100 Year RAF Anniversary GB Tamiya 1/48th Avro Lancaster Mk.BIII No. 617 Squadron Operation Chastise
This article is part of a series:
- 100 Year RAF Anniversary GB Tamiya 1/48th Avro Lancaster Mk.BIII No. 617 Squadron Operation Chastise
- 100 Year RAF Anniversary GB Tamiya 1/48th Bristol Beaufighter Mk.VIf No.68 Sdn
- 100 Year RAF Anniversary GB – 1/72nd Revell Hawker Siddeley S Mk.2B Buccaneer
- 100 YEAR RAF ANNIVERSARY GB, Revell 1/48th Eurofighter Typhoon, No.29 Sqn, GiNA BoB Commemorative Scheme
16 May 1943, 19 modified Avro Lancaster Mk.BIII bombers take off from Scampton Air Field lead by W/Cdr. Guy Gibson in AJ G call sign “George” in the first wave. This flight consisted of 9 aircraft to hit the Mohne Dam, and secondary target the Eder Dam. Each bomber loaded with the “upkeep”bomb, specially designed by Barnes Wallis. The unique method of skipping the cylindrical shaped bomb on the surface of the lake while spinning in reverse causing the bomb to hit the dam, and slip down the base and explode thus breaching the dam. Easier said than done. As this required to fly the Lancaster 60 ft off the surface to deliver the bomb on target. The accompanying video will show the trials and error that Willis’s design had gone thru before finally achieving success in creating a bomb that gave the best chance in accomplishing the mission. And convincing a very skeptical Bomber Command in getting the go ahead on very short notice to acquire the bombers and aircrews to plan the top secret mission.
12 weeks was given to the newly created No. 617 squadron to plan for “Operation Chastise” for May. This is when the dams were full after the spring rains in Germany. Air crew were selected to fly the mission. The best of the best. British, Canadian, American and from New Zealand were selected to train for the mission. A mission none were told what the target was until the day of the mission. Not even Guy Gibson the Wing Commander was told. The Lancasters were modified to carry the Upkeep bomb with a specialized chain driven trapeze type set up that would spin the bomb backwards when dropped.
The first wave was led by Guy Gibson. My model is one of the aircraft that flew in the first wave. AJ L, ED929/G, piloted by Flt Lt. DJ Shannon. Losing AJ-B along the way, while trying to avoid flak flying low as possible Flt Lt Astell hit high tension wires and a pylon which caused that Lancaster to rear up, burst into flames and then crashed killing all on board.
Gibsons flight arrived over the Möhne reservoir around 00:15 hours, the aircraft assembled in a counter clockwise holding pattern 10 kilometers south of Völlinghaussen, Gibson calls out to Flt LT Astell not knowing they have crashed. After assessing the target and surroundings, the flak locations on the dam and in the valley. Gibsons assigns 5 of the remaining 8 aircraft to the attack. He would start the run first. The weapon has been spun up, and as noted in the video you can feel the vibration reverting through out the aircraft. He commences a dummy run to get the lay of the land and flying through the flak. He reports to the others, it looks good. Using a bit of land as a landmark to start his attack run, at the right moment he releases the Upkeep and the tail gunners see it skip over the surface 3 times before it strikes the dam and explodes. Next up it AJ M to commence his run, his spotlights are on, Gibson comes around to provide escort and cover Flt Lt Hopgood on his attack, Hobgoods Lanc took some hits as the port engine was smoking as well as the starboard wing was hit. The bomb was released a few seconds late and skipped over the dam exploding near the generating house on the front wall of the dam. AJ M pulled up but the strain was too much and the starboard wing failed causing the Lanc to crash near the village of Ostonnen, where 3 crew members survived, in which 2 of them became POW’s. The next run was commence with AJ P, flown by Flt Lt Martin, with again flying along side, released the bomb on time and again exploded but the dam remained intact. Next Squadron leader Dingy Young in AJ A commences his run, this time Martin in AJ P flying along side, directing his gunners to engage the flak to draw fire away from Dingy’s Lanc. The bomb was released on time and again another explosion and the dam still remained intact. The 5th Lanc AJ J flown by Flt Lt Maltby commences his run, Martin and Gibson fly alongside, the bomb is delivered perfectly and again another tremendous explosion from the dam, and it first appears intact, Gibson orders Shannon in AJ L to start a 6th attack. Then all of a sudden the front face of the dam gives way causing a huge breach as millions of gallons of water pours into the valley below. Gibson radios the code word which starts with an “N” and will not be repeated here as it is quite derogatory. Maltby and Martin set course for home while Gibson leads the 3 remaining Lancs South East to the Eder reservoir. Flying time about 12 minutes. The flight did not encounter any opposition along the way. The run to the dam would be a difficult task as it required a 90 degree turn into the valley for a short run to the dam before releasing the bomb. The first attack was given to Shannon in AJ L, after 3 unsuccessful runs, he was ordered off target and the next attack was assigned to Maudslay in AJ Z, he also had trouble trying to get proper position to deliver the bomb and was ordered off. Shannon was again assigned to try again. Again after 2 unsuccessful runs, finally on the 3rd try he felt comfortable and released the upkeep which struck just south of the dam and exploded but left no physical affect. Next Maudslay made his run and on the 2nd attempt released his bomb a bit too late and hit the crest of the dam exploding which also damaged his Lancaster from the explosion. Badly damaged, he set for home and unfortunately was shot down by flak at Emmerich-Klein-Netterdn, all aboard were lost. The final Lanc AJ N flown by Les Knight with Gibson alongside, the bomb is released bounces 3 times and strikes the dam which causes the central wall to collapse. Water pours through the breach. With the mission completed they turn for home.
All in all the mission was a success in a limited way. It was more of a mission just like the Tokyo air raids in 1942, for morale purposes at home and for the allies. For the Germans it showed what the initiative the Allies were willing to make to achieve victory. For Barnes Wallis to him it was at a great cost of 8 aircrews not returning home, and this he felt was not an acceptable price to pay for the limited success of the mission. And according to his daughter, he would not forgive himself for the lives lost for what he considered he caused.
The Tamiya kit was released first in 1975 in black plastic. I remember buying it at the time and was $50.00 back then. Building it as a teen with paint brushes, tube glue and the kit decals. No sanding filling of seams and any such none sense at the time. To me it was the epitome of all I had built up to that point. Fast forward to 1992 in Mystic, Ct. while visiting town and noticing a hobby shop called Wing’s and Wheels, I go in and behold there is a Tamiya Dambuster kit with a price tag of $50.00. So buying and add it to the stash it goes. I started building this kit in 1999 off and on it sat on the work bench partially assembled. Something I would work from time to time. Then the RAF 100 year anniversary is announced, and the first thing I thought it was time to finish this very long term project.
Despite that it was more than halfway completed, it still required a lot of work. With skills now acquired over the years, the nonsense of putty, sanding and airbrushing was put to good use. (especially the putty and sanding part). I used TD resin wheels, and RAF seatbelts for the seats. Decals were are mixture of the kit (which somehow were still useable for the most part) and aftermarket decal from Techmod for the roundels and stenciling. But wish I would’ve just got some red aftermarket squadron codes instead. As the AJ L did silver on me. I used Tamiya Dk Green/Dk Earth for the topside and Tamiya Black for the lower portion of the airframe. I do have another one in the stash, and hope to built this eventually with more attention to detail. Like the new HK 1/32nd scale, the design of the kit allows me to just attach the wings to the fuselage with out cement, so easy to transport when the next move comes. The horizontal tail/rudder fit is so tight that they too are also are just attached with pressure fit and can be removed as well. The kit being an early Tamiya moulding has a combination of fine raised panel and engraved lines. Which is accurate for this anyway. The newer mouldings of the kit are now in Lt grey plastic. The orginals were popped in black.
No. 617 squadron continues on as the Dambusters, turning in there Tornado’s for the new F-35B now coming into service.
45 additional images. Click to enlarge.