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Who were the Dambusters and how did they use their bouncing bombs in WWII?

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Who were the Dambusters and how did they use their bouncing bombs in WWII?

After the success of Christopher Nolans epic cinematic depiction of Dunkirk, another World War Two stand-off has come to the fore in 2018.

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Today is the 75th anniversary of Operation Chastise, also known as the Dambusters raid.

The strategic operation saw a team of 133 pilots from various Allied countries devise an air attack on three dams in the Ruhr valley to cut off supplies to Nazi strongholds.

It was such an enormous success, and a boost to those fighting Germany, that it went on to inspire a novel, which then spawned 1955 movie The Dam Busters.

Heres what we know about the team, where they are now, what kind of bombs they dropped, and how it all affected the outcome of the war.

Who were the Dambusters and how did they use their bouncing bombs in WWII?

The crew was assembled from many different countries (Picture: Getty)

The Dambusters raid happened on the night of May 16, 1943, with the bomber planes flying to Germany from Scampton, and via the Netherlands.

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The bombs that were dropped on the dams had been created by scientist Barnes Wallis. They were known as bouncing bombs because they could skip on water and avoid torpedo nets, before sinking and becoming a depth charge.

They had been tested in Watford and then on the disused Nant-y-Gro dam in Wales and at Chesil Beach in Dorset.

The attack tore right into Germanys industrial heartland by destroying two hydroelectric power plants and damaging 125 armaments factories, plus several coal mines vital to the Nazi war effort.

Who were the Dambusters and how did they use their bouncing bombs in WWII?

The targets were the Mohne, Edersee, Ennepe and Sorpe dams in the Ruhr Valley (Picture: Getty)

The 133 men assembled, who flew 19 Lancaster bombers to Germany, were from 617 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

He was just 24 years old and a member of RAF Scampton, north of Lincoln.

The rest of the dambusters were from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Who were the Dambusters and how did they use their bouncing bombs in WWII?

Using land in Rutland and Colchester, Gibson trained them all in low-altitude flight so they could drop the bombs from just 60ft up.

The exact model of plane they flew was the Avro Lancaster Mk IIIs, which had been stripped of internal armour and mid-upper turret to minimise weight and accommodate their heavy cargo.

In the attack, 53 British air force officers lost their lives. Eight planes out of 19 were gunned down during the attacks, which took over two hours.

Who were the Dambusters and how did they use their bouncing bombs in WWII?

Five crew members at a 1967 reunion event (Picture: Getty)

Approximately 1,600 civilians, including Allied prisoners of war, were killed as well and the Sorpe dam did not sustain much damage.

However it was still considered a massive success, with Wallis saying later: I feel a blow has been struck at Germany from which she cannot recover for several years,” Barnes Wallis wrote.

Historians agree that the main benefit of the costly attacks overall was to lift the morale of civilians and soldiers in Britain and the US, as well as impressing the Soviet allies.

Who were the Dambusters and how did they use their bouncing bombs in WWII?

An illustration of the bombings used for the cover of a model-making set (Picture: Revell)

Michael Andersons classic movie in 1955 starred Sir Michael Redgrave as Wallis and Richard Todd as Gibson.

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It was adapted from a 1951 novel by Paul Brickhill, and the film is well-known for its rousing theme, The Dam Busters March.

A nationwide cinema screening of The Dam Busters will happen on Thursday May 17. And on June 4, the DVD of the movie will be re-released too.

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