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The Debrief

The job was still not done once the surviving 11 crews of 617 Squadron had made it back to RAF Scampton on the morning of 17 May 1943.

They still had to be debriefed and their reception committee in the debriefing room included some of the most senior people in Bomber Command including Sir Arthur Harris and Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane.

According to one of the navigators on the raid this made the crews realise just how important the raid had been and, according to wireless operator Flight Sergeant George Chalmers, "at the shock of seeing them I nearly fell over in shaking their hands".

An image from the debrief

There was evidently a lot of excitement about the fact that two of the dams had been breached but as time went on there was increasing concern as to the fate of many of the aircraft that had failed to return.

According to pilot David Shannon: "The atmosphere was one of elation that it had been so successful, but also of depression that we had lost almost 50 per cent of the squadron."

In fact, eight of the 19 crews that had set out on the raid had not come back. Many of the crews went and drank in the mess in celebration that they had made it back but also in commiseration that some of their fellow airmen had not. But although the losses were tough, many of the survivors admitted to being hardened to the fact that some of their comrades would not return.

Pilot Les Munro said: "There was a sense of sadness, but in time of war, losses were being felt by all the squadrons in Bomber Command operations. You got used to it and you didn't let the loss of individuals that you knew get the better of you and affect your ability to carry out your duty on operations."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant Gordon Yeo, an air gunner with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on 17 May 1943.

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