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Special flypast to mark the 80th anniversary of Dambusters raid

Today is the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters raid, with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s, BBMF, Lancaster (PA474) scheduled to mark the occasion with a special flyover of 34 locations, including 28 in Lincolnshire, the county from where the daring raid was launched.

It was the Lancasters of 617 Squadron that departed from RAF Scampton on the evening of May 16, 1943 on Operation Chastise, to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley, armed with Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bomb, a unique weapon that would skim the surface of the water before exploding when it hit the dam walls.

Codenamed Chastise 80, the flypast will begin at the RAF Museum in London around 6pm, before continuing up toward Lincolnshire where the majority of the commemoration will take place. 

Speaking about the event recently, Flight Lieutenant Giles Croft, BBMF operations officer, said: “At this stage, the Lancaster sortie for the evening includes 34 flypast locations which is far more than we would normally plan in a single sortie.

“We will try to ‘make up the time’ by reducing most events to a single overflight so that we can meet our fixed time over the RAF Museum in Hendon but still manage a tour of the Lincolnshire Bomber Command Airfields prior to landing before sunset.

“I personally can’t wait to see our Lancaster over her home turf, against the same backdrop she would have had in the 1940s; I just hope that backdrop is clear evening skies with less than 15knots crosswind!”

However, the flypast will not include a route over the Derwent and Howden reservoirs in Derbyshire where much of the training took place ahead of the mission, despite the 60th and 70th commemorations including the Lancaster flying over both.

Lancaster Flypast

In statement of Facebook, the BBMF said: “We take safety very seriously and this includes ensuring that the public are safe on the ground. As we do not have any control over events on the ground in Derbyshire, and an event has not been organised to facilitate large crowds gathering, it would not be practical to draw a crowd to the area. We’re sorry for any disappointment.”

But speaking to the Daily Mail, a spokesman for Severn Trent Water, which owns the reservoirs, said: “The decision to undertake any commemorative event would be at the discretion of the BBMF. Neither the National Park Authority nor Severn Trent have been approached by the BBMF to support such a flight in 2023.”

As part of the commemoration, PA474 undertook a flight over the Netherlands and Belgium on May 4, retracing part of the route the Lancasters took from Scampton on their way to Germany.

Tonight’s event will take on greater significance with the last remaining Dambuster, George Leonard ‘Johnny’ Johnson, dying in December last year, aged 101. The Dambusters raid involved 19 Lancasters and 133 aircrew, eight of the bombers failing to return with 53 RAF personnel killed.

Flypast Locations and Times

Lincolnshire flypast and times:

Spitalgate:                 18:58

Fulbeck:                     19:02

Swinderby:                19:04

RAF Waddington:     19:07

Lincoln, IBCC:          19:08

Skellingthorpe:          19:12

Scampton:                 19:15

Dunholme:                 19:16

Wickenby:                 19:18

Faldingworth:            19:19

Ingham:                     19:21

Hemswell Cliff:          19:22

Blyton:                        19:24

Elsham Wolds:         19:30

Kirmington:                19:31

North Killingholme:  19:32

Grimsby:                    19:37

Binbrook:                   19:39

Ludford:                     19:41

Kelstern:                    19:42

Strubby:                     19:47

Spilsby:                      19:51

East Kirkby:               19:53

Bardney:                    19:58

Fiskerton:                  20:00

Metheringham:         20:03

Woodhall Spa:          20:05

RAF Coningsby:       20:07

Times will be subject to change due to weather conditions and other variables.

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