Lancaster fly-past marks Dambuster anniversary
Friday 16 May 2008
A Lancaster bomber swooped over a Peak District reservoir today to mark the 65th anniversary of the Dambusters raid.
The historic Lancaster - similar to the one used by the RAF's 617 Squadron to successfully bomb two German dams in 1943 - flew three times along the Derwent valley as the centrepiece of a thrilling flypast.
The Derwent dam was used by the Dambusters to train ahead of their mission to destroy three dams in Germany's Ruhr valley.
Today Squadron Leader Les Munro, the last surviving pilot from the mission codenamed Operation Chastise, was one of the guests of honour attending the service.
As the distinctive roar of the Lancaster's engines echoed across the lake, Squadron Leader Munro joined enthusiasts to relive memories of the daring raid, which used the celebrated "bouncing bomb" invented by Barnes Wallis.
Also taking part in the fly-past were a Spitfire, a Hurricane, two Tornado fighters from the present 617 Squadron, and a Dakota transport plane.
All the planes flew from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to take part in the anniversary fly-past, which was preceded by a special memorial service on top of the Derwent dam at 10am.
Squadron Leader Munro was accompanied by Michael Gibson, the nephew of Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who led the Dambusters.
During the service 88-year-old Richard Todd, who played the wing commander in the 1955 film The Dam Busters, laid poppies on the water of the reservoir.
On 16 May, 1943, 19 aircraft set out to destroy three dams in the Ruhr valley - the Mohne, the Eder and the Sorpe - and so damage a vital source of power to the key industrial area of Germany.
The mission was hailed a success after the Mohne and Eder were breached. But eight aircraft and 53 crew were lost during the raids.
The memorial service on top of the Derwent Dam was attended by about 80 VIP guests, many of whom were involved in the Dambusters mission.
Michael Gibson, 67, from Balsall Common in Warwickshire, a private investigator, is the nephew of Wing Commander Guy Gibson who led the Dambusters.
He said: "I think it's fantastic that something like this can be remembered 65 years later when so much of what happened during the war has been forgotten.
"People seem to be more and more interested every year.
"It was a one off raid that had an immediate result that everyone could relate to and when the film came out it was brilliant.
"I also like to think that perhaps this is a memory to all those unsung heroes of Bomber Command that never get remembered."
Squadron Leader Les Munro, 89, is the last surviving pilot of the Dambusters.
He said: "In a way it's very emotional. I'm not one to get emotional about things but it's very nice to be back here, I'm very pleased to have had the opportunity to attend.
"It does surprise me that people of subsequent generations take part in things like this but it's up to the individual how they react."
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