The aim was to destroy the great dams of western Germany. Many thought it mission impossible, but they underestimated the men of the newly-formed 617 Squadron – The Dambusters.
The story of RAF Bomber Command’s audacious attack on the great dams of western Germany continues to inspire long after the events that took place on the night of 16 / 17 May 1943 – and with good reason. Few wartime missions have replicated the skill, courage and bravery demonstrated that night and the Dambusters have rightly gained legendary status. Codenamed Operation Chastise, the mission was to be carried out by 617 Squadron, a newly-formed unit established for the sole purpose of destroying primarily the Möhne, Eder, and Sorpe dams in the Ruhr valley. The resulting flooding to the factories, roads, railways and canals of the Ruhr, and subsequent disruption of hydro-electric power, would be immense.
Commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the unit’s task was unenviable, requiring supreme skills and undertaking enormous risks: they were to fly Lancasters, the largest bomber in the RAF’s arsenal, at night, at tree-top height across heavily-defended enemy territory to deliver a revolutionary new weapon – a ‘bouncing’ bomb, codename Upkeep. Designed by the aeronautical genius Barnes Wallis, the bomb would skip across the water before detonating against the dam wall. To launch that weapon the pilot must hold his aircraft precisely 60ft above the water whilst maintaining a constant, fixed airspeed of 210 mph, and the targets would be defended by flak or almost impossible terrain.
Robert Taylor’s dramatic work in graphite and paint – originally created as the working drawing for his highly acclaimed painting Three Good Bounces – depicts a moment during Flight Lieutenant Mick Martin’s attack on the Möhne Dam. With two attacks already made Martin, flying AJ-P, releases his Upkeep while Gibson in Lancaster AJ-G flies off his starboard beam in an attempt to draw some of the enemy flak. It was unsuccessful; his radio operator tapping out ‘Goner-5-8-A’ (the code for - ‘Special weapon released’) ‘exploded 50 yards from target’ – ‘no apparent breach’ – ‘target A’.
This print is personally signed by the artist Robert Taylor and by three veterans who took part in Operation Chastise:
Squadron Leader George Johnson MBE DFM
Corporal Maureen Stevens
Dr. Mary Stopes-Roe.
27 x 17.5 inches overall including borders.
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