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D” is for The Dambusters (1955)

daring. That is pretty much all that can be said about the mission that No. 617 Squadron took on in 1943 at the height of the Second World War. It was called Operation Chastise. One of the most famous operations of the Second World War.

The Dam Busters tells the story of a squadron of Lancaster bombers flying at extreme low levels to drop bombs against the three major dams situated along the River Rhine in Germany. The mission was declared a huge success, but many, many lives were lost on both sides in its execution. The price of freedom.

I think that the film is hugely rewarding with its story. Yes, there are elements of the film that have been exaggerated somewhat, but I think it adds to the romanticism of the story. The operation did actually happen and when you see what they did, it really brings it home to you just how brave these guys were and only in their early 20s aswell! It was recently the 70th anniversary of the mission in Germany and of course the TV channels showed the movie and I let my 5-year-old son watch it. He seemed to be as impressed with it as I was and liked the history behind the film.

MV5BMTU1NjgxOTY4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDcyNjk5._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_Barnes Wallis was of course a genius. Who would have thought that a bomb would be able to bounce across the water. The crunch point was of course in the timing and after many months of relentless testing, Wallis managed to get his calculations right. In the movie he is portrayed by Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa and Co.) and he gives a marvellous performance. Also starring are Richard Todd and Robert Shaw.

Aside from the fact that the mission was a success and a victory for the good guys (us), the whole idea was just really clever. I also like the cinematography in this film. There are some great shots of the flying Lancasters and some actual footage from the bombing tests used during the movie so it adds that extra sense of realism to the whole experience. There is also the small controversy surrounding the name of Guy Gibson’s black labrador dog “Nigger“. I think too much gets made of this. It was after all, the 40s and I think that any attempt to dub the film annoys me somewhat.

Fun Fact: This film was used as inspiration for the final battle scenes in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). Gilbert Taylor, Director of Photography and Stuart Freeborn, makeup supervisor for Star Wars also worked on this film.