the dam busters

The Dam Busters

On Monday, here in the UK it was a Bank Holiday and although I didn’t really have time to stop and watch a film I did think about when I was younger. Growing up, Bank Holidays would involve watching a film together – usually this was Dad’s choice as he had control of the remote, it would usually be something like The Great Escape, The Bridge Over The River Kwai, Ice Cold In Alex or one of those epic biblical films (that seems to steal your will to live) with Charlton Heston as Moses or someone equally important. This post is about a different one that often came up around that time. This is about The Dam Busters.

The film itself is based on a military operation called Operation Chastise that took place in 1943 as part of the Allies taking on Germany. The mission was for the RAF’s 617 Squadron to attack the Möhne, Eder, and Sorpe Dams in Germany with Barnes Wallis’s “bouncing bomb”.

As I understand it, the mission was for the pilots to fly their plane low enough to get the bomb to bounce like a skipped stone across the  water, and for it to sink in front of the dam then explode crippling the dam and the industry that used the dam.

About two weeks ago there were celebrations and memorials for the people involved in these raids as it’s 70 years on. On Thursday, we caught a bit of a program about the Spitfires and what it would have been like in the actual plane – they really had a lack of space! On Friday, there was a documentary all about trying to recreate the raid. Having been “introduced” to the Dambusters and the Bouncing Bomb by my Dad I thought Our Sidekick might be interested, he was pretty much glued to the television and really fascinated with it. How they released the bomb and how they had to do it at just the right angle to make sure that it would bounce.

Actually it fitted right in with what he’s been doing at school anyway. Our Sidekick is currently doing World War 2 in History so we’ve been doing homework based on that theme for the last few weeks. The assignments leading up to the end of the year is to pick a task from a list – there’s about 20 tasks split up into different categories – each category gives a different level of points. Our Sidekick has to do one a week, the Friday before the half term break it was decided he was going to watch a film based in the specific time slot given and then he’d write a review. I texted my Dad to see which war films he had on DVD and that we could borrow. In the end, Our Sidekick asked to watch The Great Escape. My Dad didn’t have this one on DVD but we sorted out and managed to watch The Great Escape, we started on Friday and I said to Our Sidekick that he would need to finish it the following day – I had forgotten quite how long The Great Escape is. I’d expected him to kick off a bit and refuse to play ball. Instead he sat down in front of the DVD – put on the film and got on with it. NO COMPLAINTS!

I tried to think about what it was that interested me about war films, specifically The Dambusters and The Great Escape. I think it was because although both films were serious there were bits in it that were kind of funny, in The Great Escape for example there’s a bit when they are trying to get rid of the dirt from the tunnel so some of the guys fill up their trousers with the soil and then walk round the yard (Right under the German soldier’s noses) and empty this dirt – other guys then walk after them mixing the tunnel dirt in with the outside dirt. I remember watching Schindler’s List in History at School and remembered how much I really hated it – it wasn’t a bad film, it was mainly the topic. The idea that such a bad thing could happen to so many people I think it overwhelmed me a bit (I think even now the image of the little girl’s red coat in the crowd and then again in the camp still gets me). Having said that I willingly watched The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas which is also set in a concentration camp.

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