During the Second World War the Derwent Dam was used by pilots of 617 Squadron for practising the low-level flights needed for Operation Chastise (commonly known as the Dambusters raids), due to its similarity to the German dams.
The Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (RAF BBMF) worked together with Severn Trent Water because, (September 21st), the last two flying Lancasters flew over the Derwent Dam for the first time in over 50 years. This was a very historic flypast, in a commemorative tribute to the Dambusters and all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
RAF BBMF based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire has hosted a very special guest during August and September 2014 as the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) flew their prized Avro Lancaster to the UK for a visit.
Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum President and CEO, Sqn Ldr (Ret.) David G. Rohrer C.D. who is a current Lancaster pilot, stated that this flypast is a “Once in a Lanc Time” event as it will not happen again. It is also an opportunity for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum to fly together as tribute to all those who served in the time of need, in Canada, Britain, and the entire Commonwealth.
Leon Evans, Chief Pilot at the CWHM flew the sortie on (the) Sunday and said “We arrived at Coningsby on August 8th with less than perfect weather, to be greeted by our hosts the BBMF and thousands who, like us, believed weather was not going to dampen our arrival. As we prepare for our final displays and the historic flyover Derwent Dam, we will have heavy hearts as we depart on Tuesday leaving our dear friends at RAF BBMF and adoring spectators.”
Officer Commanding the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Sqn Ldr Dunc Mason said “It has been a milestone in BBMF’s history to fly with VERA in the UK. To carry out a flypast over the Derwent Dam will be a fitting finale before the Canadians make their long trip home next week. Used to train for the famous Dambusters Raid by 617 Squadron in 1943, the dam is part of our nation’s history. To carry out this flypast on Sunday will be a significant part of the RAF’s and the BBMF’s heritage”
Thanks to the CWHM team, there was a very special passenger on board VERA as it passed over Derwent Dam. Syd Marshall, a veteran based in Boston, aged 90, is currently one of the volunteer guides at the RAF BBMF Visitors Centre, carrying out guided tours for the members of the public visiting the flight. However, during World War II, Sergeant Syd Marshall was a Flight Engineer on Lancasters, on 103 Squadron based at Elsham Wolds and he and his crew carried out 36 operational missions. He flew with a Canadian Captain, Flt Lt Lou Morgan, throughout his tour and they were reunited in 2009 when he flew in the Dakota with Lou as the RAF BBMF Lancaster flew alongside. Sadly, Lou passed away several weeks later, but left Syd his cap – Syd flew in VERA wearing that cap, in memory of his dear friend and colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice – Lest We Forget.
Syd said “When I received the telephone call asking me if I wanted a flight in the Canadian Lanc, I was completely amazed. I never thought I would have the opportunity to fly in a Lancaster again, to fly in a Canadian one with a Canadian crew is just a dream come true.”
Syd is pictured here with the Flight Engineers from each aircraft – left to right – Flt Lt Nigel Painter, RAF BBMF Flt Engineer, Syd Marshall, Randy Straughan, Canadian Flt Engineer.
(Source: RAF – Battle of Britain Memorial Flight)