Concern grows as the British reservoirs that were the testing ground for the Dambusters raid will NOT get an anniversary flypast
- 2003 and 2013 flypasts were in honour of RAF’s 1943 bombing of Nazi Germany
- Derwent and Howden dams under threat as part of plans for a super-reservoir
In 2003 and 2013 thousands watched a vintage Lancaster fly over the British reservoirs that were the testing ground for the famous Dambuster raids of the Second World War.
The flypasts were staged to honour the RAF’s 617 Squadron which in 1943 unleashed bouncing bombs on reservoirs in Nazi Germany, dealing a fierce blow to Hitler’s war machine.
Tomorrow, however, when events are held in Britain to mark the 80th anniversary of the raids, there will be no such aerial tribute over the dams where the crews trained.
And the Derwent and Howden dams themselves are under threat as part of plans for a super-reservoir in the Derbyshire Peak District, which could see them disappear beneath rising waters.
The lack of a flypast – instead, a Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will fly over the RAF Museum in north London and former Bomber Command bases in Lincolnshire – and the threat to the dams has been met with concern from Dambusters’ families.
The only operational Lancaster in Europe passes the Derwent Dam to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters raid in 2013
Flypasts on May 16 will not be taking place over the Derwent and Howden dams where crews trained
RAF Avro Lancaster bomber pictured flying over Derwent Dam (undated)
Geoff Gosling, 75, whose late father Cyril was part of ground crew for the German missions and was on board test flights over Derbyshire, said: ‘It would have been nice for them to fly over the testing dams. It’s tragic the fly-over won’t be there for the 80th anniversary.’
Mr Gosling, whose father died in 2019 aged 96, added: ‘My dad would be heartbroken if the dams were damaged or lost. The water company need a rethink. We can’t lose them. They’re part of our history. I stood with him for one of the last anniversaries before he died. It was thrilling when the Lancasters went over.’
Felicity Rowbotham, 76, whose uncle was Dambusters hero Wing Commander Guy Gibson, also called for the reservoirs to be saved. She said: ‘I wouldn’t be happy about this because it would be a loss. It’s unlikely the bomber training could have gone ahead without the dams.
‘There needs to be greater consideration of whether it is necessary or whether the water company could look at alternatives.
‘The story of the Dambusters, whatever one feels about war, is part of our national heritage.’
Charles Johnson – whose father, Dambusters Squadron Leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, died last December aged 101 – said: ‘The one thing that the raid did was to raise the country’s morale to enormous heights.’
Squadron Leader George “Johnny” Johnson, who was Britain’s last surviving ‘Dambuster’ before his passing in 2022, poses for a photograph during an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the raids in 2018
Squadron Leader Johnson was taken on a Lancaster flight over the dams shortly after the 75th anniversary of the raids in 2018.
It is unclear why tomorrow’s flypast does not include the dams.
The RAF, of which the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) is part, said: ‘As we do not have control over events on the ground in Derbyshire and an event has not been externally organised to facilitate large crowds gathering that we could then organise a flypast for, it would not be practical to draw a crowd to the area.’
But Severn Trent spokesman said: ‘The decision to undertake any commemorative event would be at the discretion of the BBMF. Neither the National Park Authority nor Severn Trent have been approached by the BBMF to support such a flight in 2023.’
The water company is looking at creating a new reservoir on moorland, or a new, higher dam downstream of the Derwent and Howden dams, which would then disappear as the waters rise. It will submit proposals in July.