Operation Chastise took place during the night of 16-17 May 1943 and was meant to destroy dams in the industrial Rühr region. Bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis were dropped by specially-modified Lancasters led by Guy Gibson, and succeeded in breaching two of the three dams. Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the raid.
The Raid: Third Wave
The third wave followed a very similar course to the first wave. Approaching Hamm AJ-C was engaged by local 20mm gun fire. The starboard inner engine was quickly hit and burst into flame and the hydraulic system was knocked out. Sergeant Fred Tees who should have been the front gunner had changed places with Sergeant Harry Strange in the rear turret and he recalls that as the aircraft started its plunge to the ground Pilot Officer Warner Ottley, the pilot said over the intercom “I’m sorry boys, they got us”. The aircraft then hit the ground. Remarkably the tail section broke away from the main part of the aircraft and was flung away from the immediate crash area. Tees managed to remove himself from the broken rear turret and was quickly taken prisoner.
Lancaster AJ-S flown by pilot officer Louis Burpee took off at the same time as Ottley. He drifted slightly off course over Holland and flew too close to the night fighter base Gilze-Rejen and although the flak defences did not have time to open up a single search light did dazzling the pilot who in an attempt to escape flew through some trees and then into the ground. The aircraft exploded, followed a few seconds later by the bomb. The aircraft struck the airfields MT section and also blew over the operations control building in the resulting explosion.
Lancaster Mk III type 464 provisioning, F/S Townsend, No 617 Squadron RAF
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