On the night of 16/17 May 1943 an elite force of nineteen Lancaster bombers undertook what was to become one of the most daring and ingenious air raids in history. Flying from RAF Scampton, their mission – code named Operation Chastise – was to breach the mighty hydroelectric dams of the Ruhr, the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe – a task which Arthur Harris had earlier described as impossible But cracking open the mighty dams would require exceptional flying skills; and so, on 21 March 1943, a new squadron was formed specifically for the task, the only time this ever happened in Bomber Command.

Known as 617 Squadron and led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, it was not only the squadron that was unique, so was the weapon they would be using – Upkeep – a cylindrical, hydrostatic “bouncing” bomb. The brainchild of Barnes Wallis, Upkeep was designed to skip across the surface of the water, sink against the dam’s massive wall, and explode with enormous force at a precise depth.

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