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Ruhr Valley Dams Raid
Lancaster ED924/G AJ - Y
F/Sgt C T Anderson, Sgt R C Paterson, Sgt J P Nugent, Sgt W D Bickle, Sgt A W Buck, Sgt G J Green, Sgt E Ewan
T/o Scampton 0015 landing 0530 Target Duty Diemel Dam - redirected to the - Sorpe
Was unable to reach target due to mist in the valleys, mine was returned to base.
Part of the station ORB for 16/17 May 1943
16/17 May 1943
The Dams Raid
617 Squadron was formed by W/Cdr G Gibson on 21st March 1943 from selected crews in 5 Group and the Squadron trained for 6 weeks for this special operation. 19 Lancasters were despatched in 3 waves, each aircraft armed with the special 'bouncing bomb' developed by Barnes Wallis for attacking Germandams. The entire operation was to be carried out at low level to escape attack from German night fightersand to release the bombs just above the water in the dams.
One aircraft had to return early after it struck the sea a glancing blow which tore off its bomb. 5 further aircraft were shot down or crashed before reaching their targets and one was so badly damaged by flak that it had to turn back. This left 12 Lancasters available to bomb the dams. W/Cdr Gibson's aircraft and 4 other crews bombed the Mohne Dam and brached it despite intense fire from light flak defending the dam. 3 aircraft went ton to bomb the Eder Dam and 1 the Schwelme Dam but without causing breaches in their walls. The twelth surviving aircraft could not find its target in misty conditions and returned to England without dropping its bomb. 3 further Lancasters were shot down after they had bombed.
Total casualties were 8 aircraft out of 19 dispatched. It is estimated that 4 were shot by light flak, 1 crashed after being damaged by the explosion of its own bomb, two crashed after hitting electricity cables and 1 after striking a treewhen its pilot was dazzled by searchlight. Of the 56 crew members in these planes, 53 were killed and only 3 became prisoners of war. 2 of them being badly injured. For his leadershp of this amazing operation and for his courage in attacking flak positions at the Mohne Dam after carrying out his own bombing run Wing Commander Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross. 34 other men recieved decorations.
The breaching of the Mohne and Eder Dams were a major achievements. The Mohne reservoir contained nearly 140 milion tons of water and was the major source of supply for the industrial Ruhr 20 miles away. The water released caused widespread flooding and disruption of rail, road and canal communications and of supply of electricity and water. The water supply network was particlary affected by the silting up of pumping stations by the flood water. It is not possible to state the effect of all this upon industrial production in precise terms but there was certainly some disruption and water rationing was in force until the winter rains came and filled the reservoirs again.
The Eder was even larger than the Mohne, containing 210 million tons of water. but it was 60 miles away from the Ruhr. The city of Kassel, 25 miles away, and the inland waterways system in the Kassel area, were more affected by the attack on the Eder than was the Ruhr area. The German view is that if the aircraft which which were allocated to the Eder had been switched to the Sorpe Dam, the effect upon the Ruhr's industrial production would have been extremely serious. But the Sorpe's construction was of a nature which made it a difficult target for the Wallis bomb, hence its low priority in the raid. The Sorpe reservoir just managed to keep the Ruhr supplied with water until the Mohne Dam was repaired.
The nunber of people drowne has been calculated at 1,294, most of them near the Mohne Dam. The town of Neheim-Husten, which was situated 5 miles downstream of the Mohne Dam took the full impact of the flood and at least 859 people died there. By one of those tragedies which periodically struck foreign workers and prisoners of war whose camps were near targets in Germany, 493 foreigners - mostly Ukrainian women landworkers - died in their camp at Neheim-Husten. It is believed that 58 or more of the dead were around the Eder dam. The total number of dead s quoted at 1,294 - was a record fro a raid on Germany, easily exceeding the 693 people killed at Dortmund in a raid earlier in May in which 596 aircraft took part.
Minor operations: 9 mosquitoes to Berlin, Cologne, Dusselforf and Munster, 54 aircraft minelaying pf Biscayports and the Frisians, 4 O.T.U. sorties 1 Wellington minelaying lost.
The Bomber Command War Diaries
By Middlebrook & Everitt
16/17 May 1943