Johnny Johnson, bomb-aimer in 617 Squadron on the night of the Dambusters raid on 16 and 17 1943, and one of the last remaining servicemen from the raid, described in a recent exclusive interview with the RAF Benevolent Fund how their training with the bouncing bomb was not going to be relevant with the target that they had been assigned.
Johnson and the rest of his crew only discovered this on the day of the raid when for the first time all the details of the secretive mission they had spend weeks training for were revealed to them.
"Sunday [May 16th, 1943] at 3pm, tannoy message: 'all members of 617 Squadron into the operations room'. Then for the first time we saw what the targets were - of course they were models. There were big maps up on the walls which showed exactly what was going to happen, and what a briefing that was! The AOC [Air Officer Commanding] was there: Sir Ralph Cochrane; Gibson was there of course, he was conducting the briefing; Barnes Wallis was there," Johnny remembered.
Johnny recalls Gibson's straightforward plan of attack for the Möhne and Eder dams, but also that Johnny’s crew, assigned to the Sorpe dam, had a different kind of challenge altogether on their hands. "Five crews were briefed for the Sorpe; we were one of those crews and we didn’t like that too much at all."
Because of the construction of the dam and its position, it meant that the attack would have to be made parallel to the dam rather than at right angles to it. According to Johnny:
"It was so placed in the hills that you couldn’t make a successful head on attack. In other words, we weren’t going to use any of the training that we'd had for the previous six weeks."
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Squadron Leader Henry Maudslay, a pliot with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action on May 17, 1943, age 21.