Over the weekend of 11/12 May, a very special Dambusters event was held at the Aces High Gallery in Wendover, Buckinghamshire. Thomas Pitts reports for GAR.
Aces High, the aviation art gallery, invited two of the surviving three Dambusters, plus several other 617 Squadron aircrew, to a showcase of paintings and sketches depicting many of the extraordinary moments of Operation Chastise, as part of the Dambusters 70th anniversary commemorations.
Also in attendance alongside Squadron Leaders Les Munro DSO DFC RNZAF & George ‘Johnny’ Johnson DFM, the two survivors in question, was Dr Mary Stopes-Roe, the daughter of Barnes Wallis, the inventor behind the famous bouncing bomb without which the raid could not have taken place.
On the Saturday only, a fourth special guest with a direct link to the raid was also in attendance. Corporal Maureen Stevens WAAF was posted to RAF Scampton where she served as the duty operator in the control tower on the night of 16/17 May 1943, providing the link between the crews and the senior commanders monitoring the progress of the raid.
It wasn’t just Operation Chastise being represented at the event either. Many of 617 Squadron’s other specialist raids, including those targeting the Tirpitz in the Norwegian fjords & Hitler’s private retreat at Berschtesgaden, were marked by the following aircrew:
Flying Officer Basil Ambrose
Flight Lieutenant Ken Trent DFC
Wing Commander John Bell MBE DFC
Air Commodore John Langston CBE
Squadron Leader Benny Goodman
Warrant Officer Colin Cole
Flight Sergeant Charles Avey
Warrant Officer Frank Tilley
The author wishes to thank Aces High for hosting the event and the veterans involved for their time.