Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 15:41 UK

Dambusters remembered 65 years on

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A Lancaster flies over Derwent Reservoir in Derbyshire

A service and fly-past has been held to mark the 65th anniversary of the World War II Dambusters mission.

A Lancaster bomber flew three times over Derwent Reservoir in Derbyshire, which was used by the original pilots to train ahead of their famous raid.

In 1943, the RAF's 617 Squadron set out to destroy three dams in Germany's Ruhr valley. They managed to breach two, giving a boost to Britain's war effort.

The service remembered the eight aircraft and 53 crew who were lost.

A Spitfire, a Hurricane, two Tornadoes and a Dakota transport plane joined the fly-past.

Most of them travelled from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to take part.

Low-level mission

Sqn Ldr Les Munro, the last surviving pilot from the mission which was codenamed Operation Chastise, was a guest of honour.

The New Zealander said: "I feel a certain amount of pride that I've outlasted the other pilots.

"I'm not sure whether that says anything about the way I've lived and that sort of thing, but I think that I've always had a bit of satisfaction in that I've outlasted many of the others."

Also present was Michael Gibson whose uncle, Wing Cdr Guy Gibson, led the Dambusters.

Members of the Dambusters squad

During the service, 88-year-old Richard Todd, who played Mr Gibson in the 1954 film The Dambusters, laid poppies on the water of the reservoir.

The Lancaster is the last left flying in the UK, and there are only two still airworthy in the world.

It flew 100ft above the water, which compares to the 60ft of the Dambusters on their practice runs.

On 16 May 1943, 19 aircraft set out to destroy the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany's industrial heartland.

They used specially-designed drum-shaped bouncing bombs which skimmed across the water, rolled down the dam wall and exploded at depth.

Only 11 of the aircraft returned from the perilous low-level mission in which they flew at just 150ft all the way from England before descending for the bombing run to defeat the German radar.

It resulted in the largest awarding of medals at any one time during the war.

The bouncing bombs were the brainchild of legendary aviation engineer Sir Barnes Wallis, who was knighted in 1968.


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