Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

​Memorial silhouettes of fallen Dambusters revealed


A heroic aircrew who were killed during the Second World War have been honoured at a memorial site in the Netherlands.

The seven men from 617 Squadron, led by Sqn Ldr Melvin “Dhingy” Young, were shot down over the sea at Casticum aan Zee just moments from safety. Their bodies washed up on the beach over the following days.

A Royal Air Force cycling team, riding from the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln to the crash site, joined family members of the Dambusters crew, plus the Dutch Air Force to mark the occasion.

A silhouette of each of the men, part of the Men of Dams installation, was revealed during the service.

Wing Cdr Neil Hallett, Station Commander of RAF Digby said: “The heritage of 617 Squadron makes it one of the most iconic. The raid was historic.”

The 300-mile journey took the team across key Dambuster locations, including 617’s wartime bases RAF Scampton and Petwood Hotel, plus Lincoln Cathedral, before taking an overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam and through the Netherlands.

“Every member of this team, being able to take part in this and meet some of the crew’s families, has had a proud and humbling experience.”

The average age of the Dam-busting squadron was only 21. A memorial stone near the beach details their heroism.

Lila, 20, said: “I’m the same age as Sgt Gordon Yeo.”

“It feels an honour to be here representing him. The last four days have been challenging but it’s nothing compared to what they sacrificed.”

Most of the cyclists are novices. Maggie, 24, said “It was a journey, I’ve never cycled before. My bike broke on the last day, but we enjoyed ourselves and feel honoured to be here.”

Dhingy and his crew: Flt Sgt Charles Walpole, Sgt David Horsfall, Sgt Wilfred Ibbotson, Flt Off Vincent MacCausland, Sgt Lawrence Nichols, Sgt Gordon Yeo, were the first to successfully breach the Mohne Dam.

Dhingy's nephew, Geoffrey Sturr of Arizona in America, said “They were young, they were dedicated, they were fearless. They made a tremendous sacrifice defending Britain.”

Of the 133 men who flew the Dambuster raids, 53 never came home, including the seven airmen.

The International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln is a memorial to the section of the armed forces which sustained the highest casualty rate in the war. Some 58,000 people died serving in Bomber Command.

Nicky van Der Drift, Chief Executive of IBCC, said “It’s important that we remember what protected our freedom. If we forget that, we do so at our peril.”

The IBCC planned and organised the Dutch ride to coincide with the 81st anniversary of the raids. Upon returning to England, the art installation will be auctioned to fund a new learning Centre at the memorial.

“Education is at the heart of what we do. We’ve put 26,000 through our learning programmes, but we don’t have enough space to cater for all the children that want to come.”

Jan van Dalen, 617 Squadron Aircrew Memorial Foundation in the Netherlands, arranged the memorial’s creation in 2018.

He said: “In the war, they did a lot for us. We have to do something back to say thank you to the British.

The Netherlands was invaded in May 1940 and spent five years under Nazi occupation before liberation at the hands of Allied forces.

Ben Tap, Mayor of Castricum, said: “On a good day, 30,000 people travel to the beach and back. A lot of them don't know the story of this monument. It's very important that we have this monument.”

“80 years ago, there was a big fight for our freedom. We have to be thankful for that, but now in this year, we have to remember freedom is not a guarantee.”

The Dambuster raid is remembered as one of the most daring successes during the Second World War.

Using Barne’s Wallis’ bouncing bomb, Wing Cdr Guy Gibson led 19 Lancaster crews to the Ruhr Valley targeting dams at the heart of the industrial war machine.

They successfully breached the Mohne and Eder, but Sorpe dam remained intact.