Warplane museum marks 75th anniversary of Dambusters raid

On May 12, 2018, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) in Hamilton, Ont., hosted an event to mark the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Avro Lancaster bomber is one of only two in the world that are in flying condition. Mike Reyno Photo
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With the CWHM Avro Lancaster as a backdrop, journalist and author Ted Barris gave an hour-long presentation on the famous raid involving Royal Air Force (RAF) 617 Squadron that took place May 16 to 17, 1943.

Code named “Operation Chastise” the innovative, daring night time attack breached the Mohne and Eder Dams in the Ruhr region of Germany, destroying or damaging power stations, factories, mines, roads and railway lines.

Nineteen Lancasters, carrying a specially designed 9,250-pound “bouncing bomb” filled with Torpex, was used to attack three dams in Germany’s industrial area. Two dams were breached with a third was damaged, causing water to flood the valley.

Barris focused a large part of the presentation on Canadian participation on the raid. With many family members and descendants of the aircrew in attendance, Barris gave insight into the 31 Canadian crew members, of whom 14 died during the raid.

Of the 19 Lancasters used, only 11 returned to base. Fifty-three of the 133 aircrew on board lost their lives.

Today, only two men are still alive from the raid, George “Johnny” Johnson in England and Fred Sutherland of Alberta.

Closeup of crest on Lancaster bomber
Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Avro Lancaster bomber bears a crest marking the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid. Mike Reyno Photo

For 2018, CWHM has dedicated the left side of the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster in the markings of 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s aircraft AJ-G, which had two Canadians on board when he led the daring raid.

Museum president David Rohrer said the markings will be changed to AJ-B “Baker” for the Brantford Community Charity Airshow in August to honour two Hamilton airmen who participated in the raid, front gunner Frank Garbas and wireless operator Abram Garshowitz.

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Barris speaks to crowd
Journalist and author Ted Barris gave an hour-long presentation on the Dambusters raid at Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ont., on May 12, 2018. Eric Dumigan Photo

Unfortunately, Lancaster AJ-B never made it to the target, crashing 100 kilometres away after hitting a hydro tower and exploding on contact with the ground.

Next week, nephews of Garshowitz and Garbas will place a wreath at the Dambusters memorial in Lincolnshire, England.

Barris is a journalism instructor at Centennial College in Toronto and has authored 18 non-fiction books, of which several highlight Canadians at war.

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