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617 Squadron - After The Dams

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617 Squadron - After The Dams

Old 27th May 2014, 10:39
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Thanks for the comments chaps. To cover a few points:

Cracking documentary, and nice to see a good amount of the last 617 Sqn Lancaster, which I was blocked from recovering back to the UK a few years back. Maybe with all the renewed interest I ought to try again - even if its just to stop the flow of parts showing up on ebay.

Thanks - & we have looked at bringing it back. Tricky proposition - very sensitive.

Shame the expert wasn't slightly more clued up; the turret examined wasn't the mid upper, its the shell of the FN5 front turret.

That it was the MU turret was verified by many other sources.

Had the camera been poked in the back of the bomb bay, you can still see the Tallboy shackles.

We did but didn't use the footage

Shame about the poor continuity work - period film and photos displayed back to front stood out amongst standard TV production errors when dealing with military aviation.

We knew this, (Rob Owen - 617 Sqn Historian was very forensic and we would have been lost without him) and for various production/editorial reasons decided to leave it as it is.

Yes, there were some continuity errors (I'm pretty sure that 617 never flew the Lancaster B II, for example), but overall a cracking programme well presented.

True Beags, (& we didn't actually say it was a "617" Lanc!) - but it is the best colour footage available so we ran with it!

Maybe it would have been better if the programme presenter hadn't started the thread. I'm sure I'd still have found it and watched it.

Eh? You maybe...but plenty of others were pleased to be pointed in the direction. Still....you can't please everyone!

I recall reading about most if not all of the ops in Paul Brickhill's book, serialised in John Bull magazine in the 1950s.

True - but the vast majority of people simply don't know the story. Especially those younger than you!

Anyway, it garnered 1.1 million viewers on first showing which is pretty fab for Ch5 so thanks for watching.

& many thanks to all who contacted me via social media @JohnNicholRAF to offer comment. Much appreciated.
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Old 27th May 2014, 10:43
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Now, could we have something on the Lincoln / Canberra / Vulcan / Tornado era and a look ahead to the F-35B please, John?
. . and the Argosy - don't forget the Argosy

OK, hat, coat, door . .

P.s. Watched it - Great, thank you.
Hadn't realised the attrition rate was so high.
We attended, with humility, the unveiling of The Memorial.
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Old 27th May 2014, 10:49
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There's a very good book called 'A hell of bomb" outstanding reference material. I'm not sure the Grand Slams at Velentin/Farce actually penetrated, having been there it looks to me like they just spalled and the concussion from this did the rest.
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Old 27th May 2014, 12:54
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617 Squadron - After The Dams

Well, for what it's worth, as a, ahem, 30 something who hasn't read Paul Brickhill's book and has spent a good deal of the past 5 years in Joint jobs, I thought it was a thoroughly entertaining and informative programme. I have been to La Cupole before and seen it from the German side, but never from the RAF perspective before now.
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Old 27th May 2014, 13:11
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I enjoyed it very much. The content was fantastic except for one raid that was a 'cracker' - the Saumur tunnel. There is ONE good shot of the dead centre drop and a great credit to the BA and crew.

It could have course been a much longer doc but beggars can't be choosers.


I first met Mac Hamilton at a Biggin Hill Air Fair, an incredible character and only 21 when he was a Captain with 617. For interest, Micky Martin was said to have been the absolute master of low flying - hard to argue with, but Warrant Officer Tom McLean, who was a tail gunner on Duffy's aircraft, and given the job by the 'boss' of all bosses, Leonard Cheshire, shot down a couple of 110's and a Me 109 on their way home from a raid that got pulled. Tom Mclean said of Mac that he was the finest of the best low flyer he had ever flown with. Mac Hamilton lived a couple of miles from me and I developed the knack of getting him talking. I'll never forget it. It was he, by the way, who designed the blazer badge of the Dams raid.

Anyway, John. I shall look again and again at your doc - it was terrific. Adding the remains of EASY was more real than anything else and still exists. Maybe, John you should gather it up. Sorry I cannot lend you a hand.

Who could ever imagine the bravery, guts and skills of 617 - the best of the best.
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Old 27th May 2014, 13:39
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The post-showing comments have surprised me, so I wind my neck in by 80%.

Being in my 70s and having sucked up/in just about everything published and shown about 617, I sat in the armchair, glass of vino collapso in hand, and was making disgruntled noises at the rate of one a minute, so much so that I got a rollocking from Mrs LB "if its that bad turn it off!"

So it was me, not the programme, after all, and I have become a curmudgeon and a grumpy old sod in addition to all my other virtues.

Did I miss the reference to low-level marking by aircraft other than the rather large and slow Lancaster, which was surely pivotal, and worth the inferred 20% whinge inferred above? And did I miss reference to, shall we say, another distinguished squadron in the Tirpitz coverage?
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Old 27th May 2014, 13:44
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Live not that far from Saumur, so really ought to go and look at the tunnel. I am told the raids are commemorated by a plaque.
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Old 27th May 2014, 13:55
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Regarding recovery - mine was called off in 2008 at the 11th hour due to land access issues. As most of the permit documents are still sat here in my desk, I still intend to try again.

The Mid-upper was removed entirely to facilitate the fitting of a Wellington overload fuel tank.. necessary for range rather than operating out of Russia again. The only turret frame on site is the FN5 - though in the rest of the wreckage is a portion of fuselage containing the mid upper turret ring.


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Old 27th May 2014, 14:30
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I thought it was an absorbing documentary, well done John and co.

Yes, a few "errors" but I imagine that Pprune was not the tgt audience; there's not enough archive footage to hold a 90 minute piece on 617 together for the interested public . IMHO the mix of archive and footage of 474 and 611 worked well - I thought the audio of crew banter was wonderful; reminded me of several long days on ops (though with better manners and language...).

As to what they did next? I had my logbooks copied by Hendon and on handing them back to me the archivist commented that I'd captained the same aircraft as a Dambuster; Micky Martin qualified on the Wessex when AOC 38 Gp and I'd flown the same cab in flying training. Just shows how in many ways this is still modern history.....
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Old 27th May 2014, 14:35
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Mickey Martin when staish at RAF Nicosia routinely bummed cigarettes AND a light off me at his personal Met Brief. He then went next door into Ops and did exactly the same thing.

He did a few rather spectacular low-levels with a Hastings, as I recall.
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Old 27th May 2014, 14:50
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was it micky who looped a grand slam or upkeep lanc ? I seem to recall grand slam due to the extra power of the engines and being stripped out so much to gain the range... but uncle al might be playing tricks

seem to remember a tale being told about some years ago
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Old 27th May 2014, 18:13
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PPRuNe Pop ...

Mac was a most generous and modest man ... I have fond memories of him and others of his vintage during my nine years voluntary service with 1 AEF. I vividly remember parking my "heap" one Saturday morning (70's) in the Car Park when Mac pulled up and spied a copy of "Pilot" on my backseat ... the feature article was "Flying The Lancaster" ... he asked if he could borrow it saying ... "I just want to see if there was anything new to know" ... much laughter then ensued

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Old 27th May 2014, 18:22
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was it micky who looped a grand slam or upkeep lanc ? I seem to recall grand slam due to the extra power of the engines and being stripped out so much to gain the range... but uncle al might be playing tricks

seem to remember a tale being told about some years ago
I read an article many moons ago about one of the upkeep Lancs an air test after it had been stripped of weight for the raid, a B-17 came up behind it and they would normally leave the Lanc standing, the Lanc pilot throttled back to allow him to pull level then opened it up and barrel rolled it around the B-17 before leaving the stunned B-17 crew behind
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Old 27th May 2014, 18:36
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I also watched your TV program right after the classic movie. I thought it was very good. However, please note I only say 'very good' and not excellent.

Am I being harsh? I don't think so. The back-to-front registration on the black and white photos, the use of the B Mk II and the reference to the mid upper were all spoilers. If you have a chance to give feedback to the producer please tell him/her that it is the final detail that makes all the difference - this exact attention to detail was the difference between a good bomber crew and an exceptional one (like those on 617 in WWII).

By the way, there are 2 airworthy Merlin engined Lancs with ample footage of take offs instead of a Bristol Hercules engined one (I know you know this - but it did detract). Furthermore, there is very good period colour footage for Merlin engined ones in 'Night Bombers':

Anyway, as I said, I would give it 'high to above average' in your TV program logbook.

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Old 27th May 2014, 18:50
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By the way, some of the Lancaster B Mk I (special) have no front turret either, although I believe "E" did?

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Old 27th May 2014, 18:56
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John, petty criticisms apart (this was aimed at a basic audience, not a bunch of highly enthusiastic and knowledgeable critics), I thoroughly enjoyed watching it tonight (recorded). Having served 2 tours on 617, I was aware of most of the raids you covered but certainly not in the detail nor with some of the personal testimony although I was lucky enough to be on the Sqn for our 50th Anniversary and met some of the surviving Dams Raid boys as well as some from other raids too including the successful Tirpitz raid.

An honour to have been a modern-day member of that valiant, brave & pioneering squadron and thank you for an excellent job which is now preserved for our children & grand-children to watch over the years to come.

Well done m8.
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Old 27th May 2014, 19:40
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Basil wrote:
. . and the Argosy - don't forget the Argosy
I was referring to 617's post-WW2 era with the Lincoln / Canberra / Vulcan / Tornado (and before long, F-35B). The squadron assuredly did NOT fly the Whistling Tit!
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Old 27th May 2014, 19:46
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Whilst I agree it might appear "petty" there is a 2nd order effect here. If JN's program becomes the preserved reference for "our children & grandchildren for years to come" then there won't be anyone around to correct the errors. That is why it is so essential for the production team to get it absolutely right during the final production. I'm sure there are many around the world that believe that the Americans captured the Enigma and also tried to jump a fence to Switzerland on a Triumph whilst a POW!

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the program a lot. I thought JN came over well. But I do feel it's a shame that a couple of hours research by some SMEs on the finer detail via Google/Bing wasn't done - or even a screening via JN's mates. He even drank a few beers with me and a few others a fortnight ago in London and we would have given our services for free whilst downing a few real ales! I do have ~50hrs Lancs as well!

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Old 27th May 2014, 20:04
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LJ, I wasn't specifically referring to your post but there will always be some detail that is missed or incorrect, no matter how hard you try. If the film was aimed at us, I'd agree but I doubt whether a kid is really going to even notice whether mid-upper is missing or not and if they don't, does that level of detail really matter in this case? Too mush focus on detail would probably mean the programme was never done in the first place, or at least with much less scope. They want it done well enough, not perfectly.

As long it is recorded somewhere for those of use with the penchant for detail, then that is what does matter.

JMHO of course.
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Old 27th May 2014, 20:17
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Your opinion is well made and I agree that we would be poorer without the documentary ever being made. In this digital age, would it be so hard for media companies to go back and correct errors like this? That way people might watch it again via re-runs, DVDs and iplayers?

In my experience of being in documentaries in the past (in a far more minor way than JN, I hasten to add!), the media production team would often take offence to any criticism of their final cut - which would kind of make a nonsense of a final showing! So I say this in support of JN, that it is often the inflexibility of the documentary production team that serves to introduce such errors.

Just a thought - I'll zip-lip for now.

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