May 21st 2013

A Service of Commemoration in Lincoln

Lincoln Cathedral was filled to capacity on Friday (17 May) for a Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving in remembrance of those who have served in the RAF’s No 617 Squadron, on the occasion of the anniversary of the squadron’s historic attack on the Ruhr Valley dams over the night of May 16/ 17 1943.  The outstanding skill and bravery of the young men who participated in the raid that night has ensured that they and their squadron have been immortalised as the Dambusters ever since.  Two of the three surviving Dambusters, Squadron Leaders Les Munro and George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, and Mary Stopes-Roe, Barnes Wallis’s daughter,  were joined by a 1500 strong congregation, including senior RAF officers and civic dignitaries.

The service was led by the Very Reverend Philip Buckler, Dean of Lincoln.  In his sermon the RAF’s Chaplain-in-Chief, Air Vice Marshal, the Venerable Ray Pentland, highlighted the importance of the Dambusters’s as an example to those who serve today.  Squadron Leader Dunc Mason, the Officer Commanding the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, read from Pericles’s famous oration to those Athenian citizens who had given their lives in defence of Athenian democracy some 2000 years before the aircrew of 617 Squadron had risked all in defence of democracy against tyranny.

Following the service the congregation gathered in the cathedral precinct to witness a flypast by the Tornados of the current 617 Squadron, which were followed by the Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which made three low passes over the cathedral in a poignant tribute to the 133 young men who 70 years ago took off from RAF Scampton on a mission that proved the effectiveness of precision bombing, albeit at a high cost.

The Lincoln Cathedral service was a key event in a series of commemorations of the raid which included a Lancaster flypast of two of the dams that 617 Squadron has used to practise on before the actual raid; large crowds assembled at Derwent in the Peak District and Eyebrook in Leicestershire to view this fitting and moving tribute to the Dambusters.