation Chastise, popularly known as the Dambusters Raid.
A ‘bouncing bomb’ devised British aircraft designer Barnes Wallis consisted of a depth charge which could bounce along the surface water of a dam before sinking against the wall and exploding.
In order for the ‘bouncing bombs’ to be successful, they needed to be dropped at a height of 18 metres and a speed of 370 kilometres per hour. This required a great deal of skill and incredible bravery.
In March 1943, Wing Commander Guy Gibson formed Squadron 617 to carry out Operation Chastise, one of the best-known aerial operations of the Second World War. The squadron was made up of veteran and new airmen from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
On 16 May 1943, 19 Lancaster bombers and 133 airmen, including 13 Australians, set off in three waves to bomb four dams in Germany’s industrial heartland, the Ruhr Valley. The Möhne and Eder dams were struck and eventually collapsed during the attack. Sorpe Dam was hit three times but not breached, and Bever Dam sustained very minor damage from the attack.
Of the 19 Lancasters and 133 men who set out on the mission, only 11 bombers and 77 aircrew returned. Even with such heavy losses, the operation was considered a success, with the survivors hailed as heroes in the Allied press.
The 13 Australians who took part in the Dambusters Raid included Harold ‘Mick’ Martin, who was considered one of the finest bomber pilots of the Second World War. Two Australians died during the attack, and another was captured and would remain a prisoner of war in a German prison camp until the end of the Second World War.
We pay tribute to the Australian and Allied airmen who took part in the daring Dambusters Raid, and especially to those who did not return.
To find more information about Australians in the British Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command during the Second World War, visit the Anzac Portal.
(Image: The Eder Dam after it was breached by bouncing bombs dropped by specially modified Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron RAF. AWM)