May 16, 1943 Operation Chastise, otherwise known as the Dambuster raid, was so secret that Lancaster pilot Mr Stevens knew nothing of it and nor did his now wife. On the night of May 16, 1943, Mrs Stevens simply assumed she was just part of another routine mission. “I don’t really like talking about it because I was simply doing my job, said Mrs Stevens. “I never knew where the planes were going each night. “This particular night there was nothing out of the ordinary. “The only thing I remember really clearly is the unusually calm atmosphere as I came off duty at 8am.” Through the dawn of May 17, 1943, and for hours afterwards, Mrs Stevens sat listening in the desperate hope that more men would make it home. Eight of the 19 Lancasters which took off from RAF Scampton that night did not return and 53 of the 133 aircrew involved were killed, a casualty rate of almost 40 per cent.
The Dambusters The raids attacked the dams along Germany’s industrial region, the Ruhr Valley, which aimed to destroy the very heart of enemy territory. Those selected to carry out the Operation Chastise were the most supreme pilots of bomber Command who flew specially adapted 30-tonne Lancasters which were originally designed to operate at 10,000 feet and at nearly 250mph. Something that might highlight just how astute and accurate the pilots had to be is knowing that for Operation Chastise the pilots had to fly at 60 feet – which is about the height of a medium sized tree, sometimes they flew lower than that, at speed, and during enemy fire sometimes. And for the night time raids they were doing all that in the dark. What skill that must have took – boy, what a mission! Sadly, almost half of the 113 airmen that were a part of it never made it back. Of every 100 airmen who joined Bomber Command, 45 were killed, 6 were seriously wounded, 8 became Prisoners of War, and only 41 escaped unscathed. Mr Stevens flew 30 raids and did not expect to survive the war. “On almost every trip people just didn’t come back,” he said. “Sometimes they would arrive at a base and move their things in to a room one day, and then go out on a trip and never return. “Sometimes it was damned hard getting back. “You’d have holes in the aircraft. “You were flying in total darkness,” he said. “In the air I was so busy I didn’t have time to think of what might happen. “It was only afterwards.” Source: Telegraph Looking for the war hero in your family? Search the Forces War Records site, broaden your military genealogy research and delve into our records and historic documents library.