Menu Donate Request our help

The Third Wave

The third and final, wave of the five aircraft attack as part of the Dambusters raid of set off after midnight. They were used as a reserve force that would be directed to targets where the earlier waves had failed to achieve their objective.

Two of the aircraft – AJ-C for Charlie, flown by Pilot Officer Warner Ottley and AJ-S for Sugar, flown by Pilot Officer Lewis Burpee – were shot down on the way to the target. All were lost from the two crews with the exception of Sergeant Frank Tees from AJ-C, who miraculously survived and was taken prisoner.

Of the remaining three aircraft, one – AJ-F for Freddie, piloted by Flight Sergeant Ken Brown -  made it to the Sorpe Dam, one other (AJ- Y) got lost in foggy conditions and had to return to base and the final Lancaster (AJ-O) of Flight Sergeant William Townsend bombed a fourth target, the Ennepe Dam.

AJ-F arrived at the Sorpe Dam after damage had already been inflicted by Joe McCarthy's crew, in the second wave. Like them, it took Brown and his crew a number of attempts to get the approach right before they could drop their Upkeep. When they finally did, it sent a spout of water a thousand feet into the air, but the dam still stood.

Lancaster bomber

Townsend's crew in AJ-O saw some of the flooding as a consequence of earlier successes by their 617 colleagues as they headed for the Ennepe Dam. The late George Chalmers, a wireless operator, recalled that, "All you could see were treetops and tops of houses. I thought it was just a miraculous sight to see all this water."

After they had dropped their Upkeep successfully, though failing to breach the dam, they returned back to Scampton unharmed.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant Harry Strange, an air gunner with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on May 17, 1943, age 20.

Visit the Dambusters homepage

0800 169 2942

Sign up to receive the RAFBF e-newsletter