Page last updated at 07:40 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 08:40 UK

Service honours WWII Dambusters

Members of the 617 squadron were honoured after the raid
Members of the 617 squadron were honoured after the raid

A special service commemorating 65 years since the daring World War II Dambusters mission has been staged in the county where the bombs were tested.

The bouncing bombs, designed by engineer Barnes Wallis, were dropped by the RAF to destroy German dams.

Wallis used Nant-y-Gro dam in the Elan Valley in Powys to test the explosives in 1942.

There are calls for a replica bouncing bomb at the local tourist centre to encourage more visitors to the area.

A memorial service was held on Sunday at St Bride's Church, near Rhayader, to mark the mission and the Battle of Britain in 1940.

The Dambusters, part of the RAF's 617 squadron, took off on 16 May, 1943.

Nineteen aircraft set out to destroy the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany's industrial heartland, the Ruhr valley.

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 (45m) from England before descending for the bombing run to foil German radar.

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

Rhayader's connection with the missions go back to the early 1940s when the aviation engineer Barnes Wallis went to the Elan Valley to test the explosives for the bouncing bomb on the Nant-y-Gro dam.

Caban Coch dam in the Elan Valley
The Caban Coch dam was built to supply water for workers

The dam, 35ft (10m) high, and 180ft long (55m) dam was used for the secret experiments by government officials who needed a testing site for the bombs.

The area was already used as a firing range by the military and was the perfect location because of its remoteness.

Two trials were carried out on the dam. The first was in May 1942, but they did not damage it, and further work was needed.

Two months later, a second experiment was carried out using a 500lb (226kg) anti-submarine bomb containing 279lb (126kg) of explosive.

It was suspended in the middle of the dam dam and detonated, blasting away a massive section of the central wall.


Douglas Jones, 84, from Dutlas, near Knighton, who attended Sunday's service, said it was important to recognise their efforts.

"My brother was one of the policemen who was responsible for safeguarding the test - it was such a secret and hidden affair at the time," he explained.

Nancy Morris's father was one of two local men chosen by the RAF to help them with their planning the highly secretive raid.

"I suppose I was nosy as a child, and I wanted to know why he was going to work at such odd hours, you know, because they used to practice at night as well," she said.

"And all these planes used to go over at night as well obviously practising as to how they'd drop this bomb and where they'd drop it.

"So he's telling me 'You've got to keep very quiet, you mustn't tell anybody'. So I didn't, I didn't tell a soul."

Dambusters memorial is 'defaced'
07 Nov 07 |  Lincolnshire

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