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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Queen attends Dambusters tribute
The Queen at Lossiemouth
The Queen watches an air display

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have met the original members of the famous Dambusters air squadron at an air base in Scotland.

Their visit to RAF Lossiemouth in Moray was arranged to mark the 60th anniversary of the WWII sortie to knock out German power supplies.

The Dambusters 617 Squadron was formed in 1943 after warplane designer Barnes Wallis developed the bouncing bomb.

It was designed to spin backwards at 500rpm, skipping over torpedo nets, before detonating against dams in enemy territory.

Some 19 Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron, each with a crew of seven men, took part in the original raid.

The low-level attack targeted the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in the Ruhr, which were vital to Germany's industrial production.

'Wonderful lady'

The raid was deemed a success as the destruction of the dams caused widespread flooding and interrupted industrial production.

But it came at a high cost as eight of the 19 Lancasters failed to return while 53 aircrew were killed and three survived to be taken prisoner.

One veteran of the famous squadron, 84-year-old Les Monro, travelled from New Zealand to attend the anniversary celebrations.

Les Munro
Les Munro: "Proud moment"

Although his plane was damaged by flak and had to turn back during the original mission, he went on to complete many more for the squadron before retiring.

"It's a great feeling to be able to come back and meet comrades from that time," he said.

"It's also been a great honour to engage in the 60th anniversary of the activities.

"It was a proud moment for me to be able to meet the Queen and I was happy to be able to show her photographs of her father greeting me in 1943."

During her visit, the Queen also met some of squadron's modern day pilots who recently returned from action in the Gulf.

Flight Lieutenant Simon Greenhalgh said: "It was a great honour to meet the Queen. She is a wonderful lady and it's not something you get to do every day.

"She was enquiring what it was like to be back and how I found the operations and everyday life while I was out there."

Later the Queen and Duke visited the St Aidan's Community Centre, where they watched a fly-past by Britain's only surviving operational Lancaster bomber - made famous for its role in the Dambusters raids - and a Tornado display.

Craig Anderson reports
"Today was a time for celebrations and reminiscences"

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27 Apr 03  |  Southern Counties
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17 Apr 03  |  Scotland
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03 Apr 03  |  England

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