"Apres moi, Ie deluge"
That is the official motto of 617 Squadron. It is attributed to the King of France Louis XV (1710-1774) and means "after me come the floods". You can see why it was adopted by the "Dam Buster" Squadron!
Immortalised by the 1954 film The Dam Busters, the story of 617 Squadron has gained a special place in aviation history. Operation 'Chastise' is perhaps best known as the Dam Busters Raid on the dams of the Ruhr industrial complex.
Five dams (Mohne, Sorpe, Lister, Ennepe and Henne) were crucial in holding back 254 million cubic metres of water to supply the domestic and industrial needs of the Ruhr district. Situated six miles south of the Mohne Dam, the Sorpe Dam (built between 1927 and 1933) had the capacity to hold 72 million cubic metres of water.
On the 16th May 1943, two months since the formation of 617 Squadron, nineteen specially modified Lancasters, each carrying one of Barnes Wallis' bouncing bombs, took off from Scampton. On the bombing run an exact altitude of 60 feet had to be steadily maintained.
Judging height when flying at low level above water was found to be extremely difficult. To facilitate such low level flying two spotlights were fixed below the Lancaster so that spots of light would coincide on the surface of the water when flying at precisely 60 feet.
George "Johnny" Johnson
George "Johnny" Johnson, born in 1921 in Horncastle, was sergeant and the bomb-aimer of Joe McCarthy's ED825 AJ-T that attacked the Sorpe Dam from a height of just 30 feet. Johnson's was the only Lancaster of the second wave to make it to the dams. Although the single Upkeep bomb reached its target it was not sufficient to breach the dam. Johnson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal on the 28th May 1943 for the mission.
"Johnny" went on to fly 40 missions with Joe McCarthy at the controls and eventually retired from the RAF iin 1962