Menu Donate Request our help

Guy Gibson gets his orders

Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane became Commander of 5 Group in Bomber Command. Image: Ministry of Defence, Air Historical Branch.Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane became Commander of 5 Group in Bomber Command in February 1943 and one of his first tasks was to organize the Dambusters raid.

He brought Wing Commander Guy Gibson into his office to give him his orders to start a new squadron.

At the beginning this was called Squadron X. It soon after became 617 Squadron.

Gibson tells the rest of the story:

"Cochrane went on: 'Now, there’s a lot of urgency in this, because you haven't got long to train. Training will be the important thing, so get going right away. Remember you are working to a strict timetable, and I want to see your aircraft flying in four days' time. Now you go upstairs to hand in the names of  your crews to Cartwright; he will give you all the help you want.

"'But what sort of training, Sir? And the target? I can't do a thing...'"

"'I am afraid I can't tell you any more just for the moment. All you have to do is to pick your crews, get them ready to fly, then I will come and see you and tell you more.'"

"'How about aircraft and equipment?'"

"'Squadron Leader May, the Group Equipment Officer, will do all that. All right, Gibson.'"

"He bent down to his work abruptly. This was a signal for me to go."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Flying Officer Philip Burgess, a navigator with 617 Squadron on the Dambusters raid, who died age 20, during the operation on May 16, 1943.

Visit the Dambusters homepage

0800 169 2942

Sign up to receive the RAFBF e-newsletter