The Dambusters is arguably the most famous action of the Second World War. Officially known as Operation Chastise, it was on the evening of May 16 1943 that 133 airmen in 19 specially converted Lancaster bombers departed their base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire
Their mission was to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley in the centre of Germany’s industrial heartland.
The Dambuster Lancasters’ connections to the North West
They flew at a height of a mere 100ft all the way, and then attacked the dams at 60ft using the ‘bouncing bomb’. It was an incredibly dangerous mission and required the most experienced and dedicated airmen. It was an incredibly dangerous mission requiring the most experienced and dedicated airmen.
Two of the dams, the Möhne and Eder, were successfully breached, but eight of the Lancasters failed to return home and sadly 53 airmen lost their lives. The North West had a significant role to play. The Lancasters were made by Avro who had factories all over Manchester and the North West. Built in sections at their Chadderton factory, these were transported to Woodford in Cheshire where they were assembled, and test flown. The Dambuster Lancasters were all modified under strict security at Woodford.
15 of the airmen that took part that night came from around the North West and they famously honed their skills over the Derwent Dam in the nearby Peak District.
Dambuster 80th anniversary event
For the 80th anniversary of the audacious WW2 Dambuster raid, a large new display will open at the Avro Heritage Museum at Woodford in Cheshire.
The opening event is on Friday 12 May at 11:30am and will be opened by Norma Bagshaw, niece of Sgt Jack Marriott (one of the local Dambuster heroes who sadly lost his life during the raid). My research into the Dambusters story led to discussions with some of the leading experts on the subject and has resulted in a book which describes Jack’s life and the true details of what happened that night on the 16/17 May 1943.
The display will showcase unique artefacts including original ‘top secret’ drawings, a replica of the ‘bouncing bomb’, a diorama of the Möhne dam attack, and Norma’s family archive including letters from Guy Gibson, Associated British Picture Corporation, and a fragment of the actual Lancaster, Z-Zebra, in which Jack lost his life. It is the only piece of any of the 23 Dambuster Lancasters to return home.
In addition, there are Lancaster cockpit tours together with all the other museum exhibits, and I will also be giving a unique presentation on what really happened that night 80 years ago.
The Dambuster display will be available until the end of June. Ticket information is available here.