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King George VI visits 617 Squadron

This archive footage records the visit of King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth to 617 Squadron at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire.

The narrator of the film states that:

"Wing Commander Gibson VC who lead the great Lancaster raid on the Ruhr Dams escorts the king during a visit by their majesties to an air station in the north of England. Wing Commander Gibson’s brilliant achievement was accomplished with the support of a gallant band of brother airmen. They too received the congratulations of the king.

"The breaching of the dams was superbly executed and resulted in enormous damage and dislocation to Germany's war industry.

"Describing the raid, Wing Commander Gibson illustrates with the help of pictures how the attack was carried out. Descending to within a few feet of the reservoir and taking the full brunt of the defences, wing Commander Gibson achieved one of the most devastating attacks of the war. The floods created a serious situation in the Ruhr Valley."

The footage shows what a great propaganda coup the raid was for the Allied forces and it was used across newspapers, television and radio to strengthen morale, illustrate the skill and courage of the RAF and show how the German war machine was vulnerable to attack. Gibson had already been awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the raid, while 32 other aircrew received DSOs (Distinguished Service Order), DFCs (Distinguished Flying Cross) and DFMs (Distinguished Flying Medal).

But although the visit undoubtedly went down well with most of the Squadron, some of the non-commissioned officers were less impressed. Flight Sergeant Leonard Sumpter, a bomb aimer on the raid, said that:

"One thing that got up my nose after the raid was when the King and Queen came down to Scampton, and all the photographs were taken with the officers in front of the Officers' Mess. But the flight sergeants and sergeants didn't see a sign of the King and Queen – they didn't come near our mess. Yet there were more NCOs on the raid than officers. And I thought this was a bit much."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Flight Sergeant Francis Garbas, an air gunner with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action.

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