Issue Date: 17/05/2018
Issue Name: Celebrating Guy Gibson and 617 Squadron
Producer: Buckingham Covers
Wing Commander Guy Gibon was the first Commanding Officer at the Royal Air Force's No.617 Squadron, formed on the 21st March, 1943. This lovely cover celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters raid, and Guy Gibson, and features a 1st class Union Jack flag stamp along with a Lancaster image label. It has an RAF Scampton, Lincoln postmark (17th May, 2018).
Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar was born on 12 August 1918 and had distinguished himself as an excellent bomber and outstanding night fighter pilot during the early years of the war. He was the first Commanding Officer of the Royal Air Force's No. 617 Squadron, formed on 21st March 1943 at Scampton near Lincoln. Arthur 'Bomber' Harris of Bomber Command gave him the unprecedented privilege of selecting crews from other bomber command squadrons to fly the Lancasters on a special highly secret operation. The operation was known only as Operation Chastise and it was Dr Barnes Wallis' design and engineering that were to make it all possible. He designed the unique ‘bouncing bomb’ and modified nineteen Lancaster bombers for the task of breaching the three enormous dams of the Ruhr region, the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe.
On the 16 May 1943 at about 21.30hrs, after weeks of training for low level flying around the dams and reservoirs of Derbyshire, nineteen Lancasters of 617 Squadron were dispatched from Scampton, loaded with Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bombs . The first attack was the Möhne, nine aircraft led by Gibson breached the dam and then five flew on to the Eder dam, where the first two bombs failed to breach but the third succeeded.
During these two raids Wing Commander Guy Gibson repeatedly flew over the two dams to draw enemy fire away from the attacking aircraft. Other aircraft attacked the Sorpe and a fourth dam, the Ennepe, but they did not succeed in breaching them. Of the nineteen Lancasters that took off with the 133 men who flew in them, eight did not return. Five were either shot down or crashed en route to their targets, two were destroyed while delivering their attacks and another shot down on the way home. Two more were so badly damaged they had to abandon their missions.
For his gallantry in the raid, Wing Commander Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross and in June 1943 became the most highly decorated serviceman in the country. Sadly he lost his life on 19 September 1944 after an attack on Bremen, having completed over 170 operations at the age of 26. 32 other squadron members were also decorated for their part in Operation Chastise. In one operation, 617 Squadron became probably the most famous RAF squadron of all time, and has been known from that time onwards as The Dam Busters, their efforts and bravery have lived on for seventy-five years and shall continue for many years to come.
‘Apres Moi - le deluge’ After me, the flood. 617 Squadron motto.