AJ-G THE DAMBUSTERS  (617 Squadron)

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Eder Attack

After seeing the effects of their work circling the Mohne, Gibson sent Martin (AJ-P) and Maltby (AJ-J) home and ordered the remaining Lancasters with Upkeeps to follow him to the Eder dam. Shannon (AJ-L), Maudslay (AJ-Z) and Knight (AJ-N) with bombs followed Gibson and Young as they turned south-east for the short flight to the Eder. (Despite releasing his Upkeep at the Mohne, Young went on to the Eder because he would take over as leader should anything happen to Gibson).

The Eder dam was difficult to locate with the similarly looking wooded landscape with valleys and an early morning mist rising. Having located the target the Lancasters began to circle to evaluate the task ahead. A bonus for the crews was that there were no flak gunners over the Eder defending the dam; the dam was undefended. However, the terrain was not going to make it an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. In fact it was probably more difficult to get a good run. Due to the shape of the valley, the attackers would have to approach over Waldeck Castle sat on top of a 1,000 feet peak, then dive down to the lake and swing sharply left, hop over a spit of land and quickly drop to 60 feet for the attack. As soon as they released their Upkeep they would then have to pull up steeply to avoid the high ground on the other side of the dam. In actual fact they would have no more than 5 seconds to line up the plane at 60 feet and release the weapon before it was too late.

At 0120 Shannon in AJ-L was sent in to attack the Eder. After three attempts at lining up correctly he could not achieve the right angle or height. Gibson told him to take a breather and circle round while Maudslay (AJ-Z) was sent in for an attempt. He ran into similar problems and after two attempts Shannon was told to try again. On his third attempt this time he lined up well and released his Upkeep. It exploded right against the dam wall sending a column of water 1,000 feet into the air. The dam held. Goner 78B was send to Grantham - Weapon released at Eder dam, exploded against dam but no breach.

Maudslay was sent back in by Gibson for another attempt. He was still struggling to get the correct height when his bomb aimer Mike Fuller, perhaps not wanting to delay the attack released the Upkeep too late with fateful effect. It hit the parapet of the dam and exploded in a burst of light which by all accounts illuminated the whole valley like daylight. Although Maudslay had just cleared the dam when the bomb exploded, the blast almost certainly caused damage to AJ-Z. Gibson radioed him over the R/T and asked if he was OK. Maudslay was heard to faintly reply "I think so". It was the last they would hear from Maudslay and the crew of AJ-Z.

Gibson called up Astell in AJ-B who he had not seen since leaving Scampton but Astell and the crew of AJ-B had been dead for about and hour and a half. With only one Upkeep remaining from the nine aircraft assigned the Mohne and Eder dams and the Eder still standing Gibson knew it was all down to Les Knight and AJ-N. Knight made one dummy run on the dam to get a feel for the run in before making his final attack. On his second run, Knight lined AJ-N up perfectly and Ed Johnson the bomb aimer released Upkeep spot on. The bomb skipped over the lake three times and hit the wall not far from the centre. Knight opened the throttles of the Lancaster and stood it on its tail as he recovered the plane on the far side of the dam. Behind him, the Upkeep exploded throwing up the usual column of water. To the delight of Gibson and the remaining Lancs the bomb punched a hole right through the middle of the dam and then the top fell away with a gigantic torrent of water bursting through.

DINGHY, breach in the Eder Dam (Morning after the attack)
DINGHY, breach in the Eder Dam (Morning after the attack)

Pictures of Eder Dam after attack

It was estimated that for the first few seconds, 1.8 million gallons of water per second cascaded through the dam wall. As the valley was steeper, the tidal wave was even more spectacular than at the Mohne. Gibson signalled the codeword 'Dinghy' back to Grantham - the successful breach of the Eder dam.


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