This week, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the celebrated Dambusters raid, one of the most daring operations carried out by the RAF during WWII.
On the evening of May 16th 1943, after just two months of preparation, 133 hand-picked airmen, in 19 specially adapted Lancaster bombers set out on a bombing raid with the aim of breaching three dams in the Ruhr Valley and thereby slowing down the production of arms by Nazi Germany. Of the 19 crews which had set out on the raid, eight did not return. In total, 53 men were killed and three ended up as prisoners of war. A huge loss for the newly formed 617 Squadron and those involved.
The Dambusters raid was just one of many thousands carried out by RAF Bomber Command during WWII. Of the 125,000 men who served in Bomber Command, a total of 55,573 lost their lives, which gives you some sense of the tremendous bravery it must have taken to go out on bombing raids night after night knowing how low your chances of survival were.
As guardians of the Bomber Command Memorial in London, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is committed to ensuring that the remarkable bravery and sacrifice of the young aircrew, who gave their lives defending our freedom during WWII, will always be remembered. To this end, we have pledged to raise £1.5 million to preserve the Memorial for future generations.
This month we are also publishing a series of 53 blogs to mark the anniversary, each one dedicated to one of the 53 men who lost their lives in the raid. The blogs feature a variety of exclusive material including video interviews with the last surviving veterans, archive footage and images from the raid. To follow our blog please visit: www.rafbf.org/dambusters.
The Dambuster raid epitomises the agility, innovation, precision, and tenacity of the Royal Air Force and reinforces the Service's ethos of today - precise, innovative, courageous and selfless.
As the RAF's leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund has been at the heart of the RAF since 1919, supporting serving personnel, past and present, and their families too. Last year we spent over £22 million delivering support to more than 68,000 members of the RAF family and we intend to be there for serving members and veterans for many years to come.
If you feel moved to show your appreciation for the 55,573 men who lost their lives serving in Bomber Command, or, indeed, for those currently serving in the RAF who continue to protect our way of life today, please visit our website www.rafbf.org to donate.
You can also download our Bomber Command Iphone App here which has exclusive audio interviews with Dambusters bomb-aimer Johnny Johnson and Barnes Wallis' daughter, the app give the user a real sense of what it was like to be a bomb-aimer on the actual mission, or what is was like growing up in the house of a genius. The app allows users to tour London's Bomber Command Memorial - either in person at the site, or virtually in the comfort of their own home. All proceeds raised from the app, which costs 69p, will help the charity to fund the upkeep of the Memorial.