A Dam Fine Movie. Film Classic the Dam Busters Forms Part of the 75th Anniversary Commemorations of the Second World War Mission. MARION MCMULLEN Looks at the Making of a British Movie Epic

The Journal (Newcastle, England), May 14, 2018 | Go to article overview

A Dam Fine Movie. Film Classic the Dam Busters Forms Part of the 75th Anniversary Commemorations of the Second World War Mission. MARION MCMULLEN Looks at the Making of a British Movie Epic


Byline: MARION MCMULLEN

IT WAS described as "the story of the 'bombs that had to bounce' - and the air-devils who had to drop 'em!" and The Dam Busters became the most successful film at the British box office in 1955.

The movie was released 12 years to the day of the original Second World War raid, which saw the RAF's 617 Squadron - the famous Dam Busters - carry out a raid on the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe Dams in the Ruhr Valley in Germany using a specially developed bouncing bomb.

The bomb was invented and developed by Barnes Wallis for the air raids carried out on the night of May 16, 1943, but the shape of the explosives had to be disguised in the movie because they were still classified top secret even 12 years later.

The roll-call for the movie included Robert Shaw, who went on to find fame in Jaws, George Baker, who became known as Inspector Wexford in TV's Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Michael Redgrave, who played Wallis and Richard Todd, who appeared as the war-time hero Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

Wing Richard himself was the son of a British officer and served with the Parachute Regiment during the Second World War. The actor even took part in the D Day landings, but later insisted: "I wish I had half the courage of some of those chaps I've played on the screen."

He wrote in his autobiography, Caught In The Act, that filming the Dam Busters scenes where Guy Gibson had to write letters to the families of the men who had perished struck an emotional chord with him because he had done the same thing himself as a captain during the war.

The audacious bombing raid to destroy three dams in the Ruhr Valley was codenamed Operation Chastise and the mission was highly dangerous because torpedo nets in the water made underwater attacks impossible and anti-aircraft guns guarded the dams. But 617 Squadron had a secret weapon - the bouncing bomb.

The movie was filmed on location across England including Derwent, Howden and Ladybower reservoirs in the Peak District, Langham Airfield, Norfolk, RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, and at Elstree Studios.

Regarded as a British classic, based on the legendary true story of Commander Guy Gibson and his squadron, it captured all the thrilling action and suspense of the magnificent exploits of a group of young pilots and their crews, charged with taking out the supposedly impenetrable Ruhr river dams of Germany.

bouncing bomb, the movie The film also immortalised composer's Eric Coates's masterpiece The Dam Busters March, and opened with a royal premiere at the Empire Leicester Square in London, which was attended by Princess Margaret. …

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