View Full Version : 'The Dambusters' movie

2nd Sep 2002, 12:44
Does anybody know which grass airfield was used for some of the formation take-off shots of Lancasters in the movie 'The Dambusters' (1954)?

I don't think it's wartime footage as the aircraft shown appear to be those provided by the RAF for use for the film (i.e. training models modified to represent 617 Sqn's aircraft).

Any offers? :confused:

2nd Sep 2002, 15:49
Much of the film was actually filmed at Scampton, using 5 Lancaster VII aircraft, three fitted with mock ups of Upkeep - as the weapon was still classified at the time, the shape and size is a "guestimate". The ops room in the movie was the actual 5 group Ops room at RAF Grantham which was found locked up and dust covered but more or less exactly as it had been in 1943.
Most of the sequences from the raid were filmed in the Lake Windermere area.

After the Battle Magazine published a feature on the making of the film in issue 10, available from
After The Battle
Church House
Church Street
London E15 3JA

John (Gary) Cooper
2nd Sep 2002, 20:37
The filming over the dams was, I believe at Derwent Reservoir, Derbyshire, those towers are definitely in the film, I also believe that this reservoir was used in practice due to the dam being 'hidden from view' from the Northern End, the terrain was pretty much the same on the Ruhr.

Lu Zuckerman
2nd Sep 2002, 23:04
Way back in 1976 I was visiting England on a business trip. An English colleague took me for a ride starting at Sheffield. We stopped at a reservoir that I was told fed the water systems of Sheffield and if I remember correctly Swindon. He told me that the Dam Busters was filmed at that reservoir.


3rd Sep 2002, 06:18
When I was stationed in the 60s at Kirton Lindsey - a large grass airfield north of Scampton - I was told that a formation take-off of three Lancasters had been filmed there for a sequence in the Dambusters.

Apparently they used the longest run, to the north-west, which was uphill and by all accounts, had squeezed neatly through the gap between the hangars and the farmhouse which sits on the western boundary.

Who has control?
3rd Sep 2002, 07:47
I think that a lot of the scenes involving test-dropping the weapon into the sea where filmed at Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire. There is a display panel in the visitor centre or at the tip of the Point with further details on it.

John (Gary) Cooper
3rd Sep 2002, 07:56
............and some of the ORIGINAL testing of the bomb was off Shingle Street, Suffolk with Barnes Wallis and all those AM boffins in attendance.........

3rd Sep 2002, 09:48
Most of the original test drops were off Reculver in North Kent. A couple of the test Upkeeps were recovered from the sea there during the 1990s.

Having done a quick Google search, it seems that there are several dams and lakes in and around the UK that were used in the filming of the Dambusters including Derwent, the Elan valley, and Lake Vyrnwy in Powys.

Derwent Water was used in training by 617 prior to Chastise and was also used by the filmmakers in 1954 . It seems to have been the main area used by the film, although no doubt others were also used. The Elan valley also has a "real life" connection to the raid as a small redundant dam built on the Nant-y-Gro in the early stages of the construction of the reservoir was blown up as a test during the development of Upkeep (though not from an air-dropped weapon).

Biggles Flies Undone
3rd Sep 2002, 13:35
There’s some wonderful celluloid footage of the Reculver tests. The cameraman was so intent on panning his camera to follow the bomb that he didn’t notice that it had deviated towards the beach and was approaching him in great bursts of shingle and debris, finally bouncing over his shoulder and out of picture. Once the dust had settled the onlookers rushed up to congratulate him on his courage and devotion to duty, to which he replied "you might have bloody told me!!" :D

3rd Sep 2002, 14:19
On another note recently purchased The Dambusters on DVD whilst on another Out of Area detachment. It was the US region and they have cut out ALL references to the late Wg Cdr Gibson VC's dog "******"!!!!

Evening Star
3rd Sep 2002, 14:28
Studied Derwent as part of my masters dissertation and can confirm its use in the training for the actual raid and, if my memory serves me correctly, for the film. Memorial for 617 squadron just inside the gate to the access along the crest of the dam, and a related exhibition inside the west control tower. Cannot remember the opening hours (think it is volunteer run) but a visit is very interesting.

Lu Zuckerman, the water from Derwent, along with Ladybower and Howden, is shared between Yorkshire Water for Sheffied and Severn Trent Water for the Derwent Valley Aqueduct system supplying the East Midlands.

3rd Sep 2002, 19:39
DD I am sorry if that is a fact! That is political correctness gone mad.

Guy Gibson's dog was called N****r, like many dogs I knew of in my childhood - including my own, and also a black labrador. There ain't nothing in this world that can change that. It is fact. Just as Agatha Christie's book was called "Ten little N****rs" - later to be changed to "Ten Little Indians" how bloody absurd.

GG's dog was a part of his life at that time and has a small but rightful place in history. Why in God's name does someone think they have a right to change history!

How crazy this world has become.

4th Sep 2002, 03:38
My memory of the film, and the book is a bit dim now :rolleyes: but if my memory serves me well, wasn't the dog's name the code for a successful raid? :confused:

I seem to remember that there was a scene in the ops room when the code word is received, someone shouts it out, and there is general congratulations all round. :D

I wonder how our American friends got around that? :D :D

4th Sep 2002, 04:11
One of the original bombs is also on display at Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset. I believe some of the first tests were done using a Wellington off Chesil Beach.

astir 8
4th Sep 2002, 07:32
Shouldn't Agatha Christie's book now be re-renamed "Ten little native Americans"?

Even more unforgiveably,apparently all the Lancs used in the film were scrapped immediately afterwards. :mad:

4th Sep 2002, 07:33

You are absoluteley right. The code word was N****r - it was used when a dam was actually breached.

Well no-one changed it (would they dare?) in the showing of the movie last year, and I have a copy which will NEVER be changed.

Damn it! We have to keep certain things sacred. :mad:

4th Sep 2002, 09:29
But even in the PC version you can hear the REAL codeword - if you can read morse!!

4th Sep 2002, 10:39
During the early 1970's, the Rev W Audry, the author of the Thomas the Tank Engine books, came in for some criticism because he'd also used the "N word" in one of his books.

His son - acting as his father's spokesman - said that his father was upset by the criticism as the word had been innocuous in the 30's when the book was written.

Leo Hartley, author of "The Go-Between", wrote as that books opening line: "The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there." How right he was!


4th Sep 2002, 14:38
gyp -

Many thanks - I think you hit the nail on the head! :)

To everybody else -

Thanks for the additional gen - it's a fascinating subject.

Best regards :D

Ball Bay
8th Sep 2002, 01:10
Is the complete film available on DVD ?

8th Sep 2002, 18:58
As a matter of interest, I was stationed in Soest during my AAC days which is just down the road from the Möhne dam, I still live quite near it.
I was on a little boat tour they do around the resevoir and the chap doing the commentary was actually there when the dam was breached, he was a machine gunner on night duty at the time. Fascinating to talk to him, but I don't know if he's still there it was a while ago.

8th Sep 2002, 22:38
If you are interested ther is a small section in the book Lancaster at War (the first one) entitled The Dambusters Movie and Fact.
Also there is some good reading re the German View in either
The Men Who Breached The Dam's or Beyond The Dam's To The Tirpitz. You can prob get/or order all these books at the library.
Hope this Helps You
SPIT:) ;) :cool:

Genghis the Engineer
11th Sep 2002, 06:39
Slight aside, I had a call a couple of days ago from a production company working for Channel 4. They wanted to know how to drop a scale bouncing bomb from a modern aircraft for a programme about the raid, scheduled to go out next year.

Should be interesting work if we get it.


astir 8
11th Sep 2002, 07:29
Good luck on the dropping of a replica "Upkeep"!

But will it be another C4 "exclusive revelations" programme such as

a) the Eder dam wasn't particularly critical to German industry.

b) Upkeep wasn't designed for rockfill dams like the Sorpe

c) minor conventional bombing of the dam rebuilding operations could have extended the effects considerably.

of which points most half interested people are already aware,

but which don't detract from the incredible bravery of the men on the mission and the ingenuity of Barnes Wallis.

Genghis the Engineer
15th Sep 2002, 13:10
I get the impression that they're more interested in the technicalities of how it was developed and worked than the history. If so, it'll be a bonus, I'm still recovering from helping C4 make the Scrapheap "flying machines" episode, for which I was grossly underpaid and missed from the credits. (Then again, given they chopped out anything related to how we ensured the whole thing was done safely, perhaps I'm better not being publically associated with it).

However, no guarantee it'll happen. Might even be worth looking at doing from one of the couple of giant flying model lancs around, will look better and only endanger property - bombs have a remarkable tendency to come back and hit the aircraft that released them. That's much of the reason that modern bombing usually involves both explosive ejection devices and dynamic manoeuvres during the pickle.


Dr Jekyll
15th Sep 2002, 13:42
Back to the censored dog.

We must have some coloured ppruners, if you're out there, are you offended? Either by the use of the term by Guy Gibson or by the references in the film? Surely this is what matters.

astir 8
16th Sep 2002, 08:10
So Genghis, how did you/they manage to square that "Scrapheap challenge" with safety, the CAA, BGA etc etc?

I always wondered.

Scrapheap challenge used to amuse, but now the components are getting a bit too obviously planted.

And seeing identical components/solutions often coming up on the American version, one wonders even more about the "spontenaity"

And they always finish the units just in time.

Maybe we should start another thread. :)

17th Sep 2002, 08:30
A dead neuron has just re-fired with another good tale I heard about the filming of "Dambusters".

An old boy I was talking to at a reunion or RAFA do or something had been at Scampton when the filming was done. There were mega-problems with lots of actors wandering around in "uniform", being saluted, or being b*ll*cked by the SWO for not saluting (if the actors were "airmen"). Much confusion all round.

Simple solution arrived at in the black & white age: all "actors" wear brown shoes/boots in uniform instead of black!

But Richard Todd (Guy Gibson) had been a commissioned officer, so apparently insisted on wearing black shoes and getting saluted by real airmen!!