Snow marks Dambusters anniversary
Published 21/03/2013 | 13:52
Broadcaster Dan Snow has taken to the skies in an RAF fast jet to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid.
The historian, togged up in standard-issue flight suit, took his seat in the Tornado that had its tail especially painted with a Dambusters logo to mark the occasion.
Mr Snow was at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, from where he was flown around northern England to see some of the dams the crew trained on, to help keep alive the memory of the daring raid during the Second World War.
In May 1943, 133 men in 19 aircraft took off. Nine were to attack the Mohne dam, then proceed to the Eder; five were to attack the Sorpe; and five constituted a flying reserve.
They carried a small bomb known as the bouncing bomb, designed by aeronautical designer Dr Barnes Wallis, who calculated that small bombs dropped accurately at the foot of a dam could have a devastating effect on heavy industry. This was the task of the specialist 617 Squadron in their Lancaster bombers.
A total of 53 airmen, who only had 11 weeks from go-ahead for the project to execution, were killed during the course of the raid and three were made prisoners of war. Two dams were destroyed and one damaged.
The raid has become the stuff of legend not only because of the bravery of the airmen involved, but also because it is widely considered to have been incredibly damaging to Germany's war effort.
Mr Snow said: "The Dambusters raid is so important because of what it represented. It was a vital time in the war, the war was hanging in the balance, and the Dambusters raid showed that British and Commonwealth pilots with the right training, the right equipment, the right planning, could carry out the most devastating raid in the heart of Germany's industrial heartland.
"It was so exciting at the time - it lifted everyone's morale and in retrospect it did a great deal of damage to Germany's ability to continue the war.
"It was a disaster, in the words of one high German official at the time. It was a daring raid, it was well executed, and tragically almost half the people who went on that raid did not come back, so it's a tale of huge sacrifice as well."