Operation Chastise: 70 years ago

I’ve no idea why, but since about 5 this evening I’ve been running a fever.  I managed to cook supper, as usual, but as soon as we were finished Miss D. sent me to bed.  I slept until a few minutes ago, and I’m dragging my butt around for a while until my fused spine unbends enough to let me go back to bed.

Sorry about the lack of content tonight.  I hope I’ll be able to put up more in the morning.  To give you something to enjoy in the meantime, check out Vintage Wings’ article about the 70th anniversary of Operation Chastise, the Dams Raid on Germany in May 1943.  It has a great collection of photographs from the period, including some of the damaged Eder Dam that I’d never seen before.  Recommended reading.

The Dams Raid is noteworthy for costing 8 out of the 19 aircraft that took part – a loss rate of over 42% – and the lives of 53 out of 133 airmen who took part, plus three more taken prisoner after bailing out at perilously low level.  This represents a personnel casualty rate almost identical to that of the aircraft involved.  As far as I’ve been able to discover, that’s the highest of any heavy bomber operation in World War II.  Even the infamous Schweinfurt-Regensburg raid cost the USAAF 60 out of the 376 bombers dispatched – an aircraft loss rate rate of ‘only’ 16%, and an aircrew casualty rate of approximately 15.5% (killed, injured, taken prisoner or missing).

Let Lawrence Binyon say it for us.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Amen.  May their souls, and the souls of all who died on that evening of May 16th-17th, 1943, rest in peace;  and may their sins be forgiven them.


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