Breaching the Dams
- The Men Who Made it Possible -
by Richard Taylor
Operation Chastise, the famous Dambusters raid of 16/17 May 1943, could never have happened without Upkeep, the legendary mine or ‘bouncing bomb’ created by aeronautical genius Barnes Wallis. And Upkeep could never have been delivered without the introduction of the Lancaster four-engine heavy bomber, brainchild of Avro’s chief designer Roy Chadwick, who was also responsible for the special adaptations made in preparation for the raids. It is also unlikely the Lancaster could have achieved success that night were it not for the skill, heroics and brave determination of the hand- picked pilots and aircrew of 617 Squadron who were some of the finest airmen in the world.
Upkeep was unique in conception; containing 6,600 lbs of ‘Torpex’ high explosive, equivalent to
3.7 tons of TNT, Wallis had designed this formidable weapon to skip across the water avoiding
any anti-torpedo netting, hit the dam wall, sink to a prescribed depth at which it would cause the
most damage, and detonate. But there was a problem; Upkeep weighed 9,250 lbs, and for it to
work it must be released at an altitude of just 60ft, at a precise airspeed of 210mph, some 400 –
450 yards from the target. There was only one aircraft in the world capable of carrying such a
load, and over such a distance – the Lancaster. But to deliver Upkeep on target was anything but
easy; the crews must avoid radar detection by navigating the entire journey at tree-top height at
night and, avoiding the surrounding hills surrounding the targets, run in at the prescribed height,
speed and distance. Only a highly skilled pilot could achieve such a task, especially at the
controls of a heavy bomber. It was a dangerous, risky yet audacious plan. And it worked. Despite
the tragic loss of nearly half their number both the Möhne and Eder dams, amongst the largest in
Europe, were breached, and the Sorpe damaged. In a single raid, on a single night, the continuing
legend of the Dambusters was born.
|Overall size: 15¼" x 29"||Available in the following editions|
|19||Tribute edition||A tryptich of giclée prints, conservation matted to include the signatures listed below.||$1595|
|Limited to only nineteen copies to represent the nineteen Lancaster crews who took part in the Dambuster raid, all three drawings have been faithfully reproduced as high quality giclée fine art prints, personally signed by the artist and hand numbered. To create a historic collector’s piece, and adding great authenticity, all three are mounted in a single composition to include the original autographs of the two famous engineers plus a further two original signatures of veterans who piloted Lancasters on that fateful night.|
|Sir Barnes Wallis CBE FRS RDI FRAeS
Engineer and inventor, Barnes Wallis designed the Upkeep ‘bouncing bomb’ fitted to the specially modified Lancaster bombers used during Operation Chastise on the night of 16/17 May 1943.
|Roy Chadwick CBE FRSA FRAeS
As chief designer engineer for the Avro Company, Chadwick was responsible for designing the iconic Lancaster bomber and was recognised for the adaptations made in preparation for the Dams Raids.
|Air Marshal Sir Harold ‘Mick’ Martin KCB DSO* DFC** AFC
Martin piloted Lancaster AJ-P ‘Popsie’ as part of the first wave and was third to release his Upkeep mine during the successful attack on the Möhne Dam.
|Squadron Leader Les Munro CNZM DSO QSO DFC JP
As pilot of Lancaster AJ-W ‘Willie’, Munro was one of three flight commanders on the night of the raids and was assigned to attack the Sorpe Dam as part of the second wave.
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