On Wednesday 17th May, I was honoured to join the RAF, veterans and 617 squadron families at a service commemorating the 80th anniversary of Operation Chastise – aka the ‘Dambusters’.
The raids were launched on the nights of 16 and 17 May 1943, and the anniversary service this year poignantly also marked the sad passing last year of our last surviving Dambuster, Squadron Leader ‘Johnny’ Johnson.
The service took place at the Central Church of the RAF, St Clement Danes in London. It was a very moving service, focused on the human aspect of the soldiers’ bravery and sacrifice as well as the wider theme of reconciliation.
The Victoria Cross of Wing Commander Guy Gibson was laid on the alter throughout the service and highlighted the bravery of the 133 young men who flew out in the Lancasters.
The 617 Squadron was based at RAF Woodhall Spa, within the Louth & Horncastle Constituency, for most of World War II and it has become their historical home. Members of the 617 Squadron Association meet twice yearly at The Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa, which was once their Officers’ Mess.
My sincere thanks to the members of the 617 Squadron Association and No 617 Squadron who invited me to join them at this memorial.