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|"They too, were
By : Deborah Susan Jones : Editor
It was not just Guy Gibson and crew who faced extraordinary dangers on the infamous Dams Raid, there were other ways to risk death apart from enemy flak, other ways that low-level flying could shorten your life expectancy.
One crew's brush with the unexpected . . . .
A new departure: a night raid, to be flown at extremely low altitude and navigating at zero feet. Operation Chastise was the first of many hazardous missions undertaken by 617 squadron - to breach the Eder, Sorpe, Mohne and Ennepe dams, situated in South Westphalia. To strike at the very heart of Germany’s armaments industry; to disrupt output from the Ruhr, her most important industrial region. This was the mission for which 617 Squadron had been formed and rigorously trained.
Also and specifically for this purpose Barnes Wallis had designed a new and most secret weapon known as “Upkeep” or bouncing mine. 19 Lancaster bombers were modified and adapted to carry this new weapon, having no upper gun turret or bomb doors and extensive alterations to the bomb bays.
Peter Andrew Jones' painting depicts aircraft AJ-H (ED936/G), the fourth aircraft in the second wave, flown by Pilot Officer G. Rice, which suffered a most extraordinary accident while still en route to the target and survived to limp back sad and dejected to RAF Scampton, where the Squadron was based.
The second wave had been detailed to attack the Sorpe dam, flying in loose formation and crossing the enemy coast by the northern route as a diversion, splitting and confusing the German defenses.
FAILURE OF “GEE"
Although flying conditions appear to have been well-nigh perfect, accurate navigation was a problem: not only was it easy to stray off-course flying entirely alone at night and at extremely low altitude, but once inside the Zuber Zee the water was dark and flat - absolutely treacherous for judging height (The artist has used license here for dramatic effect). GEE (see above) had failed and lured too low, aircraft met water with inevitable and shattering results.
The crew felt the aircraft shudder twice, the first violent impact apparently causing buckling in the panels of the main section of the fuselage, tearing the belly out of the Lancaster. The bomb, wrenched from its moorings, hit the fixed tail wheel, driving it through the main spar of the tailplane.
A sudden deluge of cold seawater inside the aircraft came as something of a shock to the crew, followed by general confusion and consternation. However, the damage was done. The bomb gone, it was no-longer feasible to continue. Their role in Operation Chastise has been abruptly and uncompromisingly written out of the script . . . . . . .
Deborah Susan Jones : Editor
ZUIDER ZEE : Former inlet of the North Sea, northeastern Nederlands. A drainage project (begun 1920) separated the inlet from the sea by a dyke (completed 1932), dividing it into IJSSELMEER and the WADDENZEE.
CHASTISE : Codename for operation against German dams with Upkeep.
UPKEEP : Codename for large bouncing mine or revolving depth charge for use in Lancaster.
GEE : navigational aid.