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Was the Dambusters raid a success?

In an exclusive interview with Mary Stopes Roe, daughter of bouncing bomb inventor Barnes Wallis, we asked her for her thoughts on whether the Dambusters raid was a success.

Mary says, "Yes, it was a success. The dams were breached, the factories were flooded and the making of machines and so on was stopped. Not for long, I know people say, but if you read further around the issue it becomes clear that enormous extra forces had to be put into mending the dams, as everybody knows nowadays, which really would have been better employed – from the German point of view – putting in defences on the northern coast of France."

The aim of the Dambusters raid was to cause a dramatic reduction in the production of machinery and weapons for the German war effort by flooding the Ruhr valley and destabilising key infrastructure.

Barnes Wallis proposed that this could be achieved by breaching the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams, but the raid would require a bomb that could reach the dams unaffected by torpedo nets. 

The bomb designed for the task was Wallis's bouncing bomb, but it required the mission squadron to both fly close to the water surface and approach one dam fitted with anti-aircraft defence, increasing the risk of the operation.

While the objectives were met, 53 men lost their lives to the audacious raid, masterminded by Wallis.

Mary admits that the success of the raid will always be counterbalanced by the death of so many men on the raid.

She says, "That was always, I think, overshadowed by the loss of life, which he never, ever got over. That sounds a bit exaggerated – because he lived a long time – but I don't think he ever did, and he really did love the squadron; they were his boys, and rather a large number of them were lost because of his idea."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Pilot Officer Floyd Wile, a navigator with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on 17 May 17 1943, age 24.

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