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.