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Preparation

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After instructing Wallis to prepare his bouncing bombs, Sir Charles Portal asked Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, Commander in Chief of Bomber Command to form a 'Special' Squadron from amongst his existing Air Groups to conduct the raid. Sir Arthur selected the 24 year old Wing Commander Guy Gibson DSO, DFC and Bar to command the new specially formed Squadron. 617 Squadron, as it was named, trained intensively for several weeks in low level, night flying and navigation. To successfully destroy the dams the Lancasters had to release the bouncing bomb at right-angles to the dam wall, from an altitude of 60 feet, at a speed of 220 mph, between 425 and 475 yards. Gibson was not told for some weeks of the exact details of Operation Chastise, as the mission was called. His squadron were not told the details until the night before the raids.

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For maximum effectiveness, the raids had to take place on a clear moonlit night to aid navigation and be as close to 19 May as possible as this was when the reservoirs were at their fullest. Tests for Barnes Wallis bomb took place at Reculver Bay in north Kent and were only completed one day before the raids actually took place on May 16.

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Gallery

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Aerial photograph of Möhne dam before the raid.
Catalogue reference: 29/276

 

Aerial photograph of Sorpe dam before the raid.
Catalogue reference: AIR 34/609

 

Lancaster modified for the dam raids.
Catalogue reference: AVIA 18/715

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Cover of Target folder for Möhne Dam.
Catalogue reference: CAB 34/609

 

Gibson's certificates of qualification as First Pilot.
Catalogue reference: AIR 4/37

 

Guy Gibson's Pilots Flying Log Book.
Catalogue reference: AIR 4/37

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Lancaster modified for the dam raids with 'Upkeep' bomb attached.
Catalogue reference: AIR 14/840

 

Extract from Gibson's Pilot Flying Log pre-raids.
Catalogue reference: AIR 4/37

 

Badge of 617 Squadron, courtesy RAF.

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