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" COURAGE BEYOND FEAR "
Signed by Sgt George "Johnny" Johnson DFM, F/Sgt Grant McDonald,
Dedicated to John Fraser and Tony Burcher who survived, and Hopgood,
The Mission: The Dambuster mission, or operation Chastise as it was called, is perhaps the most legendary bombing raid in history. The skill, planning and engineering involved was, and still is, amazing.
This image portrays Lancaster AJ-M, the second Lancaster to attack the Mohne Dam. AJ-M flown by John Hopgood was the only Lancaster to be shot down over the dam during these missions. Wing Commander Guy Gibson in AJ-G was the first to attack the dam and thus had the element of surprise. John Hopgood and the crew of AJ-M were not so lucky. Gibson's bomb was released too early. It sank and exploded too far from the dam to damage it. This required a second attack by the next Lancaster in line, AJ-M.
As AJ-M approached the dam, the German gunners were fully prepared. The result was that the guns from both towers on the dam crossed up on the Lancaster and she was "raked from nose to tail" with 20mm gunfire. The result was a raging fuel fire and the loss of a second engine, the first being lost on the perilous journey from England to the dam site. The bomb was released a fraction too late and bounced over the dam hitting and destroying the power station and knocking the German gunners off their feet.
With the loss of two engines, AJ-M was unable to gain altitude in order for the crew to escape safely. The pilot John Hopgood held onto the controls to the very end giving two crew members, bomb aimer John Fraser, and tail gunner Tony Burcher, a chance to escape. At a mere two hundred feet above the ground, they were two of the lowest successful bailouts during the war. Both survived but spent the rest of the war as POW's.
It took three more attempts before the dam was finally breached. The Ruhr valley was flooded and significant damage was done to the Nazi war effort as a result. The remaining Lancasters then flew on and attacked the Eder, Sorpe and Ennepe dams with varying success.
John Hopgood was a true war hero, sacrificing his life to give his crew a chance to survive. Tony Burcher was injured from being hit by the elevator while bailing out and was captured at the crash site. John Fraser was uninjured and evaded capture. He was on the run for 10 days, where he was caught near Wesel-On-The-Rhine and spent the rest of the war in POW camp.
Courage Beyond Fear - Len Krenzler
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