The 617 Squadron – the incredible story of Operation Chastise

Mohne dam after the attack

Guy Gibson’s aircraft was first to attack the Möhne at 12.28am, followed by Hopgood. Hopgood’s aircraft was hit by flak as it made its low-level run and was then caught in the blast of its own bomb, crashing shortly afterwards. Three crew members successfully abandoned the aircraft, but only two survived.

Gibson then bravely flew his aircraft across the dam to draw the flak away from Martin’s run. Martin dropped the third bomb despite his aircraft being damaged, but his attack was a success. Young then made a successful run, and Maltby followed shortly after, which resulted in the dam was breached.

Gibson, with Young accompanying, led Shannon, Maudslay and Knight to the Eder, but five aircraft had to drop their bombs before it was breached. Maudsley, Knight and Shannon pressed on towards target two, with Shannon’s plane making six separate unsuccessful runs before taking a break. Maudslay then made an attempt, but his bomb struck the top of the dam and the resulting blast severely damaged his aircraft. Shannon made another run and successfully dropped his bomb. Finally, Knight’s craft had a stab, dropped the bomb and the dam was breached.

Formation two consisted of five aircraft, piloted by Flt Lt Joe McCarthy, Flt Lt Les Munro, P/O Vernon Byers, P/O Geoff Rice and Flt Lt Norman Barlow. They were to attack the Sorpe, but weren’t as successful as the other formations. The approach proved more difficult than first thought with a church spire affecting the initial plans, and only McCarthy made it to the dam. His plane was joined later by two from formation three, but this dam wasn’t breached. Thick fog hampered efforts and although damage was caused, it wasn’t enough to render the dam useless.

Formation No. 3 was a reserve of sorts, consisting of five aircraft piloted by Flight Sergeant Cyril Anderson, Flt Sgt Bill Townsend, Flt Sgt Ken Brown, P/O Warner Ottley and P/O Lewis Burpee. The took off two hours later on 17 May, with a brief to either to bomb the main dams or to attack three smaller secondary target dams.

Of the 133 aircrew that took part, 53 men were killed. A further three became prisoners of war after one aircraft crashed. On the ground, 1,600 civilians were killed in the resulting flooding, 1000 of which were said to be Soviet prisoners forced into labour. The raid was a success, although the impact on industrial production was limited, it gave a significant morale boost to the people of Britain.

Eder dam after the attack

The surviving members of 617 Squadron were rightly received as heroes, and Guy Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the raid. The operation established 617 Squadron as a specialist precision bombing unit, experimenting with new bomb sights and target marking techniques.

75 years on the legend and legacy lives on, as it always should. Sometimes I hear criticism that our fans have taken the name of the 617 squadron, but I see it as a mark of respect. I do hope each and every one of them reads this, those that don’t already know, so they fully understand exactly who they are representing and why we are so proud of having such a brave and courageous group of men attached to our city.

Guy Penrose Gibson, VC.jpg
Guy Gibson VC – By Royal Air Force official photographer Stannus (F/O) – This is photograph CH 13618 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain,

Below is a list of the 133 men who took part in those daring raids, with links to completedambusters.com for more information. Today, 75 years on, why not pick one of these brave men and share his biography on your own social media pages. Pick the one closest to your name alphabetically maybe, or if you’ve seen one posted already chose one of the more obscure names. Whatever you do, please share one. That way, from pilots to wireless operators, we will remember them all.

Allatson, Daniel
Anderson, Cyril Thorpe
Appleby, Frank Ernest
Arthur, James Lamb
Astell, William
Barlow, Robert Norman George
Barrett, Jack Kenneth
Batson, Ronald
Bickle, William Douglas
Bolitho, Richard
Brady, Joseph Gordon
Brennan, Christopher Charles
Brown, Kenneth William
Buck, Arthur William
Buckley, Jack
Burcher, Anthony Francis
Burgess, Philip Sidney
Burns, Stephen
Burpee, Lewis Johnstone
Burrows, Norman Rupert
Byers, Vernon William
Chalmers, George Alexander
Chambers, Leonard
Clay, James Henry
Cottam, Alden Preston
Deering, George Andrew
Earnshaw, Kenneth
Eaton, Leonard
Ewan, Eric
Feneron, Harry Basil
Fort, John
Foxlee, Bertie Towner
Franklin, Charles Ernest
Fraser, John William
Fuller, Michael John David
Garbas, Francis Anthony
Garshowitz, Abram Albert
Gibson, Guy Penrose
Gillespie, Alan
Glinz, Harvey Sterling
Goodale, Brian
Gowrie, Chester Bruce
Grayston, Raymond
Green, Gilbert John
Gregory, George Henry Ford Goodwin
Guterman, Jack
Hatton, William
Hay, Robert Claude
Heal, Dudley Percy
Henderson, Robert
Hewstone, Herbert John
Hill, Victor
Hobday, Harold Sydney
Hopgood, John Vere
Hopkinson, Donald
Horsfall, David Taylor
Howard, Cecil Lancelot
Howarth, William
Hutchison, Robert Edward George
Ibbotson, Wilfred
Jagger, Brian
Jarvie, Charles McAllister
Jaye, Thomas
Johnson, Edward Cuthbert
Johnson, George Leonard
Johnston, Thomas Barr
Kellow, Robert George Thomas
Kinnear, John
Knight, Leslie Gordon
Leggo, Jack Frederick
Liddell, Jack Robert George
Long, William Charles Arthur
McCarthy, Joseph Charles
MacCausland, Vincent Sanford
McDonald, Grant
McDowell, James
Macfarlane, Richard
MacLean, Donald Arthur
Maltby, David John Hatfeild
Marriott, Jack
Marsden, Ronald
Martin, Harold Brownlow
Maudslay, Henry Eric
Maynard, Thomas William
Minchin, John William
Munro, John Leslie
Nichols, Lawrence William
Nicholson, Vivian
Nugent, John Percival
O’Brien, Henry Earl
Oancia, Stefan
Ottley, Warner
Paterson, Robert Campbell
Pegler, Guy
Pigeon, Percy Edgar
Powell, Dennis John Dean
Pulford, John
Radcliffe, William Gordon
Rice, Geoffrey
Roberts, Charles Walpole
Rodger, David
Rumbles, Francis Grant
Shannon, David John
Simmonds, Harold Thomas
Simpson, Thomas Drayton
Smith, Edward Clarence
Spafford, Frederick Michael
Stone, Antony Joseph Bazeley
Strange, Harry
Sumpter, Leonard Joseph
Sutherland, Frederick
Taerum, Harlo Torger
Taylor, Alastair
Tees, Frederick
Thrasher, John William
Townsend, William Clifford
Trevor-Roper, Richard Dacre
Tytherleigh, William John
Urquhart, Robert Alexander
Walker, Daniel Revie
Warner, James Herbert
Webb, Douglas Edward
Weeks, Harvey Alexander
Weller, Leonard George
Whillis, Samuel Leslie
Whitaker, Arthur Neville
Whittaker, Ivan
Wile, Floyd Alvin
Wilkinson, John
Wilkinson, Raymond
Williams, Charles Rowland
Yeo, Gordon Arthur
Young, Henry Melvin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this article Gary. Really important that people hear about the bravery of this group of men. My grandfather joined 617 shortly after the raid and got to know some of those named very well. He was involved in many other events with the squadron including the bombing of the battleship Tirpitz and also the controversial raids over cities like Dresden and Cologne. I am sure that all had a big impact on him and his fellow airmen. He passed away back in 1979 but I still have very fond memories of him. He was very proud of serving in the RAF. Did not like football though!

  2. Good that you have said about commemorate not celebrate here. I am probably on my own on this but I feel it is time to
    Leave the war behind in terms of a celebration. When I see Lincoln City memes with Lancasters on it, it is invoking that we “won” and there is a parallel with us winning. Firstly it makes the war effort and the sacrifice feel trite, secondly are we not past all that “we won the war” stuff? My abiding memory at the Germany v England game in South Africa will forever be the camera lingering on two lads dressed in RAF uniform down beat at 4-1 and the German fans chuckling at the big screen behind us.
    Be proud of the brave service men and women. But for me I think it should be left well away from the club. That is not how I would think it should be commemorated. I wouldn’t expect a US team to have Enola Gay emblazoned on their team shirt in pride at their plane ending the war with Japan. There is solemn respect for the act and loss of life.

    Sure I am in a minority and I am not telling people what to do and nor would I expect them to listen. Just airing my thought about it as someone who wouldn’t be here had RAF Scampton not existed in 1944 when the US Air Force came over… and a lincoln fan

    Ps fabulous piece as ever

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