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The Briefing

Most of the aircrew from 617 Squadron on the famous Dambusters raid of 16/17 May 1943 did not know the targets they would be heading for until the day of the raid itself.

According to Wing Commander Gibson, the Commanding Officer on the raid: "It was a great moment when the public address system on the station said, 'All crews of No 617 Squadron report to the briefing room immediately'.

"The boys came in hushed, having waited two and a half months to hear what it was they were going to attack. There were about 133 young men in that room, rather tousled and a little scruffy, and perhaps a little old-looking in spite of their youth. But now they were experts, beautifully trained, and each one of them knew his job as well as any man had known any job he was to do."

The crews were shown models of the Möhne and Sorpe dams but a model of the Eder was missing because the model-makers had run out of time – such was the speed at which the raid was prepared.

Lancaster bomber

Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane, Wing Commander Guy Gibson and Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the bouncing bomb, were all present at the briefing and the atmosphere amongst the men was quiet and concentrated, but also excited.

The late Les Munro, a pilot on the raid and one of its few surviving members, recalls:

"I remember going into the ops room and looking at the maps and seeing the tracks leading to the dams. And then we realized what they were and the implications of that – that the route to the dams took us right up the Ruhr, one of the most heavily defended areas of Germany, that was when there was a certain amount of disquiet among the crews – but it was something we just had to accept. It was another operation we had to carry out and we had to do our best."

Before they set off they had the traditional pre-raid meal of bacon and eggs. According to one of the crew: "They gave us a cracking meal, because it might be your last one."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant Lawrence Nichols, a wireless operator with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on 17 May 1943, age 33.

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