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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 03:23 GMT 04:23 UK
Bomber flies in Dambusters tribute
Lancaster bomber
Lancaster bombers flew the raid

Britain's only surviving operational Lancaster bomber is taking to the air to mark Friday's 60th anniversary of the Dambusters raid.

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.

A weekend celebrating the skill and bravery of the aircrews centres around Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey, where Wallis and his team worked.

A key member of the team, Norman "Spud" Boorer, who worked at Brooklands for many years, will open a Dambusters exhibition.

The 87-year-old remembers the raid "as if it was yesterday".

Low-level attack

"You felt you had played at least a part in doing something useful in the war," he told BBC News.

Some 19 Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron, each with a crew of seven men, took part in the raid to knock out German electricity and water supplies.

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

The raid was deemed a success as the destruction of the Mohne and Eder dams caused widespread flooding and disruption of rail, road and canal communications.

Shot down

But it came at a high cost.

An estimated 1,294 people drowned, while 53 aircrew were killed and three, two of whom were badly injured, taken prisoner.

Four of the Lancasters are thought to have been shot down.

Pilot dazzled

Two are believed to have crashed after hitting electricity cables.

One is thought to have hit a tree after its pilot was dazzled by a searchlight.

And one is believed to have crashed after being damaged by the explosion of its own bomb.

Another two of the planes failed to drop their bombs.

Dams rebuilt

One had to turn back after being badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

Another had its bomb torn off after flying too close to the water.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross, and 34 other men received decorations.

The dams were rebuilt within months.

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