Menu Donate Request our help

Les Munro Turns Back

In an exclusive interview with the RAF Benevolent Fund New Zealand pilot Les Munro, one of the last surviving members of the Dambusters, tells the story of how he and his crew made the decision to turn back after being hit crossing the Dutch coast.

"The shell that hit me unfortunately cut through the intercom system and the electricity system," says Les, "and we'd lost complete communication between all the crew members, individually and collectively with me."

With the Lancaster still able to fly it seemed like a tough call to turn back but there were a number of practical difficulties that made the idea of continuing unrealistic.

"I appreciated that without intercom I would be unable to converse with the navigator, who would be instructing me on a change of routes all the way to the target and secondly, if I did get to the target, I would not be able to converse with the bomb aimer and he would not be able to converse with me."

So Les turned back and headed for home. In another interview, he spoke of his feelings at having to do this:

"I didn't feel emotional at the time – it had happened and we had to make the best of it. I was disappointed later on that we didn't get to the target but by the same token, as it transpired, if I hadn't been hit and returned to base, and if I'd gone on to the target, we may have been one of those shot down."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Flying Officer William Tytherleigh, an air gunner with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on 17 May 1943, age 21.

Visit the Dambusters homepage

Related articles:

0800 169 2942

Sign up to receive the RAFBF e-newsletter