The Dambusters is probably the most famous event of the Second World War and recently commemorated its 80th anniversary. This top-secret mission resulted in the breaching of two huge dams deep in the industrial heartland of Germany by 617 Squadron. A new film is currently being premiered around the country which describes the little-known attack on a third dam – the Sorpe.
The North West and Manchester are hugely significant in the Dambuster story. Lancasters were made in factories around Manchester and assembled at Woodford near Stockport where 23 special Lancasters were converted for the raid.
The ingenious bouncing bomb was made in Barrow and loaded with explosives in Chorley. Seven of the men who took part that night came from the North West including Len Eaton from Manchester who was the Radio Operator of the Lancaster that attacked the Sorpe Dam.
The Bomb Aimer of that aircraft was George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, the very last of the Dambusters who died in December 2022 at the age of 101, and it is he who narrates the film, describing how he with his aircrew battled against all the odds: switching aircraft at the very last moment, taking off late, struggling with navigational equipment problems, flying across a hostile enemy territory alone at a mere 100 feet, making attempt after attempt to release their bouncing bomb as low as possible using a bombing technique they had not practised beforehand.
The North West premiere of the film is being hosted by the Avro Heritage Museum at Poynton Workmen’s Club on Sunday 11 June at 5pm. The film will be followed by a Q&A session featuring the producer Andrew Panton together with a panel of experts including myself.