It is without a doubt a phrase that is well known; The Dambusters. Be that for one of the best war films ever produced, with my old friend Richard Todd (Click Here for More) taking the part of Guy Gibson or the epic achievements of a Royal Air Force squadron in May 1943.
Operation Chastise, the name of the operation, was an air attack on German dams during the night of 16–17 May 1943 by the RAF’s 617 Squadron; who were subsequently known as The Dambusters.
That night they used a specially developed Bouncing Bomb, often regarded as the first smart bomb, invented and developed by Barnes Wallis. The targets that night were The Möhne and Edersee Dams, both were breached, causing flooding of the Ruhr Valley, while the third dam, The Sorpe Dam, sustained only minor damage.
There have been arguments that the cost of the operation, with eight aircraft shot down out of nineteen with fifty-three aircrew killed and three aircrew taken prisoner, was a high cost and that the overall effect of the operation was limited. This can easily be argued as the dams, which took almost five years to build, were back in action after just five months, following an army of forced labour working day and night.
But there is one factor that we cannot measure in terms of military success – the moral factor.
The early summer of 1943 was bleak and dark for the nation and even if The Dambusters had limited military or tactical success, the moral factor for the armed forces and the nation was massive as it reinvigorated the war-time spirit and ultimately victory.