At 10AM today a of Lancaster bomber flew over Derwent Water in Derbyshire in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Dambusters 1943 raid by 617 Squadron which breached the Mohner and Eder dams. A third dam the Sorpe was attacked by 2 surviving planes but remained intact, otherwise the German war effort would have been catastrophically disabled.
8 planes out of 19 failed to return including several which were targeted at the Sorpe. 617 Squadron moved on to be a crack ‘pathfinder’ special operations squadron.
It is an occasion which perhaps should make us think again at the sacrifice of the aircrews of Bomber Command in WW2. Some 55,000 aircrew were killed, which equates to a 60% attrition rate. This amounts to about 12.5% of total British war deaths. A shocking statistic which indicates the huge proportion of the British war effort given over to its bomber force, the only way for many years the British could attack Germany. Only about 25 out of 100 aircrew could expect to escape the war unscathed, even those captured and held prisoner underwent great privation and many died in captivity. Certainly on some significant occasions civilian losses were very heavy but we should also remember that on many occasions the losses from aircrew exceeded the losses on the ground.
After the war politicians sought to selectively forget the orders and policy they themselves directed Bomber Command to carry out. Post war prime minister Atlee chose not to award a campaign medal to Bomber Command aircrew and denied a peerage to Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris. It remains a continuing shame on our nation that this political decision remains uncorrected.