Squadron Royal Air Force
'Apres moi le Deluge'
> Units and Formations
Formed: 15 Mar 1943
Disbanded: Dec 1956
Reformed: May 1958
still an active RAF Squadron
Squadron was based at:
RAF Scampton :: 16 Mar 1943 - 30 Aug 1943; May 1958 -
RAF Coningsby :: 30 Aug 1943 - Jan 1944
RAF Woodhall Spa :: Jan 1944 - Jun 1945
RAF Waddington :: Jun 1945 - Jan 1946
Digri (India) :: Jan 1946 - Apr 1946
RAF Binbrook :: Feb 1947 - 1955
Squadron code: AJ, YZ, KC
Canberra B2, B6 ::
Vulcan B2 :: 1960 -
617 Sqn, the Dambusters, is most famous for its 16 May 1943 raid on the strategically important Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams above the industrial heartlands of Germany's Ruhr valley. The Sqn had been created on 15 May 1943 with this specific task in mind. 8 of the 19 modified Lancaster bombers did not make it back. You can read about Operation CHASTISE on the BBC local history website and the RAF website. There is also an online Lancaster bomber tour of the East Kirkby "Just Jane".
617 formed at Scampton in Mar 1943 as "X Sqn", commanded by Guy Gibson. In Jul 1943 617 Sqn was involved in the so-called 'shuttle raids' attacking targets in Italy before landing in Africa to make a second attack on the return flight to England.
After moving to RAF Woodhall Spa in Jan 1944 the Sqn specialised in self-designation of targets, removing the need for a pathfinder force. They empolyed the new skill against targets requiring high precision to avoid collateral damage, such as armaments factories in France.
The spring of 1944 saw the introduction of the Tallboy 12 000 lb bomb which was succesfully employed by 617 against the Saumer rail tunnel and the heavily protected U-boat pens in France. Later the Sqn was also given the lead with another Barnes Wallis project, the 10 ton Grand Slam earthquake bomb. The first employment of the new bomb resulted in the destruction of the Bielefed railway viaduct which had survived all previous attacks.
From Sep to Nov 1944 the Sqn joined the battle to sink the Tirpitz. On 12 Nov 1944 Tirpitz was finally sunk by a combined force of IX and 617 Sqns.
After VE-day (May 1945) the Sqn was assigned to the Tiger Force, the RAF contribution to the strategic bombing of Japan, and moved to RAF Waddington for training. Japan surrendered and the war ended before the Sqn was due to deploy.
In 1947 the Sqn went on a goodwill tour of Canada and the USA. Robert (Bob) Hornby of Lancashire has spent 7 years researching and writing the history of 617 Sqn's 1947 goodwill mission of which he was a member. Based on AIR27/2526/27 Documentation and oral history from surviving members he has produced a 125 page history which is lodged at 617 Squadron Air Crew Associations Historical Section, at the COMOX Air Force Museum, Lazo BC, and the Nanton Lancaster Museum in Nanton Alberta. Further details about the project and the book can be found on the 617 Sqn Goodwill Tour website :: click here.
617 Sqn disbanded in Dec 1956 to reform as a Vulcan squadron, having just returned from a 6 month detachment in Malaya.
After reforming as a Vulcan nuclear bomber sqn in 1958 617 Sqn was equipped with the B2 variant from 1960, the first equipped with the Avro Blue Steel Mk1 missile. Today the Sqn operates the Tornado GR4.
Read more about 617 Sqn history in the recommended reading list :: booklist.
The Petwood Hall Hotel was requisitioned to be the Sqn Officers' Mess in 1943, the website has a history section with a photo gallery. A full listing of museums and memorials to 617 Sqn is on the memorials page.
617 Sqn history on RAF Lossiemouth website
Op CHASTISE (Dambusters Raid)
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