The Mohne dam in north-west Germany, pictured before the attacks, was broken after five planes dropped “bouncing bombs”. Source: ‘Secret’ Dambusters photos go under hammer – BBC News

A number of earlier posts related to the New Croton Dam and co-incidentally this post too deals with dams, specifically a raid during World War II (WWII) officially called Operation Chastise, but which to many of us is better known as just “The Dambusters” after the book by Paul Brickhill and the 1955 film. When I read about the sale of these photographs it brought back a flood of memories.

A set of rare photographs showing the impact of the Dambusters’ “bouncing bomb” raids have been sold at auction.The raids by 19 RAF Lancaster bombers destroyed two strategically significant German dams and damaged a third.Taken by the Nazi authorities before and after the raids – on 16 and 17 May 1943 – the aerial images are stamped “Secret Command Document”.The photographs were sold in Nottingham for £2,100 – considerably more than the list price of £1,200.As well as the time and date of the images, they also carry a warning forbidding them to be copied.


I was born only a few years after the end of WWII and the war was still very much a part of the British psyche at that time. My father had been a soldier in the British army and my mother had worked in a munitions factory. As a child I was enthralled by the war, particularly the Royal Air Force (RAF). The story of The Dambusters is, along with the Battle of Britain, one of the most compelling stories of the RAF during WWII.


The crew of Lancaster ED285/’AJ-T’ sitting on the grass, posed under stormy clouds. Left to right: Sergeant G Johnson; Pilot Officer D A MacLean, navigator; Flight Lieutenant J C McCarthy, pilot; Sergeant L Eaton, gunner. In the rear are Sergeant R Batson, gunner; and Sergeant W G Ratcliffe, engineer. Label: Flight Lieutenant Joe McCarthy (fourth from left) and his crew of No. 617 Squadron (The Dambusters) at RAF Scampton, 22 July 1943. Royal Air Force official photographer – This is photograph TR 1128 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums

The picture above shows one the crews participating in the raid. The figure on the far left is Sergeant George “Johnny” Johnson. At 95 he’s that last British survivor of Operation Chastise. For an interesting 2014 Daily Telegraph interview with him see: The last British Dambuster: ‘Don’t call me a hero’.

My friends and I were fascinated by World War II aircraft. We even went as far as going up onto the nearby moors to look for the remains of aircraft that had crashed there during the war. Of course the Supermarine Spitfire, the hero of The Battle of Britain was a favorite, but I think we were even more taken by the aircraft used in this raid: The Avro Lancaster (see below). I recall that one of my friends had a huge book, lavishly illustrated, that gave details of every variant of Lancaster ever made.


Lancaster B Mk.I drawing with extra side views for the B Mk.I (Special) with Grand Slam bomb, Hercules-powered B Mk.II with bulged bomb bay doors and FN.64 ventral turret and the B Mk.III (Special) with the Upkeep store. Source: Emoscopes – Own work

Leave a Reply