Dambusters bomb sight replicated at BCMC

A unique fundraising project of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC) at Nanton, Alta., is production of 30 copies of the simple wooden bomb sight used by the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron in the famous “Dambusters” bombing raid of the legendary Operation Chastise in May 1943.

The Lancaster at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada is seen during an engine run-up. The bomb doors have been removed so that a bouncing bomb replica can be displayed beneath the aircraft this summer. John Chalmers Photo
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The project supports the museum’s expansion. Thirty bomb sights were made as part of the museum’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the famous raid on the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams on rivers of the Ruhr valley in Germany in the Second World War.

Made of stained mahogany wood like the bomb sights used during the war, the replicas are exact copies of the simple Y-shaped device used for aiming the bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis in what is regarded by some as the most daring bombing raid of the war.

Meticulous work by volunteers at the museum has produced replicas of the original, exact in every detail. In January 2015, an original bomb sight used in the 1943 raid sold in England for £41,000 – equal to nearly $72,000 Canadian today. John Chalmers Photo

“Of the 133 air crew members who served in the Dambusters raid, 30 were Canadians, so each one of our replicas commemorates one of those men,” said Karl Kjarsgaard, one of the museum’s directors.

“The replicas are being made available to collectors, museums and individuals who wish to acquire a significant artefact and symbol of the bombing operation.”

Of the 53 airmen killed in action during the raid while flying in Lancaster bombers, 14 were Canadians.

A re-enactor is seen with the AJ-M livery on the Lancaster at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. The lettering commemorates one of the Dambusters Lancasters in which Canadians flew during Operation Chastise. John Chalmers Photo

Each replica bomb sight is signed on a sighting-arm component by retired S/L George Leonard “Johnny” Johnson MBE, DFM. Johnny was a Dambusters bomb aimer and is the last living British member of Royal Air Force 617 Squadron. He flew on the crew of RCAF W/C Joe McCarthy, DSO, DFC, CD.

There is one other living member of the Dambuster crews. He is Fred Sutherland of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., who flew as an RCAF air gunner with 617 Squadron.

Four months after the Dambusters operation, Sutherland and all his Lancaster crew had to bail out over Holland after a mishap with the aircraft.

Morrison stands near aircraft.
Greg Morrison is the chief engineer for the Nanton Lancaster. Gary Watson Photo

His story, and his escape to freedom, is told in Wartime Wednesdays, an internet series of wartime stories by Elinor Florence, and can be seen here.

To order a bomb sight, contact the museum at bombercommandmuseum.ca  or call 403-646-2270.

A donation of $500 or more will reward you with a numbered and limited edition bomb sight, letter of authenticity, information package and a charitable donation receipt for income tax deduction.

The bomb sight replicas were built by volunteers at BCMC and are available only from the museum.

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“Great assistance in our BCMC bombsight project came from Bob Mehi, a historian in Ontario,” said Karl Kjarsgaard. “Bob researched and built a prototype of the Dambuster bombsight for our museum, which was sent to us in early May 2018. We have built the replica dam sights as part of our tribute to the Dambusters this summer.”

In addition to producing the bomb sights, the Bomber Command Museum recognizes the participation of Canadians by placing the markings of a Lancaster on which three Canadians flew in the raid.

During the summer, the museum’s Lancaster will bear the call letters AJ-M of 617 Squadron Lancaster ED925, piloted by F/L John Hopgood DFC. The aircraft crashed after being hit by flak following its attack on the Möhne dam, with five crew being killed and two taken as prisoners of war.

On Aug. 24 and 25, at the BCMC at Nanton, the Dambusters will be honoured and commemorated in special program presentations and activities, including performances by the RCAF 4 Wing Band from Cold Lake, Alta.

A 1,000-pound replica of the original bomb, which weighed 6,500 pounds. The bomb will likely stay on the aircraft until the end of 2018. Gary Watson Photo

Run-ups of the Lancaster engines, a Fleet Fawn engine run-up, and engine runs of a Bristol Hercules engine of a Halifax bomber will be among the attractions at the museum’s annual big August weekend.

Ted Barris, author of his newest book, The Dambusters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid Against Nazi Germany, will be the featured speaker on Aug 25 and launch the book in its first availability to the public.

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