GALLERY: Crowds gather for historic flyover of Lancaster to mark 80th anniversary of Dambusters Raid
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster flew a special route over all of the county’s 28 Bomber Command bases on Tuesday evening in honour of the audacious mission, codenamed Operation Chastise.
Ahead of the tour of Lincolnshire bases, the Lancaster took off from its home base of RAF Coningsby just after 6pm on and flew over the RAF Museum in Hendon, north-west London.
It then returned north towards the former airfields of its home county and important sites, including the International Bomber Command Memorial near Lincoln, before heading back to Coningsby.
The tour included Strubby airfield, the former 207 and 44 Squadron Lancaster bases at RAF Spilsby and East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre, where their Just Jane Lancaster taxied onto the runway to greet it – again watched my many onlookers who had turned out for the special occasion.
The spectacle was just a taste of what residents would have experienced on the night of the raid on May 16-17, when 19 Lancaster bombers from 617 Squadron took off from RAF Scampton to destroy dams in Nazi Germany's industrial heartland and cut off vital supplies in the Ruhr Valley.
The dams were fiercely protected. Torpedo nets in the water stopped underwater attacks and anti-aircraft guns defended them against enemy bombers.
But 617 Squadron had a secret weapon: Barnes Wallis's 'bouncing bomb' – a ‘surface torpedo’ described as a method of attack in which a weapon would be bounced across water until it struck.
Two dams were destroyed during the Dambusters Raid, while another was damaged.
Despite the success of the mission, there were some heavy losses, with eight of the 19 bombers involved shot down and 53 airmen killed.
Paul Valleley, of the Friends of RAF Spilsby, was amongst the crowds watching the flypast at the memorial in Great Steeping, which marks the site of the former base and pays tribute to those who lost their lives.
He had high hopes the Lancaster would fly over the memorial rather than follow a route over the former runway and old hangers to grab a money shot that would launch a campaign to raise money to renovate the monumant, which is becoming cracked due to the Second Warld War constructed surface collapsing.
Mr Valleley got his wish and was delighted to be able to capture the moment in history in such a dramatic way.
As the Lancaster banked and headed towards East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre, he said: “What a great experience!
"The Lancaster Came almost directly over the memorial.
"It’s been superb – and what a lovely night for it. A really fabulous commemoration.
”It doesn’t bare thinking about what people went through. The Dambusters Raid was such a technical fete and people really needed it at that time.
"Things hadn’t been going well. It was a real boost of moral.
“It’s important anniversaries like this are remembered and that the Dambusters raid was one mission in an overall campaign that cost 57,000 men.
"That needs to be remembered.”
Cars were parked along a two-mile stretch of road at Great Steeping, with people choosing what they believed would be the best vantage point to catch a glimpse of the Lancaster before it headed of to East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre.
Amongst them was Sharon Tointon, of Boston, who went along in memory of her uncle Harry Birch, who lost his life on a mission as part of Jack Ryan’s crew over Landsberg in 1944.
"It’s been really emotional,” she said. “I wanted to be here for my uncle and I am so pleased I came.”
Similar scenes were reported around the county – including over the aquacise class at Woodhall Spa swimming pool – before the Lancaster returned to RAF Coningsby.
Squadron Leader Mark Sugden, Officer Commanding the BBMF, commented: “The Dambusters Raid was one of the most audacious raids in the history of the Royal Air Force, and we at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are proud to commemorate the bravery, dedication and sacrifice of all those involved.”