DAMBUSTER - "OPERATION CHASTISE" COMMEMORATED

Seventy five years ago this day saw one of the great morale-boosting events of World War Two - the

famous "Dambusters" raid on the industrial heartland of Nazi Germany.  Some years ago, I was

present in a small upstairs room of a Torbay pub to listen to the talk given by George "Johnny" Johnson,

the bomb-aimer of the Lancaster flown by American pilot Pat MacCarthy to attack the Sorpe Dam.

My poem (below) was the result and was accepted by its dedicatee with grace and pleasure.

He is now in his 90s, the sole UK survivor of that momentous wartime mission and has just witnessed

a newly reformed "617" Squadron and its intake of F35 fighter aircraft to mark the event.  Slightly

amended to acknowledge this anniversary, the poem is set out below.

DAMBUSTER - dedicated to Wing Commander George "Johnny" Johnson DFC MBE

Whippet-lean and dry of tone

With manner self-effacing,

He conjured up the distant drone

Of Merlins moonlight chasing.

 

He made it easy to  believe

How different were those days when

Young men like him dared to achieve

Great deeds in daring ways then.

 

Though many springs had left behind 

That distant May moon night,

Those who listened would soon find

Themselves aboard that flight.

 

In the moon-bright ray an age away

From this mocking and modern world

He and we lay in the bomb-aimer's bay

As the target beneath us unfurled.

 

Time and around - and around yet again,

The hazards and risks multiplying,

Till the right time arrived and the Lancaster dived

At the target for which it was trying.

 

A hit but no breach - then away out of reach,

The hand that was held had been played;

No more could be done but much had been won,

While sacrifice was sought  - and was made.

 

When the squadron returned it was soon learned

That over fifty of their chums had been lost,

And while they may have gone, their sacrifice lives on

And remembrance our time-honoured riposte!

..............................................................................................

Note - unlike other dams that were breached, the Sorpe used earth in its construction and absorbed the

"ripple" shock effect that fractured the more rigid materials used in the dams elsewhere.  It could not

be approached "head on" and an end to end approach was required to successfully drop the bomb

carried by the Lancaster.  It was Flight Sgt. Johnson's decision as bomb aimer to have his pilot

make NINE approaches to ensure accuracy - later justified on the grounds that as they were there

he wasn't going to make a mistake that he would regret in the release of the bomb.  

 

dambuster

◄ MOAN N'GROAN

WHO CAN EXPLAIN? ►

Comments

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M.C. Newberry

Wed 23rd May 2018 14:12

Dear Rachel - thank you for your comments. To enlarge on
my own interest, my late eldest sister married a US WW2
vet. in America, having met him (wounded/recuperating
after the D-Day invasion) here in the UK and travelled
Stateside afterwards. Their home was in south Louisiana
and they had ten children - eight of them still living with
families of their own spread over the USA. She never
returned to the UK but I managed to take our mother over
there in the late 1970s to renew their relationship and to
meet our American side of the family. It is not possible for
my generation to fully understand what that conflict meant
in so many ways to those who experienced it in their
assorted ways, but two things must be kept in mind: remembrance
and gratitude.
By the way, a book called "The Forgotten Dead" is the result of
some dedicated detective work by
South Devon hotelier, the late Ken
Small (recognised by President
Reagan for it later) in which he
set out the tragedy that befell
hundreds of US service personnel
when ambushed by enemy E-boats
during D-Day rehearsals in the
Channel not long before the big day.
It had been one of the best kept secrets of the war because of the
hugely important plans at that time
but Mr Small's work put it back into
the public awareness and allowed
the families of so many to finally
know and come to terms with what
had happened one dreadful night.
Look it up and you'll see what I mean.

elPintor

Wed 23rd May 2018 02:12

Good evening, MC,

I've read some bit about the risky air campaigns waged by the Allies through WWII..thanks for the reminder. Our part of the world seems deceptively peaceful in these times and we would do well to remember that we may also be demanded to answer, as a nation, to our values in much the same way of that generation.

Rachel

https://www.amazon.com/Fortress-Ploesti-Campaign-Destroy-Hitlers/dp/1935149393

https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-500-Untold-Greatest-Mission/dp/0451224957

ps
A bit over a year ago, I visited a local armed forces museum and gave some extra attention to letters home from American soldiers to their families during WWII. Though I realize the heart remains much the same, the tone of language I saw from them makes the tone of your poem all that much more appreciated--it truly was a different time.

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