Dambusters Tour 2020 Part one - 'Take Off'
26-30 July 2020
DAMBUSTERS TOUR 2020 - PART ONE 'TAKE OFF'
Immerse yourself in the history of the Dambusters raid, one of the most remarkable military actions of World War II on land, sea or air and commemorate the gallant heroes of 617 Squadron with like-minded enthusiasts. The Dambusters Tour – Part One, takes you from the raid planning, through the weeks of intensive low-level training to the point of take-off on 16th May 1943 with our truly interactive and exclusive tour. We are offering you the once in a lifetime chance to take a taxi ride in one of the few remaining Lancaster's in the World. You will stay in the same hotel that 617 Squadron used as a base and drink in the same bar. As well as the taxi ride, your tour culminates in a flight over the actual dam where the Lancaster crews trained in early 1943.
The Dambusters Story
The night of 16th May 1943 was clear with a full moon, perfect conditions for the Dambusters raid, officially known as Operation Chastise. The specially modified Lancasters of 617 Squadron were despatched in three waves from RAF Scampton.
Wing Commander Guy Gibson led the first wave and attacked the Möhne Dam. The bombs had to be released from precisely 60 feet, at a speed of 220 - 240 m.p.h. His ‘Upkeep’ mine detonated successfully but failed to breach the dam. After two further unsuccessful attacks Squadron Leader Young's mine began to crack the dam and Flight Lieutenant Maltby delivered the coup de grace. Gibson meanwhile accompanied Young and Maltby on their approaches to divert the anti-aircraft fire from the dam towers onto himself and to allow his gunners to provide covering fire. He then radioed back to England the prearranged code word, indicating that the dam had been breached.
Wing Commander Gibson then led the remainder of his force to the Eder Dam which, although undefended, still required supreme flying skill to execute a successful attack. Although the first two mines failed to breach the dam, the third Lancaster was successful.
For his gallantry in this raid, Wing Commander Gibson received the Victoria Cross and 33 other members of the squadron were also decorated.
One of the 'Upkeep' bouncing bombs loaded onto W/Cdr Gibson’s modified Lancaster, ready for the raid
Our desire to create the most comprehensive Dambusters Tours available has led us to forge a relationship with arguably the most qualified historian and tour guide available. In 2020 we are pleased to announce that Dr. Robert Owen will be joining us throughout the tour and offering a wealth of information to enhance your experience.
Dr Owen is an aviation historian, author and the Official Historian of the No. 617 Squadron Association, and has served as a Trustee and former Chairman of the Barnes Wallis Foundation. After a career in international advertising and marketing he spent four years as a post-graduate research student with the Arms and Armour Research Institute of the University of Huddersfield. During this period he completed his doctoral research examining the determinants of policy for No. 617 Squadron 1943-45 and their relationship to the overall Bomber Offensive. He has also produced a biography of Sqn Ldr Henry Maudslay DFC, one of the pilots lost on the Dams Raid and was a lead contributor to “Dambusters – Failed to return” and a number of other works documenting the lives of some of those who flew, fought and died with Bomber Command. In over 50 years’ research Robert has met many of those who served with No. 617 Squadron, amongst them those who flew on Operation “Chastise” and subsequent operations during World War II.
He has assisted the authors of numerous authoritative books on the bomber offensive and the producers of a number of TV documentaries. He co-authored the RAF Museum publication “Breaching the German Dams” and contributed to “40 Year Winter” – recalling aspects of the Cold War. Other works include publications for the Keith Park Memorial Fund, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the RAF’s official publications commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, The 25th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict and Sir Frank Whittle’s first jet powered flight.
After helping to research two major biographies of former No. 617 Sqn commanders Wg Cdr Guy Gibson VC and Grp Capt Leonard Cheshire VC, Robert is currently assisting with a forthcoming biography of Barnes Wallis. He is also author of articles for magazines including “Aeroplane” and “Flypast” in addition to leading a number of specialist aviation tours. His recent projects include the production of additional narratives and notes for new editions of W/Cdr Gibson’s “Enemy Coast Ahead” and Leonard Cheshire’s “Bomber Pilot” in addition to assisting in the development of the RAF Museum’s virtual reality Dambusters experience.
Sunday. Your tour commences on Sunday morning as we get together in London ready for our premium coach ride to Lincolnshire. Check-in for the Dambusters Tour in the ‘601 Room’ at the RAF Museum, Hendon. We will have tea/coffee and biscuits available throughout the morning and there will be ample free time to visit the exhibition halls of the RAF Museum. Our first stop en-route to Lincolnshire is a visit to Duxford Aerodrome. Here we have a light lunch/afternoon tea planned, along with a secret (but very special) presentation and then free time to visit Duxford IWM. In the early evening we arrive at the Petwood, our hotel for the next three nights. From January 1944, the Petwood became the officers' quarters for 617 Squadron when they were based at the nearby Bomber Command airfield at Woodhall Spa. In the early evening we will get together for our welcome drinks reception followed by dinner.
Enjoy the splendour and history of the Dambusters 'local' during your 3-night stay at the Petwood Hotel
Monday. Today we take the opportunity to tour the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby. You will get to see the BBMF aircraft at close quarters and observe the skilled technicians keeping these historic warbirds in airworthy condition.
Enjoy a private guided tour of the Battle of Britain Memorial flight
On leaving the BBMF we make the short journey to Thorpe Camp Visitor Centre housed in buildings that were once part of No.1 Communal Site, RAF Woodhall Spa, built in 1941 with a planned life span of only 10 years!
RAF Woodhall Spa became operational in February 1942 as a heavy bomber airfield within 5 Group (Bomber Command). It was a satellite of RAF Coningsby and from January 1944 a sub-station of No.54 Base (Coningsby, Metheringham and Woodhall Spa).
617 Squadron operated from the airfield until the end of hostilities, pioneering the use of ultra-heavy bombs - the 12,000lb Tallboy and 22,000lb Grand Slam - both of which were used against special targets in operations from the airfield.