“As we came over the hill we saw the Mohne lake. Then we saw the dam itself. In that light it looked squat and heavy….And unconquerable…” Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar
Operation Chastise: Shadow of the Dam depicts the very last moment of the Mohne Dam as it was fatally breached by the “Upkeep” Mine dropped by Flt Lt David Maltby’s Lancaster AJ-J at 00:56 hrs. To the left of the painting Wg. Cdr Gibson’s Lancaster (AJ-G for George) is flying just ahead and to right of Maltby below him flying AJ-J-Johnnie. Maltby’s height Aldis spotlights catches the surface of the reservois illuminated by the fires of the burning remains of the Mohne power station destroyed by the ill-fated attack of Flt Lt John “Hoppy” Hopgood’s Lancaster AJ-M – Mother. The main Lancaster you see is Flt Lt Harold Mick Martin and his crew of AJ-P-Popsie. His rear turret gunner is blasting at the tower-top gun position hitting the water and showering it with raking tracer fire. Gibson had ordered Martin/AJ-P to attack the flak positions on the dam’s twin towers from the lakeside as Maltby made his attack-run. Neither Gibson or his other aircrews were aware that the towers had been put out of action by previous attacks and were possibly being evacuated by the survivng German gunners with their wounded to safety. Under the light of the moon is Sqn Ldr HM ”Dinghy” Young’s Lancaster AJ-A-Apple making his way back to the Korbecker road bridge where Flt Lt Dave Shannon is circling AJ-L awaiting his call in to attack. This road bridge landmark was the rallying point of Gibson’s force. It was Young’s attack that has sealed the dam’s destruction.
As Flt Lt Maltby flew over the dam he and his crew observed the crest of the dam was already falling away and water was already pouring out from the dam’s enormous curtain. Maltby’s Upkeep had lent its massive destructive force to an already fatal blow. Mobile German flak guns mounted on half-track vehicles have arrived into the surrounding fields nearer the dam to give defensive flak tracer fire. Too late to halt the raid from success.
Five Upkeep mines had be launched against this almighty dam. At 00.56hrs over 100 yards of it had been breached and unleashed a torrent of unimaginable power and force raging into the country beyond.
In his own account of the raid “Enemy Coast Ahead” Guy Gibson wrote:
“Now it was all quiet, except for the roar of the water which streamed and hissed away its way from its 150-foot head. Then we began to shout and scream like madmen, over the R/T, for this was a tremendous sight, a sight which probably no man will ever see again.”
© Image and text copyright Simon W Atack
Print is supplied unframed, rolled in a protective cardboard shipping tube.