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no moon was a major problem. The aircraft returned with dents and bits of foliage hanging off them but despite many close shaves there were no serious accidents.

The attack method varied depending on the type of dam. The barometric altimeters were not sensitive enough to give that accurate a reading and in any case the pilot could not look at the instrument panel at that height for fear of hitting the water. The aircraft therefore carried two spotlights angled so that when the beams met on the surface of the water the aircraft was flying at sixty feet. Flying very fast and very low with no modern radar aids, with lights burning on your aircraft that show the enemy where you were was extremely hazardous. The wingspan of a Lancaster is 102’ so there was a real danger of hitting the water as the aircraft made the turns on approaches to the dams.

The route to and from the dams was also flown at very low level. Their primitive radio navigation aids were usually jammed over enemy territory and most navigation was done by map reading and dead reckoning. This was extremely difficult and very dangerous – two aircraft hit power cables and crashed and one hit the surface of the sea, lost its bomb and was very lucky to make it back to Scampton. Some aircraft flew beneath power cables and others flew along roads below the level of the surrounding trees.

Three waves of aircraft were sent to attack following different routes.The weather produced stronger winds than forecast and this caused serious problems. The first dam to be attacked was the Mohne. Gibson admitted to being very frightened as his brightly lit aircraft became the target for every gun in the area. At 28 minutes past midnight they dropped their Upkeep mine. It bounced three times, but sank short of the wall. After a short delay the hydrostatic pistols detonated the bomb at the correct depth and a great spout of water surged up and over the dam wall. At first it was thought the dam had collapsed, but as the water subsided it was seen still to be intact. After allowing the waters to settle, Gibson called Hopgood in to attack.

The flak gunners now knew what to expect and the aircraft was seen to be hit several times on the approach. The bomb was dropped late, and bounced over the dam and exploded, wrecking the main power house. Hopgood’s aircraft was on fire and he ordered the crew to bale out as the Lancaster struggled to 500’ and exploded. Martin Envoy Spring 2013 23

attacked next, with Gibson flying alongside him to distract the flak gunners, and the mine was dropped. It veered to the left and exploded near the bank of the reservoir. Gibson now called up Young. Martin flew on Young’s left to distract the gunners while Gibson flew parallel to the dam on the downstream side hoping to divide the fire from the defences.

Young made the perfect approach and drop, and his bomb hit the centre of the dam. The dam was apparently left intact and Maltby was making his bomb run with Martin and Gibson both acting as decoys when he saw the centre of the dam crumbling. Maltby veered to one side and dropped his mine, which bounced, struck the dam and exploded. Now millions of gallons of water were pouring through the breach and down the valley. Gibson, who had already ordered Shannon to prepare to attack, cancelled the order and instructed Shannon, Maudslay, and Knight to accompany him to the Eder dam, along with Young, who was to act as deputy leader if anything happened to Gibson.

Meanwhile the sole survivor of the second wave, McCarthy, had arrived at the Sorpe which had been difficult to find because of low mist. It was immediately apparent that the approach to the dam was extremely challenging, and so it proved. McCarthy flew the approach nine times but found it difficult to clear the high hill and then bring the Lancaster down low enough, with a church steeple on the approach proving particularly troublesome.

The other members of the crew became restless as the bomber had now been circuiting the dam for half an hour and they were also puzzled that no other aircraft from the second wave had appeared. Eventually,

on the tenth go the approach was perfect and the mine was dropped alongside the dam. When Brown arrived at the dam he found that the ground mist was now even thicker. In all Brown flew five separate approaches before dropping his mine. Although both mines exploded close to the dam and caused considerable damage, no breach occurred.

The aircraft flying to the Eder all had difficulty finding it in the thickening mists and when Gibson eventually located it he fired a red flare to attract the other crews. As at the Sorpe the approach proved very difficult. Shannon flew three or four approaches without being able to get the Lancaster low enough after a steep dive and sharp turn. Maudslay then tried twice with similar results. Shannon flew two more approaches before dropping his mine. Maudslay then flew down the valley for the third time. The watching Gibson thought that he saw something hanging from the Lancaster and it is not clear whether the aircraft was caught in the explosion of its own Upkeep or not. Knight attacked next, making one dummy run, before dropping his mine. It hit the dam, sank, and exploded at the correct depth. The dam crumbled and collapsed and the water poured into the valley beyond.

Apart from Brown, the only other aircraft of the third wave to make an attack was Townsend, who believed he dropped his mine at the Ennepe dam. It is almost certain that Townsend attacked another dam in the area, the Bever, as German sources report an attack but none on the Ennepe.

Of the nineteen aircraft which left Scampton eleven had made attacks, resulting in breaches at the Mohne and Eder and damage to the Sorpe. Two aircraft had returned early, five had been lost on the outward journey and one at the Mohne dam. The surviving

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